History of Street Level Carluke
STREET LEVEL – A BRIEF HISTORY
Street Level’s origins date back to 1989 when concern was first expressed within the town about both a perceived lack of facilities for young people as well as an increase in instances of anti-social behaviour, particularly alcohol abuse and petty crime.
In the early 1990s, in addition to the usual youth organisations such as Scouts, Guides, Boys’ Brigade and various sports-based activities, Carluke boasted youth clubs in the community centre as well as the Shockwave project which provided a drop-in centre for young people and organised the annual Rockfest event. Nevertheless, there existed a significant number of young people in the town who chose not to participate in any organised youth activities but instead roamed the streets because, in their eyes, they had nowhere else to go to ‘hang out’ with friends. These groups would generally congregate in specific areas – the High Street & Market Place, Jock’s Burn, the Old Wishaw Road, Moor Park and Wee Moss – and were viewed as ‘a problem’ with no obvious solution. However, during 1992 representatives drawn from the town’s clergy and church congregations met and came up with the idea of employing an outreach youth worker to engage with the town’s disaffected young people. A steering group was established and, by summer 1993, a management group had been appointed, a constitution agreed and a project plan drawn up. The project was to be known as Street Level and its stated aim was:
“…the advancement of the Christian religion among young people in the area of Carluke, as it affects every aspect of their lives, by encouraging these young people in their own spiritual development, in the formation of positive attitudes to themselves and others, and in having a responsible attitude to alcohol and drugs.”
At first glance, this may sound a bit too ‘preachy’ to appeal to young people but, in practice, those involved in the early days of street work simply spoke to the young people they met in a way that gained their trust and provided information, advice and help across a broad range of issues, as well as fellowship and an invitation to attend Street Level. Where appropriate, they would also provide referrals to other agencies and organisations.
At the outset, 4 of the town’s 6 churches – Kirkton, St Andrew’s, St John’s and the EU Congregational – were involved in the project but they were soon joined by both St Athanasius and Kirkstyle Baptist churches. The long-term involvement and backing of all 6 churches in Carluke has undoubtedly been a major factor in Street Level’s longevity and success.
Street Level began operating in August 1994 on an outreach basis and, in 1995, Stewart Cutler was appointed as Street Level’s first full-time youth worker / project
manager. He was initially assisted by two part-time volunteers, Jim McIntyre and
Nanette Keenan, and, subsequently, by Gillian Mackie. As previously indicated, in those early days their main role was being out on the streets chatting to young people, gaining their trust and encouraging them to ‘engage’ with Street Level. At the outset, they operated out of a small office at 14 Hamilton Street which, although cramped, soon became a popular drop-in centre for young people, albeit that it was only open on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 7pm until 9pm. However, from its earliest beginnings, the project planned to find permanent, more suitable accommodation for use as a youth centre and, fortuitously, in 1997, the former Junction Bar premises in Stewart Street came onto the market.
The project management group then began the formidable task of raising sufficient funds to purchase the vacant premises and pay for the costs involved in repairing it and then converting it into a youth centre. Contributions were received from the following sources:
- £60,000 from South Lanarkshire Council (SLC)
- £20,000 from Lloyds / TSB Trust
- £5,000 from Choices, the town’s church – run community shop
- £800 from JM (Jack Mellon) Services
- Grants from both the Church of Scotland & the Novum Trust
- Donations / pledges from individuals, church members, congregations etc
and Street Level’s subsequent recognition as a registered charity enabled it to apply to a wide range of organisations for additional funding. Thankfully, all this fund-raising activity proved successful and Street Level acquired the building which it owns outright and, consequently, is responsible for its upkeep and maintenance.
There then followed a period of frenzied activity and personnel changes. Once the building was made wind and water-tight work began on converting it into both a youth and training centre because part of the SLC funding was based on the premises being available for use as a location where young people (especially those who were unemployed) might receive advice and practical help to prepare them for work or college. The other element of the SLC funding was its contribution in Carluke toward the creation of its planned network of integrated youth & training facilities throughout the area under the name ‘Universal Connections’ which explains why the entrance to the building bears a sign which reads “Street Level with Universal Connections”. The leader of the SLC, Councillor Tom McCabe, said at the time: “We were delighted to go into partnership with Street Level to provide facilities for young people in Carluke to a standard which neither of us could have managed on our own.”
It is important to mention at this juncture that the town’s youth were heavily involved in the design and fitting-out of the building’s interior thereby ensuring that the centre was “… designed by young people for young people.”
On the personnel front, in spring 1998, the original project manager, Stewart Cutler,
left to take up a post with the Church of Scotland. Jim McIntyre was appointed as his successor and remains in the role to this day. At that time, two new members joined the project team: Nicola McKee and Liza Cutler, Stewart’s wife.
Following a couple of open days for the general public, Street Level finally opened its new premises on Friday, 20 November 1998. The centre featured a café bar (non-alcoholic, of course), access to the internet, computer games and a range of other activities, such as board games, aimed at those in the 12 – 25 age group. In subsequent years, a range of additional facilities have been introduced such as table tennis & pool tables, karaoke etc.
At the time of opening, Fraser Waugh had been appointed by South Lanarkshire Council as its ‘Universal Connections’ representative and, like Jim McIntyre, is still in that role today. Within 12 months of the opening Jim’s team had been increased, mainly to enable a continuation of outreach work on the town’s streets, and consisted of Liza Cutler, Liz Jack and Joanne Cruikshank. In addition, Nan Frame had taken on the role as the centre’s training manager.
Onwards and upwards
In the years that followed, Street Level has continued its good work within the local community. There is less emphasis on street work nowadays but that is undoubtedly due to the fact that most young people know about Street Level through the strong links established with both Carluke High School and all the local primary schools. Indeed, most young people in the town learn about Street Level when its staff visit the primary 6 classes in May / June each year to invite them to attend the P7 & 1st year (at High School) club which meets every Thursday evening and, at times, has attracted upwards of 70 youngsters.
It would take far too long to go into detail about all Street Level’s (with Universal Connections) activities and successes over the years but here is a quick (but non-exhaustive) summary:
- A great variety of training courses aimed primarily at enabling young people to find work or progress to tertiary education, but also including schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme
- Providing volunteering opportunities towards the Saltire Awards
- Providing support, advice, mentoring and fun for groups of young carers
- Working with staff and pupils at Stanmore House, Lanark
- Providing varied activity programmes and outings for young people during the Easter, Christmas and summer holidays
- Organising regular band nights on Friday evenings
- Providing the impetus for the creation of the Crawforddyke skateboard / BMX park (2001 – 2002) and Carluke’s Wheeled Sports Group
- Organising the ‘clean up’ of the General Roy monument
- In 2012 Jim McIntyre was runner-up in the Scottish Youth Worker of the Year (Faith issues) category and in 2013 he was awarded Carluke Rotary Club’s ‘Citizen of the year’ award in recognition of his contribution to youth work in the town over many years
- In recent years, Street Level has introduced Sunday opening having previously opened Monday – Saturday only for most of its existence.
At present, Street Level receives the majority of its funding from 4 main sources:
- Choices, the church-run charity shop (£20,000)
- SLC, in the form of an annual grant (£14,000)
- Regular Gift aid donations from individuals and church congregations
iv. Irregular donations and grants
However, for a number of years, Street Level’s annual expenditure has exceeded its income by several thousand pounds and, while there are reserve funds held on account, one of the main concerns of the current management group is to try and find a way of ‘bridging the gap’ between income and expenditure.