Close this search box.

Annual Report


Welcome to our 22/23 annual report.

Over the past year, our Wigan Youth Zone community has rallied together, showcasing resilience, determination and a united purpose in providing crucial support to our young people amidst increasingly challenging circumstances for them and their families. Throughout this time, we’ve encountered a continuous stream of obstacles, with the term “unprecedented times” persisting from the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and remaining relevant today.

In this span of just 12 months, our young people have witnessed significant world-changing events including, the UK having three Prime Ministers, the escalation of conflict in Ukraine, the passing of our longest-serving monarch and a troubling cost-of-living crisis.

Wigan Youth Zone has stood tall with our young people by offering unwavering support when they have needed us the most, and the soaring demand for the charity’s services during this period underscores the critical role our charity plays in the community

The following report captures many of the achievements accomplished by the Wigan Youth Zone team throughout this period – as we strive to inspire and empower the next generation to reach their full potential.

Empowering Tomorrow

A Year of Inspiration in Wigan and Leigh

Our youth work stands as a crucial pillar in shaping futures, providing guidance, support and opportunities for personal and social development for young people in Wigan and Leigh. We offer a nurturing environment where young people can forge meaningful connections, develop positive relationships and cultivate a sense of belonging—essential for shaping identity and self-confidence.

By providing guidance in areas such as career development, mental health support and educational opportunities, we aid our members in navigating life’s complexities. Through these efforts, empowered young people become active contributors to their communities, fostering positive change and inspiring others. Our Youth Workers serve as catalysts for personal growth, community cohesion and the nurturing of tomorrow’s leaders. By empowering and supporting young individuals today, we pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive, and resilient society tomorrow.

Our year in numbers

Free Membership


Members received a free year membership


Free Entries (including Holiday Club)


Recieved Free School Meals

future you - Employability

pathway 2 employment


Young people completed
the 'Future You' Course


Progressed into employment and education


Young people completed
the 'P2E' Course


Progressed into employment and education within 6 months




Raised through Mocktails & Dreams


Was raised through Enterprise Projects


Active Volunteers


Hours of Volunteering

Mentoring Stats


Young People successful relationships


Individual Mentors


Hours of Mentoring Volunteered

General Stats


Members in total visited WYZ


Inclusion members


Visits to Enterprise and Employability


Visits to the Dance Studio


New members this year


Visits to the Climbing Wall


Visits to the Sports Hall


Visits to the MUGA pitches


Visits during the year


Visits during Holiday Club


Visits to the Skate Park


Visits to the Music Room


Visits by members with SEND


Young People engaged through Outreach


Visits to the Gym

Our Support nETWORK

We would like to take this opportunity to recognise and thank all of our Partners, Founder, Patrons and Patrons for their extremely generous support over what has been an incredibly difficult year.








This year’s annual report is a special tribute to the vibrant young people within our community. Wigan Youth Zone operates extensively across the borough, running Employability programmes at Leigh Youth Hub, hosting activities in our Music Studio and state-of-the-art gym based in the Town Centre and conducting outreach initiatives and local sessions throughout Wigan and Leigh. Our primary focus remains steadfast in empowering young people to reach their fullest potential and ensuring their voices are heard.


Nikki Varley

Head of Youth Work

Our Patrons are critical to the success of Wigan Youth Zone – without them, we simply couldn’t offer the vast array of essential services we offer for young people, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. An investment in Wigan Youth Zone is an investment into the community here in Wigan and Leigh, and all donations go directly towards life-changing work. Thank you to all our Patrons who continue to support us.



Lynsey Heyes

Head of Fundraising



Local Authority




Bank Interest




Membership and Entry Fees


Total Income


Trusts and Grants


Community Supporters


Gift Aid


Other Donations



Management Cost


Delivery Costs


Premises Costs


Fundraising Costs




Total Expenditure


Staffing Costs

A message from

Gary Speakman

Wigan Youth Zone Chair

As Chair of Wigan Youth Zone since April 2022, and I am incredibly proud to share with you the progress and impact we’ve achieved over the past year. Having been involved with Wigan Youth Zone for several years, my passion for the growth and development of young people in our borough has only deepened.

My journey with Wigan Youth Zone predates my role as a trustee. From the outset, I supported the charity through my local business interests. Joining the Board four years ago was a timely opportunity, and the infectious spirit of the Wigan Youth Zone team has been truly inspiring. It was both an honour and a privilege to have been elected as Chair by my fellow trustees.

Our vision at Wigan Youth Zone is clear: to inspire and empower young people in Wigan and Leigh to fulfil their potential. The impact we’ve had on over 30,000 young people is remarkable—increased confidence, reduced isolation, and a readiness for the future. Wigan Youth Zone offers more than just a place to go; it provides something to do and someone to talk to.

Every action we take today shapes the future generations of our community. Wigan Youth Zone is a vital community asset and a living legacy, planting seeds today that will benefit the borough for a lifetime. As we face the challenges of our time, your support becomes even more crucial.

This year has been particularly challenging for the charitable sector with macro issues impacting significantly. Escalating costs and a competitive fundraising climate have added pressure to our mission of raising £2 million annually to sustain our local charity. Despite these hurdles, we remain committed to our universal youth services, providing opportunities for all young people, regardless of background, to engage positively.

The impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has also exacerbated the challenges faced by some of the young people we serve. In the past year, 41% of those we worked with live within the 20% most deprived areas in England. This has led to an increased demand for our services, which we have met using the charity’s reserves – the Board have been unanimous about the investment of the reserves for this purpose, knowing that every penny was being used to support young people in need.

During the 2022/23 financial year which forms the basis of this report, we focused on service delivery, organisational sustainability, and development. I am pleased to report that we not only met but often exceeded our targets in these crucial areas.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to our dedicated supporters for your ongoing support. Wigan Youth Zone simply couldn’t achieve all that it does without you. Let’s continue to shout from the rooftops about the positive impact we are making on our community. Together, we can nurture the seeds we’ve planted and build a brighter future for everyone across the borough of Wigan.

Thank you for being part of this incredible journey.

Warm regards,

Gary Speakman

Wigan Youth Zone Chair

A message from

Anthony Ashworth-Steen

Wigan Youth Zone, CEO

The importance of youth work can be overlooked or cast aside as something that is ‘nice’ or ‘sweet’ rather than what it is. Transformational.

Over the past year we have been responding to the mental health and cost of living crises, which are heavily impacting thousands of young people in our Borough, by ensuring that our critical services offered much needed respite and support for all our members.

Through our universal services in Wigan, Leigh, Shakerley and on the streets, parks and estates across the Borough, we provide an opportunity for all young people aged 8-19 (up to 25 with an additional need) to build trusted relationships with youth workers seven days a week.

The relationship between a young person and a youth worker is entirely voluntary – making attendance a powerful measure of success. We know that sustained engagement from a young person with youth workers will have significant benefits on their lives such as improved confidence, reduced isolation, increased health and physical activity, better attendance at school, reduced anti-social behaviour and improved mental health.

We have witnessed a significant demand for the services of the charity over the past year with 6,310 individual young people accessing our services 78,605 times – of these, over 2,600 of the young people we worked with live within the 20% most deprived areas in England. As a result, this has led to us supporting more young people with free memberships, entry to our services and meals and has also increased the demand for 1-2-1 support sessions for young people who are experiencing challenges in their lives.

The work is relentless, but we are committed to doing everything we can to inspire and empower the next generation to reach their full potential – I am sure you will agree that there are lots of examples of this throughout this report.

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has stepped forward to support our charity in some way over the past year – we could not have done it without you. Our young people are very lucky to have so many people who are committed to proactively investing in their futures.

Wigan Youth Zone Chair Passes Over the Baton

Wigan Youth Zone announced the appointment of Gary Speakman as the new Chair of its Board of Trustees on 1st April 2022, taking over the reins of the charity from Richard Ainscough, who served a three-year term. Richard, who had been personally connected to the charity since its inception, had been the driving force behind significant changes within the charity over the past three years. He had overseen a revamp of the charity’s Board, navigated the charity through the pandemic, personally raised funds of more than £1m and ensured that the facility continued to be meaningful and relevant to young people.

Gary has been involved with Wigan Youth Zone from day one as an active supporter and joined the Board three years ago as Treasurer. He is a well-known local businessman and serves as the current Chair of a wide range of Wigan-based organisations across education, arts, culture, and sport.

“Wigan Youth Zone has not missed a beat for the young people of Wigan and Leigh since opening in 2013. I have been humbled by the energy, drive and determination of our diverse trustee and staff team to do whatever was needed to be there for the young people when they have needed us most. The achievements would be too many to list, but some highlights for me have been the incredible partnerships that have developed across the borough, receiving national recognition for our exceptional youth work and seeing first-hand the tangible impact we have on the thousands of young people that engage with the Youth Zone every week. I can look back with much pride on the work we have accomplished together and feel safe in the knowledge that I am leaving the charity in great shape and in the very safe hands of our new Chair, Gary Speakman, the board of trustees and the management team. They have the privilege of writing the next chapter of Wigan Youth Zone.“

“This is a bitter-sweet moment for Wigan Youth Zone in that we are both losing and gaining excellent Chairs. Over the past three years, Richard has overseen some great changes for the organisation to enable us to support as many young people across the borough as possible. He simultaneously created a culture of empowerment for those around him whilst ensuring accountability and diligence – not an easy combination to get right, but something he did exceptionally well. In times of challenge, Richard was there, shoulder to shoulder with the other trustees and management team, to ensure we prevailed – the widely acclaimed success of the Youth Zone through the pandemic, as an example, is in no small part down to Richard’s leadership.”

