Mike McCallister, from the Reality Youth Project, provided the forum with the following update:
The South Wigston bus sessions on Friday evenings, 7pm – 8.30pm outside South Leicestershire College, remain one of the busiest and most lively sessions, and a great way to finish the week. It is well attended by young people all across the 11-18 age range, with usually an average of 20 plus young people present each week. The older and younger groups get along well with each other and are happy to share space on the bus.
We continue to have a strong rapport with the several members of the older group of young people who come to the bus on a regular basis. They are often there early and run up to the bus as soon as they see us arrive. They are happy to hold conversations with us downstairs and chat to us about their week before they head upstairs to use the DJ decks.
In particular, we have built a strong bond with one of the older girls as well as her group of friends, and her boyfriend and his friendship group. They have told us how much they look forward to our being there and how they view it as one of the best parts of the week. We are planning to have a belated birthday celebration of sorts this week.
While the older group primarily spends most of their time upstairs, the younger group tends to divide itself between using the game consoles and laptops upstairs, chatting with each other and the youth workers downstairs, and making use of the grind rail outside the bus. We have built strong relationships with many of the younger boys who come to the bus every week. Several of them spend most of the session downstairs, drinking hot chocolate and chatting with the youth workers. Many of them frequently express their appreciation for our being there and tell us how much they look forward and enjoy being on the bus. On occasion, we are also able to chat about our motivation as youth workers for working on the bus and running the sessions.
Toward the end of last term, we began to incorporate more holiday-themed crafts into the sessions, such as Thanksgiving “turkeys” made from Oreos, Cola Bottles, and chocolate coins. The crafts were popular with both the older and younger groups, and gave us a chance to discuss more cultural differences between the United States and the United Kingdom. It also fulfilled a desire of the young people in having more than just games consoles but instead having something simple to enjoy doing whilst chatting. We plan to celebrate more holidays on the bus as the year goes on, starting in a couple of weeks with Valentine’s Day and Shrove Tuesday.
Mike went on to further explain the facilities and setup of the bus, and explained that the bus is a charity. At present the bus is in use twice a day, 5 days a week for youth sessions, alongside doing lunchtime sessions at some schools and colleges across Leicestershire. Typically the bus is ‘deployed’ in 10 week blocks to a location.
On ‘big nights’, such as Halloween, up to 50-60 young people have attended the bus sessions.
Members enquired as to the impact the bus has had on the number of reported incidents of anti-social behaviour in the area since its deployment. Mike confirmed that other areas had previously reported a decrease in anti-social behaviour during the 10 week block of sessions the bus attends.
*ACTION*: MS to confirm the South Wigston anti-social behaviour figures before, during, and after the Reality Bus session blocks.
Mike went on to state that PCSOs and other beat officers have an open invite to drop in on the bus in order to break down barriers and build rapport between young people and the Police, and that this has regularly occurred. It was noted that it has been particularly useful to have the Police and IMPACT Teams regularly signposting young people during detached sessions in deployment areas to the bus.
Members asked if there were plans for the Reality Bus to hold sessions in Oadby, particularly around the Uplands Park area. Mike stated that the bus had attended some sessions at Ellis Park in previous years, and that they are currently seeking funding to go back to the location in the future. Members suggested Chicken Alley and Fludes Lane as other potential locations for the bus.
Members stated that the Reality Bus was a “brilliant project”, and that it would be wonderful to see “fleets of buses like this in operation”. The Forum notes that Leicestershire County Council’s ‘637 Youth Bus’ was decommissioned some time ago, and that Blaby District Council has recently decommissioned its own ‘BB19 Youth Bus’ as the vehicle had reached the end of its serviceable life.