Meet new director of the Orangebox

LEADING WAY: Orangebox director Madeleine Irwin.
LEADING WAY: Orangebox director Madeleine Irwin.

‘As someone who has spent the last fifteen years developing creative and alternative learning provision for children and young people across Yorkshire, I have often dreamt of creating an environment in which young people can access a range of services, support, and programmes under one roof; a place where they can come to try things out, to make their ideas a reality, to set their own agendas – or somewhere to just simply be.

Orangebox will be all of this and what’s more it is beautiful (‘industrial chic’ as some have recently described it!) and truly world-class!

Don’t get me wrong. I know that fancy buildings aren’t everything; fantastic things can happen in places you’d least expect. The right intentions, values and authenticity (young people are good at reading when someone or something is disingenuous) are arguably the most important factors of any new endeavour but here in Halifax we now have both - all of that in an amazing building.

The right intention along with the sense of value that comes from being in a beautiful space - rarely are young people given the two. Orangebox’s purpose is not to simply to get young people out of the town centre and off the streets - young people deserve their own high quality public spaces as citizens in their own right, for who they are now and not just because they are the adults, audiences, consumers of the future. We will have high expectations for all young people and will always operate from a basis of what they can achieve rather than what they might sabotage!

After all it is young people’s vision that informed Orangebox’s design, a contemporary space that gives a firm nod to the town’s history and heritage. As we progress and change in the evolving landscape our building will always remind us of from where we came.

In industrial times young people would go from school to work but growing up in the 21st century is complicated and uncertain - young people are dependent on their own initiative, positive relations, and support networks to live healthy, confident, and happy lives. Orangebox will nurture and enable local young people to define and fulfil their potential.

Orangebox beneficiaries will know that the world really is their oyster and will be empowered to choose their attitude even when times are hard. We will shout about the ideas, products, talent, and experiences developed from Orangebox and will set-up social enterprises through which we can represent young people professionally and competitively.

Orangebox will provide a point of connection for young people from Calderdale to local, regional, national, and international networks and opportunities.

We intend to stick to thinking big and bold - I have to admit that at times it’s scary and people can be quick to accuse newcomers of naivety and misplaced optimism but it’s all too easy to scale down ideas, to be cynical, to think that it’s not the right time...but where will that take us? Optimism can be as contagious as pessimism and certainly far more productive. Don’t worry, this is not leading towards some reinforcement of one of those cheesy mantras (you become what you think about the most etc.).

I’m well aware that this is Yorkshire not California and that life is really not that simple. Young people do need a sense of faith in and hope for the future but they also need to be involved in real world problem solving. They can bring honesty, fresh perspective and creativity to re-defining and inventing new forms of employment, enterprise, economies and use of public space.’

– Madeleine Irwin