Iris's Story

Through Wigan Youth Zone, Iris was awarded a fully funded bursary to study at Bolton School, a leading independent school in the North West, via the ‘Flourish’ program.

Bolton School has a long and distinguished history of providing outstanding all-round education, with high aspirations for all its students to identify and cultivate their special interests and talents. The school had one of the largest endowed funds in the country to financially support pupils through their academic studies. Last year alone, the school added more than £1m to the funds to support students through bursaries and hardship funding.

The Flourish Program is a free series of enrichment and discovery activities for young people who are in Year 5 and open to experience life at Bolton School. A group of Wigan Youth Zone members performed in a Peter Pan production, learned various languages, ventured into digital design and tried their hand in the science labs. Alongside engaging in activities, the Flourish program sought to encourage participants to go through the admissions process of Bolton School.

There was an opportunity to understand the structure of the school, its values and its aspirations for pupils who attended there. Participants also had the opportunity to gain key academic skills to help them prepare for admission and to ensure that the process provided participants of the Flourish program with a level playing field, where every child had an equal chance of success regardless of their background or their family’s ability to help them prepare.

After taking part in the Flourish program, Iris impressed the admissions committee by showcasing her incredible intellectual abilities, while also demonstrating her character and values. 

“Iris is such a brilliant and bright young person and spends her time here at the Youth Zone by getting involved and interacting with all our exciting activities. I have had the wonderful opportunity of getting to know Iris over the years and I have seen her development first hand. She has achieved her goals, all whilst supporting her friends. I wish her all the best of luck on this well-deserved journey and look forward to seeing all the future achievements I know she is capable of.”

“Iris was only 8 when she joined Wigan Youth Zone and she was a very shy little girl. I still remember her first few sessions, she was always so anxious about going on her own, and if her friends weren’t there she wouldn’t go. During the pandemic, she engaged with a group of girls via Zoom and participated in the Empower program - this was the push that Iris needed. She became so much more sociable and so confident in herself, she wasn’t that insecure little girl anymore. In October, she was invited to participate in the Flourish programme at Bolton school. When I received the phone call from Dr Mullins saying that she had passed her exams/interviews and that she had been offered a place at Bolton School, I was over the moon, so proud of her. This is an amazing achievement at such a young age! This shows everyone out there that struggles to step out of their comfort zone that it doesn’t matter where you come from, YOU are the only one that has the power to write your own story. If you believe in something, then you can do it! Because dreams do come true!”

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity of getting into Bolton School. This will really help me because Bolton is one of the best schools. I know it will help me get a good job when I am older. Without you I would have never got into Bolton or had the amazing experience with the Flourish program, it was so much fun. I am really grateful.”

A trip of a life time

Wigan Youth Zone members faced their fears in an all-expenses paid trip to Adventure Parc Snowdonia.

Thanks to support from Martin and Andrew Ainscough, Wigan Youth Zone was able to take 25 young people on a two-night residential trip to Adventure Parc Snowdonia.

The opportunity surfaced from Wigan Youth Zone’s Young People Awards celebratory event in 2021, where Martin surprised all nominees and winners by saying that he was going to fund an all-expenses paid two-night residential at Adventure Parc Snowdonia – much to the excitement of all attendees.

For many young people a residential, including surfing and climbing, is a life-changing experience. For most, it was their first time away from their family, or even out of Wigan.

Wigan Youth Zone is always looking at opportunities for young people to experience valuable new experiences, build independence outside of the home and strengthen their relationships with other young people they would not normally talk to or associate with, including exposure to new cultures and lifestyles.

The Adventure Parc features a surfing complex, glamping pods , a rock climbing wall, indoor high ropes, indoor caving and loads more. Wigan Youth Zone members took part in activities, designed to build self-esteem, confidence and try new skills – such as surfing in a natural 300-metre lagoon, zip wires and indoor Ninja Assault and Slides course.

“Getting in the water, it felt great, it made me feel good about myself not being able to swim. I am now determined to learn so I can get more involved." “What a weekend, what an awesome time, thank you for giving us that extra life experience! Sometimes people never know how something like this gives us a lifelong memory.”

Due to the pandemic and the ever-rising cost of living, many young people had missed out on school trips so this residential provided all the attendees with a welcome break.

“We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to leave the Wigan Area if it wasn’t for the residential, I would definitely want to do it again if there was another residential.”

“It was a really good experience for the young people involved. Many didn’t know each other, so it pushed them right out of their comfort zones and gave them the opportunity to engage and make new relationships. The patience and attitude of the staff were phenomenal. All the instructors were constantly encouraging our young people and motivating them. Amazing experience.”

“To be able to extend a vital experience to the young people at Wigan Youth Zone at somewhere like Adventure Parc Snowdonia is an honour. We opened the doors, to what is now known as one of the UK’s premier destinations, in 2015 and it not only provides people with fun but also essential life skills.”

Aiden's Story

At Wigan Youth Zone we are committed to nurturing young talent and fostering personal growth. This year we witnessed an awe-inspiring journey when one of our senior members, Aiden Garfin, undertook a remarkable challenge – climbing the height of Mount Everest on our indoor climbing wall. Aiden’s challenge highlights his passion for climbing and the incredible support system Wigan Youth Zone provides.

In 2021, a young and enthusiastic Aiden, aged 14, became a member of Wigan Youth Zone. At the time, he had no prior experience in rock climbing. Little did we know that this would be the start of a remarkable journey for Aiden, one that would transform him into an accomplished climber. Aiden quickly became known for his impressive record time of 7.27 seconds in scaling our 10.5-meter climbing wall.

What set Aiden apart was not just his newfound climbing skills but also his determination. Inspired by the thrill of speed climbing, Aiden set a goal for himself – to climb the height of Mount Everest on our climbing wall. Aiden was determined to conquer the height (over 8,800 meters) by scaling our wall 885 times, surpassing the Everest height to leave no room for doubt regarding his accomplishment!

Incredibly, he completed this monumental feat in under two months, a testament to his unwavering dedication and determination.

At Wigan Youth Zone, we take immense pride in nurturing the talents and passions of our members. One of Youth Workers, who played a pivotal role in Aiden’s journey, remarked:

“Aiden had started climbing as soon as he joined the Youth Zone, where he started speed climbing to start with. It took Aiden about 3 weeks to completely obliterate the standing record by more than a full second.

When Aiden started to try and find other challenges, I suggested he try and climb the vertical height of a mountain, as another member had climbed Ben Nevis. Aiden spoke another Youth Worker about it and he suggested that Aiden should go for the tallest mountain on earth. Initially the idea was for it to be a team event however Aiden wanted to complete the challenge on his own – so we agreed that it should be completed in two months and he did it sooner!”

Aiden’s Everest Challenge at Wigan Youth Zone is a testament to the incredible potential and resilience of young people when provided with a supportive and inclusive environment. His journey from a novice climber to conquering the height of Mount Everest wall exemplifies the opportunities provided by the charity.

Roarsome Birthday

Wigan's Wild Birthday Bash - A Roaring 9th Anniversary Extravaganza!

On the 18th of June, we were thrilled to celebrate our 9th Birthday with an extraordinary gathering of over 800 attendees. This free, community-wide, jungle-themed festivity took place right in the heart of Wigan Town Centre, and it was an event to remember.

"Our team dedicated tremendous effort to plan this unforgettable event. It marked our first community fun day since the pandemic, and we were absolutely thrilled to extend the invitation to the Wigan and Leigh community to explore our incredible facility. It was a fantastic moment for families, friends, and the local community to come together and celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of our charity over the past nine years. At our 9th Birthday Bash, we witnessed over 800 radiant smiles and enjoyed a resounding success. With more than 50 activities for families and the local community to engage in, it truly was a day to remember. We are so thankful to everyone who attended the event and supported Wigan Youth Zone throughout the past nine years. This celebration was our way of expressing thanks and giving back to our beloved local community. The event encapsulated the essence of Wigan Youth Zone and showcased the magic that happens when the Wigan and Leigh community unites."

Over the past nine years, we’ve become a vital resource for the young people of Wigan, and our journey began in June 2013 with the inauguration of Wigan Youth Zone at a cost of £6.3 million. Since then, we’ve been offering a wide array of activities to engage up to 1,000 young people every week. Our location, situated across from Wigan and Leigh College on Parsons Walk, has become synonymous with providing opportunities and support for individuals aged 8 to 19, as well as those with disabilities up to the age of 25.

Amelia's Fundraising Story

Amelia, a member of the Junior Fundraising Team, made waves in her community by spearheading creative initiatives to support Wigan Youth Zone. Amelia’s dedication to fundraising and the impact she and her team have had on their local community over the past year was fabulous.

