CELEBRATING 70 YEARS

The British Youth Council has been working to bring about social and political change for 70 years.

In 2018, we will not only celebrate the stories of those who have been part of the youth voice movement, we’ll also celebrate the young people who continue to champion our vision for a better world.

During our anniversary the British Youth Council will announce it’s new vision for an environment in which young people views are valued, sought and acted upon. Moving forward the British Youth Council will continue its efforts to amplify young people’s voices among decision makers in the UK and internationally.

Memory Logs

As part of our celebrations, we want to hear from you! By collecting stories from our alumni, past members of staff and members of our wider community, we hope to bring together a wonderful collection of memories about the British Youth Council from the past 70 years for both current and past members to enjoy.

Click on the names below to read individual memory logs from throughout our history!

Why not submit yours by emailing fundraising@byc.org.uk?

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?

I was a member of BYC from 1982- 1986 as part of the Scout delegate. I came into the British Youth Council while at the University of Bristol, volunteering as a Cub Scout Leader in order to fulfil the service requirement of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. At that time, the Scouts weren’t seen to work particularly well in diversity, and so the fact that I (as a young person) was volunteering in an area of Bristol where there was social deprivation brought me to the attention of Scout HQ.  This, in turn, led to the Scouts inviting me to join their BYC delegation.

Stand out key memories

The British Youth Council provided me with my first taste of campaigning, introduced me to politics, and was the crucible for my now lifelong commitment to social justice. My years with the Scout Delegation in the 80s were exciting, enlightening and utterly inspirational.

The British Youth Council provided a space to come into contact with other organisations  – unlike the university political platform.  BYC felt like a more comfortable fit due to being more diverse. It provided a wider range of people in social action and allowed young people to develop their own views and values in a space that was forgiving of change and experimentation.

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?

The British Youth Council was important to young people at the time as it gave us a voice within a society that wasn’t particularly interested. It provided a fantastic opportunity for training in the youth agenda that shaped my work later on.

The British Youth Council provided diversity and a range of experiences. It opened up in me a desire for social justice that has followed throughout my career.

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?

I worked for the British Youth Council between 1970 and 1972 but I knew about the organisation before, through my local work with young people.

I learnt about young people’s voice by leading a local youth club in Bushey (Hertfordshire) every Saturday night (yes, Saturdays!) and through my local youth council.   Around 1969, (I was very young!) my job in London was with Thomas Cook the travel agents.  As part of my work I arranged travel for organisations and one of those happened to be the British Youth Council.

Alan Robertshaw was the Secretary General of BYC at the time and they got to know me while I was arranging their travel, mostly in Europe, but sometimes further afield.  Alan invited me to an interview for the admin assistant role and I got the job!  That was just the opportunity I wanted!

Stand-out memories and experiences

In 1972 I helped to organise the World Assembly of Youth in Manchester.  The WAY was a week-long conference with a prestigious dinner and national delegates from all parts of the world. Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister was the main speaker at the conference dinner and I was introduced to him, as were many others.  For the conference, I was proud to be the Personal Assistant to Jyoti Singh, the Secretary General of WAY.  Being a PA was good fun and opened my eyes to lots of international links, debates, issues and developments.

A few other memories from BYC work  .....  I led a study visit to Berlin for UK students, I helped to set up emergency accommodation in London for young people, managed a temporary hostel in Glastonbury in the very early years of the international Festival, and I was usually the first in the BYC office every morning, so I got the cream from the top of the milk for my first cup of coffee!

Between 1971 and 1975 I helped to set up the National Youth Assembly (NYA), which was the forerunner of the UK Youth Parliament. In those early years, we brought people together from youth councils all over England and we organised meetings, events, conferences and elections. We represented young people’s views, as best we could, to government and many other organisations.  We helped young people learn about democracy and how it works, both at a local level and nationally, and we showed how we can collectively make a difference.  The NYA Executive Committee and many others travelled all over England and worked with hundreds of young people directly who then went onto work with thousands more through their local youth councils and other organisations.

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?

