“I’m really happy it’s being recognised” says founder of Hipperholme based Sunnyvale after Jeremy Corbyn’s visit

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April  2019.Picture by Simon Hulme
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

The founder of the Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre in Hipperholme says he is happy it has been thrust into the spotlight thanks to the visit of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott visited the centre to see the facilities on offer and speak to the young people who use it.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott MP pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April  2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott MP pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

Chris Madden, who founded the centre, said: “I’m really happy it’s being recognised, that he’s come here and he’s enjoyed it, he’s got to see the kids here having a great time and the facilities we can offer.

“I’m happy when anyone visits to see the work that’s been done because, believe me, it’s been a tough old slog getting to this point.”

When asked what Mr Corbyn had said to him during the visit, Chris said: “Just that it’s a fantastic project, well done on the good work, keep it up.

“I think he was really taken back by the facility we can offer these young people in Calderdale.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April  2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

More than over 1,000 young people have been to the centre since it started, usually referred through the council, the police or voluntary groups.

Chris said: “We aim to help young people that have or haven’t been in trouble, aged from seven to 18.

“We’ll do activities - climbing, archery, canoeing - but we base every activity around a certain crime type. So it could be the day-sessions are focused around knife-crime, staying safe on the internet.

“There’s always a crime theme behind every activity. It’s all about education, but a different way of getting the message across.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April  2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured during his visit to Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, Halifax..15th April 2019.Picture by Simon Hulme

“Some of them can’t operate in a classroom environment, so we bring them out of that, and hopefully we either change their life or keep them on the right path.”

Chris says more than 90 local businesses have supported the project.

“I am very well supported, I can’t grumble about that, from the police, the council, local businesses.

“Locally, I can’t thank local people enough. Nationally, do I want to see more of these places? Of course, because it’s helping a young person and improving their life.”

Chris says it’s crucial to build a rapport with a young person accessing the centre for the first time to ensure they keep coming back.

He said: “Generally when young people arrive they’ve got their hoods up, their caps on. The barrier’s there, they’re not very communicative.

“We’ve got to break those barriers down. I’d say I’ve got 15, 20 seconds to build up a rapport with them, and that determines how the session’s going to go.

“We get feedback from schools and local authorities that a young person’s doing well.

“But we know if they like it because they come back to the next session.

“But generally, if on day two it’s hoods down, caps off then we’re onto a winner.”

Rita Delorme, who owns the land the centre is built on and lives next to the site, said: “He seems great. He’s brilliant in as much as he thinks of other people, he’s thinking about the kids.

“I think we can make a generous offering to Calderdale in as much as helping these kids that perhaps haven’t got as much as what our kids have got.

“He comes over as being one of us. I think it’s great he’s come here.

“Let’s hope he comes back when we’ve done a bit more.”

Holly Lynch MP (Halifax, Lab) said: “It’s great to see this national attention giving Sunnyvale this sort of profile.

“To see the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow home Secretary here is great.

“There’s a lot being spoken about knife crime at the moment. My worry is that sometimes the problem is so obvious and so serious in London, but the dynamics are quite different there to problems with knife crime in the rest of the country.

“We’ve got a slightly different approach in West Yorkshire. We’ve got the second highest prevalence of knife crime incidents outside of the Metropolitan Police in West Yorkshire.

“The dynamics are quite different to the gang-related knife crime incidents in central London.

“It’s great we can showcase the good work we’re doing here, getting into communities, working with young people, doing early intervention stuff that’s changing lives and improving communities.

“I think this is a really good example that we’re blessed to have.

“Chris has gone over and above to set this up along with other volunteers.

“This isn’t standard practice all over West Yorkshire, and certainly not all over the country, so this is a really good example.

“But wouldn’t we like to see this delivered all over the place and see the funding available to deliver this sort of project elsewhere.”

Ms Lynch said a lot of knife crime and knife use in the region is linked to domestic violence.

“We don’t get the same levels of youth gang violence, but that’s not to say that isn’t always a worry,” she said.

“Everything we’re dong here is about trying to make sure we don’t see an increase in that trend in the same we’ve seen in central London.

“So a slightly different approach - dedicated police officers and volunteers who are working extensively with young people here, and it’d be great to replicate that model all over the country.”