Youth cafe opens

THE great and the good of the Sidmouth gathered for the official opening of The Arches youth caf� on the town’s seafront on Tuesday.

The �100,000 venue, set in the restored Esplanade shelters, was created as a meeting place for 13-19 year-olds, to complement the town’s Manstone Youth Centre.

Sidmouth Town Council and Sidmouth Youth Trust have worked closely on the project, which has faced issues including damp, to be realised.

The project was funded by �40,000 from town council and �60,000 from the Woolley Trust, which supports community projects in Sidmouth.

Youth trust chairman, Paul Whitehouse, said: “It’s been a long journey, but we got there in the end. We’ve got the premises, now we need to change the mindset of some towards the young people.”

Mayor Peter Sullivan said: “The way this place has been transformed is marvellous.”

Jamie Clayden, 15, and Layla Templeman, 16, have been involved with the project from the start. Jamie, young director of the youth trust, said: “We wanted somewhere to hang out and started thinking how can we achieve that?”

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Layla said: “It’s great, not what I was expecting – it’s a lot bigger inside.”

Anne Liverton, town council representative on Sidmouth Youth Council, was impressed. “It’s amazing when you think what was here before – an empty shell with old bits of deckchairs. And because the young people have been involved from the beginning, they’ve got a sense of ownership.”

Youth trust trustee Di Fuller is co-ordinating the team of 20 volunteers running the caf�. The plan had been to employ a youth worker, but uncertainty over county council funding removed that. “It put us in rather a difficult position, but I’m very pleased with the building and volunteers and would now like to see more youngsters using it,” she said.

Area youth worker Mark Gerry: “I’ve been so happy with how the young people have been engaged with the project.”

The Arches, serving soft drinks, smoothies and snacks, is open Saturdays 5pm-9pm and Sundays 4pm-8pm. Membership is currently free, by enrolment on the first visit.