Bristol's Creative Youth Network helps young people develop skills for the future

Laura Ross
Marketing Executive/Editor | Business West
20th May 2021

What does it take to build a young person? Throughout our early lives, most of us build up a ‘toolkit’ of skills and attributes that we need to thrive as independent adults – but for young people without robust support networks and access to opportunities, these skills and attributes are far more hard-won.

We talk to Mark Coates, Chief Financial Officer at the Creative Youth Network, a member of the Business West Chambers of Commerce, who tells us about one of the young people they have supported through their programme. And looks ahead to the exciting projects planned for the future.


Hannah came to us as a care leaver with no job, few qualifications, and fewer prospects. Living in temporary accommodation and lacking the family support that most of her peers took for granted, she felt lost.

At Creative Youth Network, we do everything we can to enable people like Hannah to gain the tools they need for fulfilling, independent lives. Our work uses the seven key areas defined by experts at the Young Foundation as necessary for young people to thrive: communication skills, confidence and agency, planning and problem solving, positive relationships and leadership, creativity, resilience and determination, and the ability to manage feelings.

We’re based at The Station – a vibrant, welcoming, creative space in the heart of central Bristol. And this is where Hannah built up her ‘toolkit’.

Because much of her early life was spent being shuttled between care homes and foster placements, Hannah desperately needed a stable place where she could relax and be herself. For Hannah, The Station became a safe space where she was free to speak her mind without judgement.

Here, Hannah discovered a sense of community she’d never had before. She met friends and likeminded peers who understood what she was going through. In our experienced youth workers, Hannah found adults she could trust to give impartial, non-judgmental advice – or just to listen.

The Station is also where Hannah discovered her talent for singing. Through a series of workshops, we helped her nurture that talent, boosting her confidence and giving her an empowering creative outlet.

Like so many of our young people, Hannah faces issues with her mental health. She was being held back by anxiety symptoms, especially when she was around others. Through ongoing one-to-one support sessions with a qualified wellbeing practitioner at The Station, Hannah could find peace of mind. She gained the tools to take back control of her symptoms. She gained self-worth because she felt heard and understood. And she felt ready to take her next steps.

"Heidi is an amazing therapist. She’s kind and understanding and I can express myself around her. I like how she used stories to help me come to terms with my feelings, but at the same time help me challenge them. I feel like my voice matters and I’m not nothing. Now I’m sure that I’m valued as a person and a student.” 

Having left school with few qualifications, Hannah wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for work. Our job coaches supported Hannah to identify her strengths and work on practical skills like CV writing and public speaking. Weekly open access Job Club at The Station gave Hannah a focused space to look for work, with help at hand if she needed it.

We worked with Hannah for just over a year. She arrived as a care leaver with no job, few qualifications, and fewer prospects. Today, she has a flat, a career, and – above all – a sense of purpose and belonging. 

Hannah’s story has a happy ending. But she’s one of the more than 10,000 young people who access services at The Station every year. Demand is rising, and so are young people’s needs.     


"We’re proud to be longstanding Chamber of Commerce members and really value the support and connections it offers – equally we are always keen to be active members of the business community and to support fellow local businesses too."

We’d love to hear from other Chamber members – here are some ideas:

• We generate around a quarter of our income from renting out offices, studios and workshops from our sites in central Bristol and Kingswood. Whether you’re looking for a site to host a meeting, party or event, or a new long term base for your business, do bear us in mind! We’re particularly delighted to be open again for event hire after a difficult period of closure during the pandemic.

• We are working on an exciting £6.5m project to refurbish Bristol’s Old Magistrates Courts, a derelict city centre building which we intend to bring back into use as a creative enterprise hub. We’ve raised £5.5m, and ‘just’ need the final £1m to make it happen! Do you have any ideas that could help us get this project ‘over the line’ – or perhaps your creative business would be interested in basing itself here when it opens in 2023?

• Believe that every young person deserves the right to access creativity and development opportunities in the creative and cultural industries? Then sign up to our Creative YOU campaign.

• Could your business support us, perhaps as your Charity of the Year or through volunteering/in kind donations? How your business can help.

• Any other thoughts always welcome – please do reach out!

Potential is equally distributed; opportunity is not. With your help, we can continue to invest in the potential of thousands of bright, talented individuals to go on to become assets to their communities.

To find out more about Creative Youth Network or to get in touch, please visit

If you'd like to find out more about how your business can get involved with the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, please visit

 Photo Credit: Paul Blakemore.

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