Wigan Youth Zone, a charitable organisation, plays a crucial role in providing young people with opportunities for growth and development – to sustain these critical services, the charity needs to raise £1.8m annually.

Knowing this, the young people decided to form the Junior Fundraising Team, comprised of eight enthusiastic members eager to make a difference.

Amelia and her team decided to kick off their fundraising efforts with a unique event inspired by the popular TV show “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” The event welcomed local entrepreneurs and businesses to compete in a spirited quiz (“Are you Smarter than a Junior Quiz”), testing their knowledge against Wigan Youth Zone members aged 8 to 11.

The event proved to be a massive success, bringing together the community and local businesses. It featured two rounds of questions based on the national Key Stage 2 curriculum, with increasing difficulty levels. Local businesses formed teams and engaged in a friendly competition to see who could answer the most questions correctly.

Ten teams, including businesses like 3B Training, Kingdom Services, Clearview Corporate, FubHub, NR Barton, Eatock Design, and Fairhurst Accountants, participated in the event.

The event raised over £2000 towards the charity.

The event culminated in a celebration with homemade curry and refreshments. The team “Smarty Pants” from 3B Training clinched the victory, but Amelia and her Junior Team secured an impressive second place. The event’s success was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Junior Fundraising Team.

"We want to fundraise for Wigan Youth Zone to help get more opportunities for young people. We want to help the children in need, because we know that if children don't have homes or money then Wigan Youth Zone will be there for them."

Amelia and her Junior Fundraising Team have set a remarkable example of youth empowerment and community engagement. Through their innovative “Are you Smarter than a Junior Quiz” event, they not only raised funds for Wigan Youth Zone but also brought together local businesses and community members in support.

inspire 22

In collaboration with UK Youth, British Red Cross, Youth Action Northern Ireland, Youth Cymru, Youth Scotland and local youth organisations, Inspire 2022 received funding from Spirit of 2012 and the #iwill Fund, a joint investment by The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. Through this, Wigan Youth Zone received the opportunity to be involved in the Inspire 2022 project.

Over the course of the year Inspire 2022 funded ten dynamic events, each spearheaded by 50 young leaders. These events, including GLOW Around the World, Red Jumper Awards, Odyssey 9’s Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) project, Litter Picking project, Christmas 4 All and the Kings Coronation Event, engaged a total of 1468 participants and reached an additional 1500+ individuals through social media platforms.

The culmination of these efforts led to an invitation from UK Youth for a two-day showcase in London. Six representatives from Wigan Youth Zone had the opportunity to connect with other Youth Zones and organisations also involved in the initiative. The exchange of ideas and experiences not only inspired further initiatives, but also provided a platform for Wigan’s young leaders to discuss their projects and gain valuable insights from their peers.

The hard work and dedication of the young people behind Odyssey x Wigan Youth Zone did not go unnoticed. Their exceptional efforts resulted in a well-deserved Partnership Award at the Inspire 2022 Awards. The recognition served as a testament to the positive impact made by the young people, committed to making a difference in their community.

Feedback from the participants and their families highlighted the profound impact of Inspire 2022. The enthusiasm and inspiration sparked by these projects lingered, with young individuals expressing a desire to get involved in future initiatives.

Parents reported increased confidence in their children, particularly those involved in the back-to-school project. One parent expressed gratitude for the opportunity the young people had to visit London, noting the lasting impact it had on their child. The young participants, driven by a sense of achievement, continue to share their experiences, sparking conversations within the community.

Notably, a participant from the inclusion litter pick expressed a newfound passion for keeping Wigan tidy and wanted to continue engaging in such activities with the Youth Zone.

“I wanted to help clean Wigan, and I was excited to do an event with my sister. We did weekly litter picking around Wigan and I made Social Media videos raising awareness about littering. The project made me feel good and I am proud that I was helping the local community in Wigan. We have made Wigan a nicer place."

Siky's Story

Head of Operations


Sikander Ali, known as Siky, is the Head of Operations at Wigan Youth Zone (WYZ). This story delves into his background, career path, and the remarkable journey he has undertaken in the field of youth work, focusing on his contributions to Wigan Youth Zone.

Early Career and Passion for Youth Work: 

Siky’s journey into youth work was deeply rooted in his early experiences. He began working in his family’s business during his youth to earn pocket money before later working as a steward at Blackburn Rovers FC during high school. His career journey continued as he ventured into the call centre industry at Studio Catalogues before spending four years at Capita TV Licensing while pursuing his college and university education.

Siky’s passion for youth work began during his teenage years when he attended local youth clubs from the age of 7 to 16. At 15, he became the Youth Member of Parliament for Blackburn with Darwen Council, a role that boosted his confidence and nurtured his interest in pursuing a career in youth work.

The Youth Work Journey:

Despite his strong inclination towards youth work, Siky initially pursued a different path. He studied Sociology and Criminology at Salford University and completed a PGCE to become a qualified teacher. However, his heart remained in youth work. In 2011 he heard about the launch of the National Citizens Service (NCS) program and was eager to be a part of it. He left his teaching career and joined Bolton Lads & Girls Club to work on the NCS program, which was contracted by the Cabinet Office.

Joining Wigan Youth Zone:

Siky’s connection with youth work and the development of Youth Zones across the North West led him to Wigan Youth Zone. Inspired by the launch of Onside NW, and the model of Bolton Lads & Girls Club, he joined Wigan Youth Zone’s launch team in 2013. He started by spreading the word about Wigan Youth Zone throughout the town, working with a small team from porta cabins in Ainscough Industrial Estate.

Over the years Siky took on various roles at Wigan Youth Zone, including leading the Enterprise and Employability Team, serving as the Senior Club and Targeted Duty Manager and completing the OnSide Talent Development program. In 2017, he became the Youth Work Manager and continued his professional development by earning qualifications in leadership, management and coaching.

Wigan Youth Zone Highlights:

Siky’s journey at Wigan Youth Zone has been filled with remarkable achievements. One of his most significant highlights was leading the Cookie Mad Young Enterprise project to Local, National and European success. This project, initiated by a group of young people from Wigan, won the Best Product Award at the European Trade Fair in Austria.

Challenges Faced by Young People in Wigan and Leigh:

Throughout his tenure at Wigan Youth Zone, Siky has observed shifts in the challenges faced by young people in the community. These challenges evolved from a drinking culture on Friday and Saturday nights to issues related to mental health, the impact of COVID-19, rising living costs and poverty. To address these issues, Wigan Youth Zone has invested heavily in its wellbeing programme, providing 1-2-1 talking services and wellbeing support to meet the growing demand.

Future Plans for WYZ:

As the Head of Operations, Siky envisions an exciting future for Wigan Youth Zone. Some key highlights include:

  • A partnership with the newly-opened Leigh Youth Hub, where an employability program has been launched in collaboration with Wigan Council, DWP and Leigh Sports Village – which aims to assist over 100 NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) young people from September 2022 to August 2023.
  • A major renovation of the Cafe, with the involvement of young people in the design process, as well as the addition of a trendy game zone area and a new 121 and wellbeing room.
  • Preparing for a busy winter season with the capacity to work with up to 250 young people every night.


The Importance of Community and Supporters:

Siky emphasises the invaluable support of the Wigan community and supporters in the success of Wigan Youth Zone. The strong community spirit and backing has made WYZ a flagship Youth Zone within the OnSide Network. The continued support, especially during the challenges posed by the pandemic, has allowed Wigan Youth Zone to serve its young people effectively, and positively impact the community’s future.

Sikander Ali’s journey in youth work, particularly at Wigan Youth Zone, serves as an inspiring example of dedication, passion and the transformative impact that youth work can have on individuals and communities. His leadership and commitment continue to shape the future of WYZ as it enters its 10th year of service to the youth of Wigan and Leigh.

Gemma's journey

Our OnSide Ambassadors were back in action once more!

Saif, Kai and Gemma recently returned to the city of London as part of the OnSide Young Ambassador exchange program – connecting Youth Zones with a Youth Club from Boston, U.S.A. Additionally, they got to experience the Commonwealth Games which were taking place in Birmingham.

“During our visit we had the incredible opportunity to meet a group of Americans as part of an exchange programme. We took it upon ourselves to show our American friends around London and even Parliament, sparking fascinating discussions about the differences between how things work in the UK and America. We also took the opportunity to attend the Commonwealth Street Games Camp, recognising it as an excellent opportunity to enhance our skills. Visiting Parliament proved to be an enlightening experience, offering insights into the decision-making processes in the UK. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the building, learning about its history and engaging in conversations with our knowledgeable tour guide. Additionally, watching the performance of "Grease" at the theatre was a memorable and fantastic experience, surrounded by a lively atmosphere and cherished friends. Reuniting with other Onside ambassadors was a definite highlight! The camp at Street Games was nothing short of amazing. I made new friends with a group, known as the young advisors, and we hit it off brilliantly. I also connected with many other young people while participating in various activities, forming valuable bonds. Our visit to the Commonwealth Games was exciting as we watched cricket and boxing matches. Despite our exhaustion, the evening activities at the camp were a blast. We organised and participated in incredibly fun games, with the campfire gathering being a personal favourite, as it brought everyone together in an engaging and inclusive way.”

