Responding to the needs of young people in Wood Green’s town centre, The Rising Green Youth Hub has emerged as an inspiring story of co-creation and high street transformation. Through innovative design, strategic branding, and inclusive engagement, the hub empowers young voices, fosters community connections, and paves the way for a safer, more inclusive future.
The discouragement and isolation experienced by young people, when they feel unwelcome or face hostility in town centres, is often exacerbated by the absence of dedicated spaces for youth organisations. Recognising this, Haringey Council embarked on a journey to diversify Wood Green’s high street, aiming to create a safe space for younger generations and challenge the prevailing perceptions of an area disproportionately affected by knife crime.
With support from the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund, the council succeeded in leasing a 1000m2 property from the commercial sector, recruiting Wood Green Young Voices, alongside architects Freehaus and JA Projects, to co-create a new youth hub. Despite needing some attention and care, the property lent itself to transformation, with a perfect location off of a pedestrianised route and primary ownership retained by the council.
As the project kicked off at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, initial engagement with stakeholders was primarily facilitated online. Young representatives were empowered to address the brief in a series of workshops and shape the design process. Although using online means of communication removed the benefits of face-to-face collaboration, quieter voices felt more comfortable to speak, positively improving the breadth of opinions and ideas. Benefits such as vouchers and training opportunities were offered to all those who contributed.
Three design challenges for co-creation
Through their initial engagement with the young stakeholders, the design team identified three main areas of co-creation:
- Invitation – what makes a space feel welcoming and safe to a young person?
Taking inspiration from the Bruce Grove Youth Centre, the project team created a series of thresholds through the building that might allow young people to gather without scrutiny and participate at their own pace. This was then taken further by the JA Projects team who interrogated how the shopfront could be used as a space from which to broadcast and display, in order to redefine the negative perceptions of young people in the area.
“On some level, this project has been an exploration of how to rebuild the narrative of trust between young people and institutions.”Jonathan Hagos
2. Communication – how was the youth hub going to present itself on the high street and online?
Young voices emphasised the importance of conveying a brand identity beyond the hub’s architectural presence, signified by a strong name, colours, and logo. To address this, the project team’s graphic designer delivered a series of branding and Adobe Illustrator classes, thus enabling the community to better visualise their ideas. During discussions, Pippa Gueterbock, head of regeneration for Wood Green, acknowledged the difference between what the youth expected and what the adults anticipated. Her conclusion emphasised the importance of avoiding assumptions and staying open-minded about the community’s needs.
“Giving young people this platform has been really empowering. They wanted a look and feel and identity which was quite grown-up. And not just something which was primary colours.”Pippa Gueterbock
3. Photography – how should the space be documented and promoted?
The project team engaged a local photographer, Ben Blossom, to lead a series of workshops with Wood Green Young Voices. By learning the intricacies of working behind the lens and participating in discussions about photography’s capacity to reframe perceptions of young people, a series of photographs were developed. These are now on display in the youth hub.
The first co-design strategy was primarily steered by JA Projects, while Freehaus led the space’s architectural transformation and second two co-design strands. With both practices communicating concern for socially-driven spaces that serve value beyond their walls, alongside a belief in collaborative power, it is no surprise that the co-creation process remained greatly aligned with the ambition of the council.
Daily life at the Rising Green Youth Hub
The Rising Green Youth Hub stands as a remarkable example of co-creation, where diverse demographics and professionals have collaborated to bring life to a safe infrastructure on the high street. Young individuals have the opportunity to engage in various activation events, ranging from workshops facilitated by organisations, like DWP and JCP, to strategic visioning sessions led by Wood Green’s regeneration team. Even the Business Improvement District (BID) has utilised the hub to foster discussions with young people, regarding the town centre’s future; this encourages us to reflect on how the younger generations have not only influenced the initial establishment of the Hub, but are continuing to utilise the platform to voice opinions about the future of their community, and personal lives.
“It has been more about employment skills, mentoring, working with alternative needs. Responding to, I suppose the real need.”Pippa Gueterbock
Despite huge traction in the town centre and a great many enthusiastic members, funding constraints affect evening and weekend opening hours, and the use of some facilities to their full capacity, like the purpose-built training kitchen. To overcome these challenges, the Hub’s Partnerships Manager, Lindani Njie, is dedicated to forging relationships with other organisations of all shapes and sizes, bringing in new opportunities. It is inspiring to hear that a script-writing organisation has recently been welcomed to the hub, and there are conversations in motion surrounding more wellbeing clubs and plans to expand upon existing pilots, such as ‘Get Cheffing’, which encourages the development of cooking skills and healthy eating habits.
The future of the Rising Green Youth Hub
The future of Rising Green is looking up. Having only been open for a year, it has already embedded itself into the high street and is on its way to becoming not only a youth hub, but an innovation hub as well, capable of hosting a dynamic array of activities. It sends a bold message that when the opportunity arises, the amount of people passionate about making a difference and adding value is extensive. Whether value is defined by young people benefitting from access to a safe space and somewhere to play table tennis, or older individuals benefitting from employment programmes, there is something for everyone. The centre’s ‘Start Something Major’ offer, led by Haringey Works, has supported over 34 young people into employment, training or education, and over 17 young people have secured a role since the programme commenced at the Hub in January 2023.
“It works because we are putting young people first and exposing them to things they might not necessarily be exposed to. Collaboration is key.”Lindani Njie
Taking a positive outlook, it is more than likely the youth hub will progress from its initial conception as an interim project, to one with a longer-term future, fueled by the knowledge that by working together, you can create a safer, more inclusive environment that does truly meet the needs of young people.
“It’s a symbolic start rather than the end to the conversation. It has put young people on the agenda in a way that they weren’t before.”Pippa Gueterbock