Two decades of helping town’s youth

The Duke of Northumberland, Rev David Archer, Eileen Blakey, Martin Harrington and David Archer.
The Duke of Northumberland, Rev David Archer, Eileen Blakey, Martin Harrington and David Archer.

THE DUKE of Northumberland cut the birthday cake as a support service for young people turned 20 last week.

At a special meeting last Thursday, members, guests and the Duke gathered to celebrate the milestone of Alnwick’s Multi-Agency Crime Prevention Initiative (Macpi).

The group was founded in September 1991 by councillors Brenda Burdis and Ken Gray, co-ordinated with the police, with the remit ‘to provide diversionary activities to steer young people away from crime, drug and alcohol abuse’.

Over the last two decades, it has supported a number of activities, groups and campaigns from the 18 Prove It scheme in the 1990s, which is still in use in Alnwick supermarkets today, to commissioning the drugs counselling service The Good Companions from Escape Family Support in 2000.

Macpi continue to fund his service today with referrals coming from churches, doctors’ surgeries, courts, probation or even self-referral.

“There are no drug or needle exchanges done, just programmes and advice which we are proud to support,” said Macpi chairman David Archer.

In his speech at the 20th anniversary celebration, Mr Archer highlighted more of the group’s achievements over the years which included tackling the sensitive issue of homelessness and domestic abuse.

“Macpi is not scared to tackle any youth problems,” he said.

“We were asked to look at youngsters facing homelessness as a result of domestic abuse in the home.

“We hosted a multi-agency conference in the strategic planning room above Alnwick police station – 30 representatives came and helped to identify a number of systemic difficulties within organisations including local authority housing departments.

“The impetus to act was passed onto Alnwick Youth Gallery Project, successfully gaining accommodation for emergency displaced youngsters.

“Macpi again was the torchbearer for serious matters of youth concern.”

However, the committee’s work extends to many places and doesn’t only focus on the more serious issues.

Macpi bought a minibus in the late 1990s so that youth clubs could go to Barrowburn for Outward Bound weekends.

It has also provided funding for diverse groups such as Alnwick Junior Harriers, Rock Solid Youth Group, Alnwick Air Training Corps, and the Tool Box Project.

And year on year, the group supports the Easter and summer playschemes at Alnwick Community Centre and the Christmas pantomime trips.

Mr Archer explained that the role of Macpi was as an ‘enabler’.

“It is a very dedicated committee drawn from councillors, police, probation services, churches, social and health services and youth groups.

“Meeting bi-monthly, we consider requests that have come in for funding youth activities in Alnwick,” he said.

“I must stress our meetings are 45 minutes tops and we are not a front-of-house organisation, preferring to act simply as enablers to ensure that worthy youth activities happen.”

Mr Archer is keen to emphasise that while celebrating its past achievements, Macpi will continue to look to the future.

“Alnwick has a proud past in serving the needs and aspirations of youth in this town.

“However, 20 is not plenty and I am equally confident it will have just as bright a future in the coming years.”

The group’s message is clear: “If outreach is to be truly there for youth, then no one is hopelessly beyond our reach.”