Rainbows filled the streets of Wigan as equality and diversity were celebrated

Wigan Youth Zone was given a splash of colour for the Wigan Pride event, which celebrated equality and diversity.

Wigan Youth Zone proudly took centre stage in this celebration, setting up a stall and showcasing the remarkable talents of our members on the event’s main stage. Our dedicated staff enthusiastically engaged with hundreds of young people at the stall while team members actively participated in the festivities.

But the spirit of Pride didn’t end there. Following the resounding success of the 2021 Wigan Youth Zone Pride afterparty, the event was repeated – this time exclusively for our senior members. The Wigan Youth Zone Pride afterparty ’22 featured an array of exciting activities, including inflatables in our Sports Hall, a lively karaoke stage, a dance floor in our recreational area and a range of delectable treats, including ice creams, milkshakes and waffles at our “Mocktails and Dreams” counter.

It was a true celebration of our diverse and inclusive community.

"In an ideal world there would be no need for Wigan Pride, as the right of every individual to love whomever they choose without discrimination would be universally accepted. However, there are still battles to be fought and campaigns to support. I take immense pride in knowing that I work with young people who have a safe space to express themselves authentically."

Wigan Youth Zone Triumphs at OnSide President’s Cup

In a spectacular showcase of talent, resilience and sportsmanship, Wigan Youth Zone emerged victorious at the OnSide President’s Cup in the North Division. The event, held at Mahdlo Youth Zone, brought together over 200 young participants from 10 Youth Zones, including Chorley, Blackburn, Manchester, Bolton, Oldham, and Warrington.

Wigan Youth Zone claimed the highly coveted 1st place trophy after a day filled with diverse challenges, ranging from fitness competitions and dodgeball tournaments to impressive musical showcases. The competition embodied the inclusive spirit of Youth Zones, fostering camaraderie among extraordinary young talents.

The President’s Cup wasn’t solely about sports; it also showcased the artistic and creative prowess of the participating Youth Zones. Wigan’s theme centred around the musical “Annie,” with young participants crafting captivating performances and canvas paintings that reflected the theme.

Wigan Youth Zone members secured a double win by clinching a £250 cash prize in the Enterprise Challenge. Their Bee-lieve Enterprise Team delivered a brilliant pitch, showcasing entrepreneurial spirit and innovation.

To celebrate their success, Wigan Youth Zone hosted the President’s Cup Festival in November. The festival, open to senior members from all OnSide Youth Zones, featured an array of activities including Zorb balls, climbing competitions, giant inflatables, live music, arts performances, inclusivity rooms, party games and more. It also marked the launch of the Presidents Cup 2023, offering an opportunity to meet new friends from across the country.

Wigan Youth Zone x Odyssey 9

Throughout the year Wigan Youth Zone played host to special workshops in partnership with Odyssey 9 Music Academy, a creative and social enterprise committed to empowering young minds and nurturing a passion for the creative industry. This event transcended the typical workshop experience by offering participants a chance to immerse themselves in the realms of music, creativity, and self-expression.

Odyssey 9 Music Academy is dedicated to unleashing the potential of young individuals by providing education and encouragement to pursue careers in the creative industry. The workshop served as a preview for the series of workshops that were delivered in August. During these sessions participants delved into various aspects of music production, covering areas such as music production and software, songwriting and composition, sound design, samples, plugins, MIDI, sound recording, mixing and mastering.

The collaboration between Wigan Youth Zone’s art departments and Odyssey 9 delivered sessions that showcased stunning music and dance performances. Members sporting t-shirts, crafted in the art department, not only showcased their exceptional talents but also celebrated Black History Month through art.

The partnership also extended beyond creative expression. Wigan Youth Zone’s talented members, in collaboration with Odyssey 9 Academy, worked on an educational rap and video aimed at raising awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE). The project became a powerful tool for workshops in youth groups and schools, spreading a crucial message about the dangers of peer pressure. This initiative provided individuals with a meaningful platform to express themselves through music and dance. The video raising awareness on Child Sexual Exploitation has been used for educational purposes through Schools and Youth Programmes throughout the borough.

"The message is to warn young people about peer pressure and how it can sometimes quickly escalate into dangerous situations. Music is a universal language, so I hope young people will learn something from this. We really enjoyed working with young people from Wigan. I found them to be so relatable, and their skills and confidence were so impressive."

"This project was half about music and half about words and having your say. I hope it will help everyone feel safe."

"The story highlights the struggles of being young and the risks of being exploited, but also the strength that young people can have and how best to get out of it. I think music is a good way to communicate serious issues as you can listen to it and take in the message rather than having an embarrassing conversation."

The synergy between Wigan Youth Zone and Odyssey 9 Music Academy fostered an environment where creativity, education and social impact were brought together. The workshops were a testament to the positive outcomes that emerge when communities unite to unlock creative potential.

£8,000 Raised for the 'Paint the Borough Red Campaign!

In October our community came together and raised an astounding £8,000 as part of our ‘Paint the Borough Red’ fundraising campaign. We asked our local community to stand with us and support the young people of Wigan and Leigh.

The challenge, which ran for the whole month, exceeded expectations as the local businesses community came together in a heartwarming display of solidarity. Their collective efforts made a significant impact, allowing us to continue offering a safe, nurturing, and inspirational environment for our young people.

During the campaign, local businesses like NR Barton and government-funded employment agency, Wigan Jobcentre stepped up by hosting ‘Red Days.’ On these special days, their employees proudly donned our iconic red colour and engaged in a variety of fun, red-themed challenges. Lowri Beck even organised a thrilling Football Tournament, using our very own football pitches. Truline added a delightful twist by covering their Managing Director in Red Slime – a truly memorable moment!

This campaign wasn’t just a local endeavour; it was a borough-wide initiative, encouraging businesses throughout the region to raise crucial funds and show their unwavering support.

“More and more young people are reaching out for help… but not enough are getting support. We are entering an unprecedented period of time, and although everyone is hurt by inflation, the impacts are not felt evenly across society. The upcoming months will cause hardships for many families across Wigan and Leigh, it’s incredibly important for the community to come together and look out for each other. Our network brings together businesses to support our young people, which is particularly important as families are struggling with a number of challenges, including the rising cost of living. We will continue to provide young people with somewhere safe to go, something positive to do, and someone trusted to talk to.”

Pathway 2 Employment launch

Wigan Youth Zone was excited to launch a new initiative, the Pathway 2 Employment (P2E) programme, in collaboration with Wigan Council, DWP and Leigh Sports Village. The groundbreaking partnership aimed to provide crucial support to young people aged 18-24 not in employment, education or training (NEED), by facilitating their journey into one of these positive destinations.

Based at the Leigh Youth Hub, the P2E programme was designed to empower up to 115 young individuals through an intensive mentoring approach. Participants received personalised support and guidance, equipping them with the tools they need to access opportunities or take significant steps toward their career goals.

One of the key strengths of the P2E programme was in its connection to local organisations within Leigh and Wigan. Participants had the opportunity to engage with many organisations to receive assistance in essential areas such as CV writing, interview preparation and job or apprenticeship searches. Furthermore, the programme aimed to instil confidence and resilience in the young people, preparing them for the challenges they may face in the job market.

Wigan Youth Zone is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of young people and the P2E programme is an example of our dedication to creating pathways to success.

Over the past ten years, our employability programme in Wigan has been a tremendous success, and we have assisted more than 400 young people in finding and securing further education or employment opportunities. We are extremely focused on providing the finest training and support to our community, and our commitment to this cause has been unwavering. It is during difficult economic times that our efforts become even more necessary, and we are thrilled to partner with others so that we can extend our support to even more young people. With this partnership, we can continue to help our community thrive by offering vital training and resources to those who need it the most.

“The P2E programme truly helps our young people by providing them with an opportunity to learn new skills, build new networks and take their first steps into the world of work. We want to help young people get their careers off to a flying start as unemployment at a young age can leave permanent scarring – and means they’re more likely to earn less over the course of their working lives and experience more spells of unemployment. I would encourage any young person ready to start their career to sign up for our employability programme to unlock and fulfil their potential.”

Over the course of seven months, Wigan Youth Zones have supported 75 young people going into a positive destination. The programme continues into 2023/24 and are expecting many more positive outcomes.

Parsa's Journey into Music and Community Engagement

Upon arriving in Wigan with limited English, Parsa faced the challenge of adjusting to a new environment while nurturing his love for diverse music genres. He initially immersed himself in the music department, demonstrating a keen interest in music creation despite language barriers.

Parsa actively engaged in numerous programs facilitated by the music department, including Brogression, Odyssey 9 and piano lessons. With encouragement from the music team, Parsa transitioned from creating playlists on his phone to exploring DJing using the advanced equipment at the Youth Zone.

Through dedication and perseverance, Parsa honed his DJing skills and began performing at both internal and public events hosted by WYZ. His talent and progress received admiration from peers, establishing him as a leader within his circle. Additionally, Parsa’s involvement in the ‘Brogram’ showcased his commitment to supporting others and fostering a positive atmosphere.

"WYZ has been helping me make friends through learning and trying new things."

Parsa’s evolution from a reserved individual to a confident performer and supportive peer is remarkable. His performances, especially during the Christmas set at the ‘MadArts’ Christmas fayre, were widely appreciated. Beyond music, Parsa’s involvement in community-building activities, such as the ‘Brogram’s’ self-care sessions, exemplified his compassionate nature and leadership qualities.

Despite his growing success in music Parsa remains focused on his education, aiming to become a pilot. He balances his passion for music and leadership activities with a commitment to his studies, setting an inspiring example for other young people.

Parsa’s journey within the Music Department illustrates the transformative power of mentorship, dedication and community engagement. His story highlights how providing avenues for creative exploration and support can empower young individuals, enabling them to excel in their passions while contributing positively to their communities.

Young People awards x patrons Dinner

This year’s awards were slightly different, as the Youth Zone’s Patrons were personally invited by young people to join their evening. More than 50 supporters attended the Young People’s Awards and enjoyed a buffet and a host of entertainment from the Youth Zone members, including a standing-ovation performance from Emanual Jonah singing ‘Angels’ by Shaggy.

Other performances included a contemporary dance showcase from the Youth Zone’s Street Dance Crew and performing arts students. The Youth Zone team also shared some of the amazing highlights from the past 12 months, such as the achievements throughout the pandemic, the impact of mentoring and insights into Wigan Youth Zone members’ journeys.

Patrons attending the evening were extremely impressed by the services provided by the charity, and reiterated their commitment to the Youth Zone and young people.

“Thank you for the invite to the Young People Awards on Friday, the young people were amazingly inspirational and the talent they showed throughout the night was phenomenal for such young adults. The Youth Zone facilities are second to none, and the ethos that every child matters shone through with children being given the opportunity to reach for the stars and make their dreams come true. Well done to the staff and helpers at the Youth Zone - you are transforming the lives of the future adults of the town.”

Winners included junior member and young carer Omar, aged 10, who raised over £600 for Wigan and Leigh’s Young Carers.

Awards and prizes were handed out for categories, including the David Whelan Sportsperson of the Year Award, the Kindness Counts Award and Junior and Senior Member of the Year ‘22 Award.

All members shortlisted for an award received a certificate of appreciation, and the winners received a trophy along with a £100 gift voucher. The nominated individuals have managed to achieve great things, given back to their community and made a lasting difference at Wigan Youth Zone.

“What a motivational evening! The success stories of all of all the nominees this year were truly inspirational; I am so proud of each and every one of the young people that we support. It’s a great reminder of what a vital service Wigan Youth Zone provides to the local community, putting children and young people first and helping these amazing people to achieve their potential.”


  • Poppy Cotton – The Kindness Counts Award
  • Courtney Holmes – Young Creative of the Year Award
  • Parsa Khodbaneh – Dave Whelan Sportsperson of the Year
  • Omar Boyko – Lord Peter Smith Community Hero Award
  • Alba Polido-Brocklebank – The Bill Ainscough Rising Star Award  
  • Megan Owen – The Bernard Edmunds Young Entrepreneur Award
  • Saifeldeen Bossowa -The Martin Ainscough Special Achievement
  • Amelia Charlton – Junior Member of the Year
  • Macey Jo Ledson – Senior Member of the Year

Making Miracles on Parsons Walk

On Thursday 22nd of December Wigan Youth Zone held their Annual Family Christmas Meal Event in person for the first time in two years, due to Pandemic Restrictions.

Wigan Youth Zone is based in an area where one in four young people are living in long-term deprivation. Youth Workers work to raise young people’s aspirations, become positive role models for their members and ultimately help to inspire a generation with the belief that all young people should be able to access the same opportunities, regardless of what challenges they face.

Now in its 9th year, the appeal supports the most vulnerable families across the Wigan borough with gifts, Christmas dinner, food hampers and Santa’s Grotto, along with entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. The aim of the event is to place a smile on the face of every family that attends, providing them with a variety of gifts and hampers for the festive period.

The initiative is only possible through the generous contributions of the Wigan and Leigh community. Along with providing a successful Family Christmas Meal, Wigan Youth Zone also raised over £22,000 through donations to support all the charity’s initiatives over the festive period.

“It has been like Santa’s workshop in here today. Together with the local community, we have truly made a difference in their Christmas. On a day-to-day basis, we change the lives of young people who, through no fault of their own, have ended up in a position that makes them desperately in need. If you have put a Christmas item in our trollies, or if you have donated towards our Christmas hampers, thank you. When you’re with your loved ones on Christmas Day, please know that there are over 70 families in Wigan and Leigh opening Christmas presents, thanks to your kindness.”

“Santa, can I ask you a question? Can you get me an Air Fryer, so I can give it to my Mum, please? She’s always wanted one.”

“You have no idea how much this means to us. We have been struggling these last few months; thank you for today it has truly been fantastic; we will never forget this Christmas. Wigan is so lucky to have such a wonderful place like the Wigan Youth Zone.”

Operation Joy

No matter the time of year, there are always points in life that could feel overwhelming and make it harder to find joy, but we know that December can be an especially difficult time.

So, last Christmas, we challenged our members to find moments of joy in the little things in life and share them with us so we could spread it!

No matter where you found joy, whether it was wearing your favourite jumper, chatting with friends, or taking a crisp winter walk, we encouraged our members to share it.

We had a sneaky feeling, when you looked for it, that you’d see that the little things are where we find the most joy…

Driving Change: Westwood Motor Group's Generous Gift Transforms Wigan Youth Zone's Journey

Beep Beep! Excitement filled the air at Wigan Youth Zone as we proudly unveiled our brand-new wheels, courtesy of the incredible generosity of Westwood Motor Group. This dynamic partnership has not only solidified Westwood as one of our valued Patrons but has also opened new avenues for our organisation to continue its impactful work with over 6,000 members.

At Wigan Youth Zone, we have been overwhelmed by the unwavering support of Westwood Motor Group sine we opened. Their commitment to our cause goes beyond being financial patrons; it extends to tangible contributions that directly enhance the experiences of our members. The recent donation of a minibus has proven to be a game-changer, allowing us to organise trips to events and residentials, creating memories and fostering a sense of community among our young people.

The impact of Westwood’s previous minibus donation is best measured in miles travelled and experiences gained. In just two years, our members covered an impressive 8,500 miles – a distance equivalent to driving from Wigan to South Africa!

The impact of Westwood Motor Group’s contributions cannot be overstated. Their commitment to making a difference in the lives of Wigan and Leigh’s young people is evident in every mile travelled and every smile generated through our programmes.

"For all of us at Westwood, it's always a matter of great pride that we're able to provide some support to one of Wigan's premiere institutions. Wigan Youth Zone provides unrivalled facilities to support the lives and life chances of young people in innumerable ways and they've changed the lives of countless youngsters since this noble organisation was founded. We've been with them since the beginning and it's wonderful to see all the good they've done over the years."

J's Journey

Wigan Youth Zone is committed to fostering personal development and skill enhancement among young people. In this impact story, J, a reserved yet determined Senior Member with a passion for music, showcased remarkable growth and confidence through his dedication to mastering the electric guitar.

J’s enthusiasm for rock music was evident, but he struggled to express himself openly. Spending extensive time in the music department, he often practised electric guitar with headphones on, appearing somewhat withdrawn. His limited access to an older, gifted acoustic guitar with broken strings at home hindered his practice and progress.

Recognising J’s passion and commitment, the music Youth Workers intervened. They provided one-on-one mentoring sessions to improve his guitar techniques and fostered discussions about his musical aspirations, particularly his love for bands like Aerosmith. Practical skills, including guitar maintenance like string-changing and tuning, were imparted to J.

Upon discovering J’s older acoustic guitar with broken strings, the team assisted him in restringing and servicing it. This endeavour not only improved the instrument’s condition but also ignited J’s excitement to practice more effectively at home.

J’s consistent dedication and progress didn’t go unnoticed. Recognising his efforts, the music team gifted him with his own electric guitar as a Christmas gift. This new instrument not only enhanced his learning experience but also boosted his confidence significantly. As a result, J began to participate in broader activities within the music department, exploring music technology and engaging in sessions with newfound enthusiasm.

The positive impact transcended the music room. J’s increased confidence led him to engage in other activities like recreational games and pool, fostering new friendships among peers who shared similar interests.

With his new electric guitar and growing confidence, J is anticipated to expand his horizons further. The music department looks forward to J’s continued dedication to honing his musical skills and anticipates his participation in live instrument jam nights.

J’s journey from a reserved enthusiast to a confident musician reflects the transformative power of support, mentorship and access to the right resources. Through the help of our music Youth Workers, J not only improved his musical abilities but also presented more confident and engaged, ready to explore new avenues and opportunities beyond his initial comfort zone.

Wigan Youth Zone Patrons unleash their inner child by being ‘Big Kids for the Day’

Wigan Youth Zone invited their Patrons and Supporters to become ‘Big Kids for the Day’ by ditching the office for the Sports Hall, Climbing Wall, Art Room, Dance Studio, Music Room and many other areas in which thousands of young people can benefit from day in, day out.

By opening the doors for grown-ups for the first time, Wigan Youth Zone provided the opportunity for local businesses and philanthropists to experience the facilities and services first-hand, all of which have a proven impact on improving mental health, increasing confidence, reducing isolation, reducing anti-social-behaviour, increasing activity and improving health.

Over 50 people were in attendance and were greeted by the Duty Managers for the day, two of Wigan Youth Zone’s Young Leaders (12-19-year-old volunteers), who took the 50p entry fee (the amount charged to young people for attending Wigan Youth Zone programmes) and asked the guests to complete an ‘All About Me’ form – which all young people complete when coming to the Youth Zone for the first time so the team understand what support might be needed to best support the young person. Guests were then free to take part in many different activities which were available throughout the day.

Metro Rod Director, Mike Yates Mentors at the Wigan Youth Zone

We took the time to speak to one of our 20 volunteer mentors who gave up two hours a week for six months as part of our, Children in Need funded, mentoring programme to understand why he got involved, and what the result has been.

What made you get into mentoring?

I believe as you get older you naturally become more empathetic; this leads to social awareness and an almost moral obligation to do something about what we see as a negative within our community. I didn’t want to be one of those people that that complain about the youth of today and then do nothing about it. There are lots of factors why a young person may need a mentor – mostly, and usually, there are factors outside of their control. If I can help a young person overcome any obstacles they may have in their life, then surely that’s productive.

Why do you think a mentoring programme is important to certain young people?

Some young people don’t respond well to people of authority telling them what to do (Parents – Teachers, etc) but I believe a mentor can bridge that gap and give the YP the confidence to discuss any issues they have, and together we can then work on an action plan to highlight areas for improvement. All the action points are discussed and agreed upon together with the YP having the majority of the input – this is key as they have to believe it and want to do something about it.

What are you hoping to gain from mentoring?

Obviously, there is the feel-good factor of helping others but it’s something more than that – I think I am learning as much if not more than my Mentee.

From your recent meetings with your mentee could you tell me a couple of things you plan to do together?

We have only had a few sessions to date, all of which have been at the Youth Zone getting to know each other and gaining trust. Together we have completed a list of activities that we want to do over the next months such as bowling, cricket, football, rugby – the list goes on!

What are you hoping to gain from mentoring?

Obviously, there is the feel-good factor of helping others but it’s something more than that – I think I am learning as much if not more than my Mentee.

From your recent meetings with your mentee could you tell me a couple of things you plan to do together?

We have only had a few sessions to date, all of which have been at the youth zone getting to know each other and gaining trust. Together we have completed a list of activities that we want to do over the next months, bowling, cricket, football match, rugby match – the list goes on!

Celebrating 10 Years of Wigan Youth Zone

Wigan Youth Zone kicked off their 10th Birthday celebrations at their charity ball on Saturday 18th March, at the DW Stadium. The event attracted over 300 local supporters who were delighted to celebrate the Youth Zone’s achievements and raise funds to maintain the services which have had a positive impact on the lives of over 30,000 young people in Wigan and Leigh since it opened.

Wigan Youth Zone’s services have been accessed over 730,000 times and the results, in terms of their outcomes, have been impressive – for instance, externally validated research has demonstrated that young people accessing the Youth Zone are healthier, happier and more active. 

Young members who have been part of the charity’s journey have been quick to express how Wigan Youth Zone has made a difference in their lives.

“When I first started attending Wigan Youth Zone, I was 8 years old in Holiday Club, making friends and going on trips. The Youth Workers and staff at Youth Zone showed me how fun and rewarding it was to learn a new skill and get involved in new activities. Without Wigan Youth Zone, I wouldn't have met half the amazing people I have today, I wouldn't have the confidence to try anything outside my comfort zone. If I wasn't a member at the Youth Zone for the last 9 years, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.”

The 10th Birthday Annual Ball raised a total of £75,000, which will go directly to supporting the lives of young people in Wigan and Leigh. The fundraising opportunities on the night included an online auction, a traditional auction and a raffle. As part of the 10th Birthday celebrations, Wigan Youth Zone launched their 10-month long campaign ‘10 for the next Gen’.

Through the ‘10 for the Next Gen’ campaign, Wigan Youth Zone will be highlighting the outcomes that the charity has achieved for the Borough and what it aims to do in the future. One thing that is clear is that the charity’s work will continue to make a difference to thousands of young people if it continues to get the backing it needs from the local community.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be celebrating our 10th birthday this year, where we can take the opportunity to reflect on our achievements over the past decade. It is a privilege to work with such a phenomenal, and award-winning, staff and volunteer team, who pull in the same direction to ensure that young people in our Borough receive the very best opportunities and support possible. Wigan Youth Zone is an ambitious charity, but our ambition can only go so far – it needs people who are bought into making a proactive investment in young people. It needs the local community, and we are eternally grateful for the support we receive. Together, we are planting the seeds for years to come.”

Wigan Youth Zone to receive Believe Star and be added to Walk of Fame

Wigan Youth Zone is set to shine brightly as it receives the esteemed Believe Star and secures a spot on the Walk of Fame. This is an accolade from the council during this monumental year. Our charity eagerly anticipates its 10th anniversary on June 8. The town’s Believe Square will play host to a special ceremony later in 2023, commemorating our journey and impact.

Proudly standing as an independent local charity, Wigan Youth Zone thrives on the annual support of our incredible community, which is vital for sustaining the critical services we provide. Over the past decade, we’ve positively transformed the lives of tens of thousands of young individuals across the borough – contributing over £40 million of social value to our community.

“I remember the proposals for the Youth Zone coming through the council in the years leading up to 2013 and the excitement for the opportunity we had before us. The 10 years since its opening have certainly lived up to those expectations. The services provided by its dedicated staff are vital and we are proud of what has been achieved through our partnership working."

“Wigan Youth Zone is much more than an impressive building, it is a charity whose roots spread across the entire borough through the relationships we build with thousands of young people. We should, rightly, use our 10-year milestone to reflect back and celebrate success, but it should also be a time to look forward to how we can best serve the young people over the next 10 years and beyond.”

“We are absolutely delighted that Wigan Council have decided to recognise the work of our charity by awarding us a prestigious Believe Star, which is a fitting recognition for all of those involved over the 10-year journey to date. When our founders, Bill Ainscough, Martin Ainscough and Dave Whelan, envisaged Wigan Youth Zone, along with our partners at OnSide and Wigan Council, it is hard to imagine that in their wildest dreams we would have accomplished the breadth and depth of services we offer to young people in Wigan and Leigh, or the impact this has made.”

A message from Nikki

This year’s annual report is a special tribute to the vibrant young people within our community. Wigan Youth Zone operates extensively across the borough, running Employability programmes at Leigh Youth Hub, hosting activities in our Music Studio and state-of-the-art gym based in the Town Centre and conducting outreach initiatives and local sessions throughout Wigan and Leigh. Our primary focus remains steadfast in empowering young people to reach their fullest potential and ensuring their voices are heard.

Wigan Youth Zone holds a distinctive place in the lives of our members. As the Head of Youth Work, I take immense pride in our charity. Our members have experienced a multitude of opportunities, many of which have included personalised support, significantly enhancing their quality of life and prospects for a brighter future.

Reflecting on the year, one standout moment was witnessing our member, Manney, perform for the first time in front of our Patrons, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation. None of these remarkable achievements would have been possible without your unwavering support. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all who have backed Wigan Youth Zone this year. Your commitment holds profound significance and is cherished by us all, especially our young people.

It’s just incredible how everyone at Wigan Youth Zone, from the Board to the staff, volunteers and members, faces challenges head-on with this unwavering belief in themselves. They’re all so determined to succeed, no matter what. Together, we’re not letting anything get in the way of progress because the young people of Wigan and Leigh deserve the absolute best. And here at Wigan Youth Zone, we’re making sure nothing stops them from reaching for it!

A message from Lynsey

Our Patrons are critical to the success of Wigan Youth Zone – without them, we simply couldn’t offer the vast array of essential services we offer for young people, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year. An investment in Wigan Youth Zone is an investment into the community here in Wigan and Leigh and all donations go directly towards life-changing work. Thank you to all our Patrons who continue to support us.

Everything you read about and see is a testament to the fantastic work that everyone does here and shows just how important being a Patron is. Together we are creating positive change for thousands of young people.

But our work does not stop here and we need that investment from the local community to continue.

There are many ways you can support the charity, not only financial, so we will continue to look for those who are able to step forward and offer that help – no amount of time or money is too small.

Our greatest strength is our team of dedicated and caring youth workers, who are there for young people every day of the week however they need them. Whether through a conversation, a project, a game or targeted support, Wigan Youth Zone provides life-changing support that helps local young people to thrive.

Thank you for allowing us to make that happen.

No one does Christmas like Wigan Youth Zone, always a magical time of year where hundreds of young people are welcomed to enjoy festive fun, Christmas Dinner and presents from Santa. However due to Covid-19, the coronavirus pandemic caused Wigan Youth Zone to cancel all of their vital Christmas events, which allows vulnerable families a Christmas to remember with the help from local community. 

The team fought creatively to ensure that nothing could stop a Wigan Youth Zone Christmas by bringing some Christmas Sparkle to over 300 family’s doors. Father Christmas and his elves delivered a Christmas decorated truck full of presents and food hampers to families who don’t have the opportunity to celebrate.  

Through the incredible support from the Wigan and Leigh community, 330 Wiganers received presents and a Christmas Dinner. Traditionally people across the Wigan Borough come together as one to donate food, presents and household products to give to the families who need it most.  

As well as boxing up a Christmas meal, receiving gifts off Santa, and a family hamper, Wigan Youth Zone also hosted a stay-at-home event for the whole family to enjoy. Wigan Youth Zone’s Big Night In was a festive celebration of all things Wigan Youth Zone, including entertainment from talented members, celebrity messages and a raffle!  

Over 3000 donations  

300 of food hampers  

100 CO-OP vouchers  

300 families helped  

330 young people who received presents  

300 Christmas dinners 

The Big Night In

1.6k viewers 

41 reactions 



85 live viewers  

And raised £10,000 

One family said: “This has been such a tough year, I thought we was going to have to cancel Christmas. I couldn’t thank those involved enough, I was in tears when I saw the kids see all of their presents.”  

Anthony Ashworth-Steen, Wigan Youth Zone’s Executive Director said: “I am blown away by the support we have received to help over three hundred people – once again the community of Wigan and Leigh has rallied together to support the young people and families most in need and I would like to thank everyone who supported for making this a reality. Through our collective efforts we have been able to support more people than ever before, demonstrating the need and the importance of the Mission Christmas campaign. As we look forward to 2021 we will continue to do everything we can to support the young people of Wigan and Leigh.  

With experience of working in informal education for over 15 years and a Masters in Educational Leadership, Anthony is always looking out for new ways to help support and empower young people in Wigan and Leigh. Since taking up his position in 2017, Anthony has been eager to build on past successes to further raise the profile of Wigan Youth Zone on a local, regional and national level (and has taken the organisation through a series of changes to help accomplish this.)


With over eleven years of experience and a degree in Events Management, Charlotte joined the team in 2019 and is passionate about sharing the amazing stories and memories that Wigan Youth Zone helps to create, as well as working as an inspiring mentor for young people.

Siky has attended and enjoyed youth clubs himself since the age of ten and has 15 years of experience as a youth worker. Joining us back in 2013, Siky’s mission is to help us ensure that we offer the best services for children and young people in Wigan.


As a qualified teacher with a specialism in music, Mike has worked with young people for the past ten years in a variety of settings, from young offenders institutes, to pupil referral units and behavioural schools. Originally working in the music department, Mike now heads up the Youth Zones’ mentoring programme, recruiting volunteers to match with and support our local young people.


Kate has been working with and for young people for over 15 years and has carried out various roles for us since 2013. She believes that the volunteers have an immeasurable impact on the Youth Zone and is passionate about the professional development of the team. Being a part of the community and fundraising events has given Kate some of her career highlights.


Former volunteer, Kim joined the team full-time in 2014 after completing a degree in Youth and Community Work, with years of involvement within her local church youth club behind her. Currently assisting with the coordination of enterprise and employability, Kim helps young people get on the right path by developing their skills in business and entrepreneurship. She said: “I do it because I really love it. I’m working in my dream job!”


With over 12 years experience in the corporate world, Lynsey joined us back in 2019, bringing a wealth of skills and knowledge with her. Lynsey loves connecting local businesses with the Youth Zone and as a proud Wiganer, is honoured to be raising funds, so that many other young people can go on to achieve their own dreams. Lynsey is a keen runner and is often seen out and about pounding the pavements to help raise the pennies!


Former volunteer at the Youth Zone, Jay has been working with young people for over 14 years and is responsible for planning, overseeing, and directing the operations of our lively recreational area, whilst also delivering a range of specialist training to other clubs across our network.


  • Robert brings over 15 years’ experience working in senior management roles within large charities and helps to put the paramount views of young people, parents and key stakeholders at the forefront of everything we do. Rob said: “The culture and belief in every young person is truly inspiring.”


As an artist herself and a long background of working creatively in the community, Catherine delivers a range of workshops and sessions at the Youth Zone, offering a calm and productive space for young people to create art and learn new skills. Catherine said: “I love my job at Wigan Youth Zone, it gives me a chance to empower young people and make them believe in themselves!”


Dave joined our team in 2016 through the Wigan Athletic Community Trust, having completed a degree in Community Football Coaching and Development. As a qualified sports coach and experience of working with Watford FC and Oxford United, Dave oversees an exciting range of indoor and outdoor facilities at the Youth Zone and manages a variety of action-packed activities and games for young people to enjoy.


With experience of working with young people for over five years now, Amy joins the team as our dedicated Pathway 2 Participation Coordinator, inspiring confidence and encouraging engagement with the Youth Zone. Amy works to support the mental and physical wellbeing within the local youth community, and said: “My passion is having a positive impact on young people and helping them to have a positive outlook on life.”


Over the past five years, Liz has worked with Onside to develop and deliver a bespoke leadership and management programme that supports managers within Youth Zones across the UK, helping them to achieve their full potential. Liz enjoys contributing to the safe and effective running of the Zone and credits the more unusual requests she gets to always putting a smile on her face, such as singing along in the Christmas video!


With a passion for empowering youth voice and creating safe spaces for young people to express themselves, Hannah is responsible for keeping the recreational area a fun and exciting place for young people to participate in all kinds of weird and wonderful activities!


Avid local sports fan, weekend triathlete and Chartered Accountant Paul lives with his young family in Shevington, and as a born and bred Wiganer, is keen to lend his professional skills and time to helping others in his community. Paul said: The biggest value is seeing the continued great work of the Youth Zone for the young people of Wigan and Leigh and the resulting growth and development of our members. It gives me great pride to be able to tell people I am involved with the Youth Zone.” 


As a mum and family lawyer, Charlotte is keen to go the extra mile with making positive changes in her community, ensuring that young people living locally have access to crucial provisions and resources at the Youth Zone. Charlotte said: “Hearing from our members helps bring home what we do as a board and what we are doing on a day-to-day basis for children living locally. My involvement goes a little way to help give something back.”


Susan’s career as a Regeneration Professional has spanned over 35 years, working around the country on a diverse range of projects. She is passionate about ensuring that young people are listened to, helping to provide them with the skills, opportunity and support to both recognise and exceed their potential. Susan said: “The partnerships that we have formed and strengthened over the last couple of years provides so much hope for the future of our borough and our young people.”

Wigan enthusiast Gary has enjoyed a long career working with some of the biggest brands in the UK and has been with the Youth Zone right from its roots, establishing the Charity as a founding patron. Gary said: “Right from the outset, I believed in what Wigan Youth Zone was seeking to deliver and the potential positive impact it could have on local young people, something close to my heart.”

After serving in the Royal Air Force and working in joinery and construction, Graham joined the children’s services in Wigan Council, where he has worked for the past 26 years. As a qualified social worker, he is Service Lead for the targeted Youth Support and Start Well services and joins us as the council’s dedicated representative. Graham said: “I value the opportunity to support and shape a range of opportunities for young people, helping them to develop important life skills and become positive members of society.”


Richard, owner of Network Space, a commercial property business in the north of England,  joined our chair in 2019, having been a patron for some years before. His charitable work is focussed on trying to help young people realise their full potential. A keen advocate of continuous improvement, Richard ensures that the youth zone is always looking to enhance the services it provides by listening to feedback and suggestions from our members.

As the owner and Chief Operating Officer of a large law firm, with experience of working as a commercial lawyer for 20 years prior, Jonathan advises the Youth Zone using his expert legal background and has been working with the charity since the beginning of its development. Jonathan said: “After becoming a member of the board, my middle son was diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Condition, so the importance of supporting young people who face challenges in life is something that I have experienced first-hand. It is a privilege to be part of such a fantastic project.”


As a qualified Youth Worker and the Network Director of OnSide Youth Zones, Helen is passionate about serving as a Trustee and values the opportunity to stay connected with the Youth Zone offer, which she represents nationally. Helen said: “I love the creativity and can-do attitude of the team at Wigan Youth Zone- I know how dedicated they are to giving young people great opportunities and the support to succeed.”


Jackie Salt brings a wealth of digital marketing skills as Commercial Director of Wigan-based agency, ATTAIN. Since joining the board in April 2019, Jackie has advised on fundraising, events and marketing, as well as becoming heavily involved in Wigan Youth Zone’s Young Enterprise programme.

Gill has worked in local government for over 30 years, managing a range of front-line services as a Corporate Director and addressing important issues within her community. Now running her own business, Gill provides leadership and management training, qualifications and business coaching. She said: “I value being part of an organisation that helps to make a difference to so many young peoples’ lives, to enable them to develop new skills, gain confidence and to have the amazing opportunities the Youth Zone provides.”

Born and bred in Wigan, Nigel joined the board in 2018, having originally supported Wigan Youth Zone as a patron. Nigel brings a wealth of HR expertise, having run his own consultancy for 12 years. Nigel said: “I remember feeling how overwhelmed I was when I visited the site for the first time and seeing all the work they do. Who wouldn’t want to get involved and help those who change the lives of many young people!”

Daniela joined our team for a short fix term, but loved it so much and has stayed ever since! Daniela brings over ten years of experience in data and systems coordination, whilst also overseeing various HR tasks. She said: “I love how we make a real difference and I try to help when possible, running to raise funding and even taking a tandem skydive!”


Mike has spent the last seven years on the streets and parks of Wigan. Before that, he was a lot warmer, especially during his eight years in Slovakia! With successes as head teacher, sales manager and computer games designer, working all over the UK and beyond, Mike eventually returned to his roots to eat pies, watch rugby and help young people in the borough by pounding the pavement, running transport to the Youth Zone and delivering local youth groups.


During the height of Lockdown in 2020, X-Factor winner Sam Bailey gave free voice coaching sessions to two young Wigan Youth Zone members supported by Little Dreams Foundation.

Little Dreams Foundation, was set up in the year 2000 by husband and wife stars Phil and Orianne Collins as an international initiative to support young talent in music, arts and sports. 

 Sam, a huge Phil Collins fan, donated her time during the lockdown to conduct online training sessions to teach talented young singers Emily Pearce, 17, and Georgia Linde, 15, performance techniques including body and face movements as part of the programme. 

 Sam Bailey said; “I am loving working with Emily and Georgia from Wigan Youth Zone, they are two very talented young ladies with great potential and it’s great to be able to share some wisdom with them. Phil has been an inspiration for my whole family my entire life, so to be able to pay it forward in such a great way is fantastic!”  

Since the Youth Zones involved with the Little Dreams Foundation, the teens have had extraordinary opportunities such as flying out to Miami and performing with Phil Collins himself and other Little Dreamers. They have been supported by the foundation through Wigan Youth Zone for two years now and have developed massively both personally and musically. 

Georgia said: “I have had an amazing experience within the past two years being with the Little Dreamers. I never thought I would be able to experience such great opportunities, the favourite being singing with Phil Collins in Miami. I am thoroughly enjoying working on my new material and it has been amazing to work with Sam who is really helping me with my performance.” 

Nikki Varley, Deputy Head of Youth Work at Wigan Youth Zone said: “Our tagline at the centre is ‘Somewhere to go, Something to do, Someone to talk to’ and this messaging is more important than ever before with the current crisis at hand.  

Emily said: It feels amazing to get training off a celebrity who so many people know, we are fans of Sam, and she has years of experience in the industry that she can share with us. It’s been very empowering for me. The zoom sessions are something to look forward to and I’ve already learned a lot,” 

Ian encourages creativity to run wild at the Zone and has worked with bands and instruments for over 20 years. With experience of working in youth centres for over a decade, Ian ensures that there is something for every young person to try out, from guitar and drum lessons, singing and song-writing, DJ-ing skills and much more!


Wigan Youth Zone supported vulnerable young people and families during the October Half Term.

Wigan Youth Zone reacted quickly to the news that children will be without food support during the 2020 October half term and asked local families who needed support to get in touch. Wigan Youth Zone distributed over 120 food parcels and 50 food vouchers ensuring that Wigan children in need were able to get a meal during half-term. 

Since April 2020, Wigan YZ have been supporting local young people and their families with packages of support which included art and craft deliveries, one-to-one calls and digital support using Zoom and social media to engage and entertain those isolated at home. However, in response to the government’s position on free school meals the Youth Zone has been providing free holiday club and free school meal as part of the HAF provision.  

Youth Worker Andy Nicholls said:
“I was fortunate enough to deliver some of these to some of our families that I work with. The gratitude, the appreciation and smiles on the children’s and parent’s faces was something else. I am really taken aback as to how it impacted me. You just never know a families individual situation as much as you’d like to think you do. It was such a humbling experience.” 

One family said: 
“Oh wow. I can’t thank you enough. I’m sat here in tears. I’ve never asked for help in my life and I promise to return donations once we are back on our feet” 

Provided Free Entry for those on Free School Meals 

Free meals 

It does not take much imagination to recognise the incredible difference that Wigan Youth Zone has made during the pandemic to the quality of life of the local community. It is, however, hard to appreciate just how traumatic the last 12 months have been for many, and in turn, just how invaluable is the provision that Wigan Youth Zone provides. 

Our admiration for those selfless people who are providing the support is surely beyond words: it is simply priceless! 

We are so proud to have been able to add even further to our offer for young people this year, from a dedicated well-being team providing 1-1 holistic support for young people, to our inclusion team ensuring we are removing barriers to access the youth zone for young people with additional support needs and ensuring a level playing field for young people, and our dedicated group in partnership with Wigan Council for looked after children. 

This report provides a brief, but important glimpse of how vital Wigan Youth Zone is to the local community, and I share your admiration of our staff, our members, our wonderful volunteers and of course our vital supporters. Thank you for supporting us and allowing us to change lives in such a positive way. 


AJ has been working with young people for over 6 years, with a particular focus on inclusivity and helping marginalised young people feel more accepted in their community. They like to ensure that young people feel confident to take part in activities at the Youth Zone by taking part with them and accepting everyone. They’ll be easy to spot each session, with a range of funky earrings appropriate for the season and any holidays!


Karen ensures that everyone has access to a healthy meal at our café and has a wealth of experience in catering, previously working as a cook for 24 years before joining us. Having also led her local church youth group, Karen supports our mission to make the Zone a positive and supportive environment for any young person to feel welcomed into.


Previous office and admin volunteer at the Youth Zone, Steph formally joined our team back in 2014 and now looks after our day-to-day bookkeeping, taking on the important role of looking after payroll and accounts.


Charlotte joined the team on a part-time basis back in 2019 alongside studying for her Psychology and Criminology degree. During the past 2-and-a-half years, Charlotte has worked as a Receptionist and Girls’ Room Youth Worker, and since graduating from university has progressed into the full-time roles of Head of Reception and Well-Being Youth Worker here at Wigan Youth Zone. She is the first of an abundance of smiling faces you will see and is extremely passionate about encouraging young people to be the best versions of themselves!  


Chris has been working in the outdoors since 2005 and leads a variety of action-packed activities for young people to enjoy, managing our specialist equipment and facilities, whilst also overseeing our DofE programme. Chris is a trained mountain leader, rock-climbing instructor, paddle sports coach and first aider, and is always looking forward to the next exciting trip out!


CJ oversees our range of amazing facilities that we offer to local young people and is responsible for managing the health and safety here at the Zone, keeping everyone safe and sound! CJ can also often be found with a brew and biscuits with the cleaning team! 


Sharon enjoys arranging a wide range of fundraising events for Wigan Youth Zone and brings 15 years of corporate experience to the table. Sharon is always on the lookout for new partnerships, helping us to maintain vital relationships with many local businesses across Wigan and Leigh.


We first met Andy in the summer of 2013, where he was selling ice creams for us at an open day! A keen fundraiser, Andy has pedalled around the country for us and works closely day-to-day with youth participation, listening and closely involving our members in everything we do, as well as engaging with local schools and community projects.


Ben is a really passionate Youth & Community Worker and has always loved being involved in Youth Clubs, Youth Projects and anything out of schoolthe  time. Ben studied Youth and Community Work at University of Cumbria to study Youth and has worked across the Onside Network at Balckburn, Warrington and the best of all Wigan! “This team is so welcoming and supportive I can’t wait to welcome you to our amazing Senior Youth Club!”


The first of many smiling faces you will see, Chris has been with us since we first opened, starting part-time on the reception desk and progressing his way through to management! A key member of our busy team, Chris said: The best part of my job is seeing our young people coming through the doors to enjoy the activities that we have on offer seven days a week.”


Hayley is passionate about supporting young people and oversees various safeguarding responsibilities at the Zone, as well as working with our counselling partnership. She enjoys getting out and about on our community outreach programme and is a huge supporter of female empowerment. Everyone at the club knows Hayley for her love for animals, dance…and cheese!


Jack has worked with Wigan Community Trust since 2015 as a school sports coach, but is based right here at the Zone as our dedicated football officer. Jack relishes the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of young people through the power of sport and is keen to get more people passionate about football.


Nikki is passionate about providing young people with great experiences and opportunities by overseeing a variety of inspiring youth work. With qualifications in Media and Communications, Mental Health First Aid and British Sign Language, Nikki is always looking to expand her skills and try something new.


After training at college and stage School, Joe performed around Spain, eventually returning to his roots to teach dance for us, with previous experience of coaching behind him. Joe said: “I received offers to go back to Spain and go around the world on a cruise ship, but I saw an opportunity to develop here. I want the next generation of Wigan to be passionate about dance!


With more than 15 years of experience in HR, Lisa joined us back in 2013. She is passionate about ensuring that the health and wellbeing of the whole team is at the heart of our work and is committed to our mission of providing young people with the brightest futures possible- even taking on a tandem skydive, despite her fear of heights, to raise funds for us!



As the Director of a Licensed Insolvency Practice, Lisa has spent the last 25 years providing critical advice and support to those who find themselves in financial difficulty. Her passion for helping others doesn’t stop there, as she is keen to use her time and skills to make a difference to the lives of young people in Wigan & Leigh. Lisa said: “At the heart of all the decisions we make, we should always keep the best interests and focus on the young people we are trying to support.”