A career!    It’s a fact.    Not only a career but you can see loads of other things that have happened for me and for my family that have come from my roles with the British Youth Council. Through my work for BYC, I learnt that I could play a valuable role in youth work and in the wider scheme of things for young people, local and national communities.

My work for BYC built up my confidence.  I learned loads. It took me onto the next steps in my life. There’s no question that BYC experiences led to many new and exciting opportunities.  I learnt about the potential of democracy, of young people, of charities and of national organisations.

A few reflections

BYC is a tremendous force for good in the UK.  BYC creates amazing opportunities for young people to get involved in expressing their views, learning how to influence things, and learning what to say, and what not to say!

BYC has been around for 70 years and I know that it has had a positive impact on many thousands of young people through direct involvement, and, I’m sure it has had a very beneficial impact on many millions of young people because of what BYC has done in those years and what BYC does now!

BYC was set up after the Second World War to promote the voice of young people AND internationalism. The original vision is being delivered every day in the UK, and BYC can continue doing that for the next 70 years, and more.

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?
Since 2011.

Stand out key memories
Annual debates in the House of Commons were the showpiece occasions, but I most enjoyed chairing the UK Youth Parliament West Midlands Region. It was a great platform from which I could lead negotiations with my local council.

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?
How to ask for things in ways that are constructive and make a positive difference to the lives of others facing the same issues.

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?

2011-2018 as a member of the staff team working regionally as the Youth Democracy Co-ordinator for the West Midlands and then the East Midlands and the National Projects Co-ordinator co-ordinating the National Youth Select Committee and NHS Youth Forum. I was also the Course Director for the Youth Voice Leadership Programme.

However, I also have direct membership experience! I relaunched Worcester City Youth Council in my holidays at university and signed them up as members of BYC (1995). Later I went on to set up Worcestershire Youth Cabinet and signed them up to BYC – we were local members back in the early millennium!

Stand-out memories and experiences

My first street rally (votes at 16) in the pouring rain, being granted a pass to parliament – to work! Winning the Make Your Mark trophy 2 years in a row (West Midlands), helping to develop the Youth Voice Leadership Development Programme – the vision and Forgeford (the staff team’s faces when selling this idea is a memory that will never leave me too!)

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?

Great opportunities – for leadership, teamwork, project and partnership development.  I have been working, coordinating the West Midlands region for the past 15 years – I’ve amassed incredible memories, friends, contacts and stories!

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?

I was the Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) for Basildon & Brentwood (Essex) for one term between 2003 and 2004. I loved it and would have stood again if I hadn't reached the upper age limit. I didn't even know what UKYP was when I turned up, but - before I knew it - I'd made a speech and got elected. I also joined Basildon Youth Council and helped out in the local Youth Service, as well as being a Millennium Volunteer.

Stand out memories

It was great to visit the House of Commons and see a debate from the gallery, if not a little disappointing and concerning to see how immaturely the MPs were acting (jeering and sneering). Another highlight was receiving the Princess Diana Memorial Award for contribution to the community. I was also over the moon to be interviewed and photographed for The Pink Paper. I'm proud of myself for challenging the National Blood Service on a policy I perceive as homophobic, and getting invited to speak to the Chair of their decision-making board; The National Union of Students took over that campaign in the end. My absolute favourite memory, however, is from our UKYP national meeting. One MYP had a sign language interpreter with him and we'd all noticed that the sign for applause is essentially what we'd call 'jazz hands'. When this MYP gave a speech to the conference (via his interpreter), without any prior planning, about 600 young people spontaneously, silently signed their applause. It's a memory that still brings a tear to my eye. With how much it meant to me, I can't even imagine how much this beautiful gesture of inclusiveness meant to the MYP.

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council? 

UK Youth Parliament really sparked my interest in politics and I had never even heard the word 'socialist' until I heard it from a fellow MYP. Now I'm the Secretary of my local Labour Branch. One of my first acts has been to invite our local MYP to speak to us! After years of being a full-time carer for my late husband, I was completely lost when he died - and I naturally gravitated back towards politics as a way to force myself to go out (i.e. face my anxiety), make myself feel useful, and meet new people. I started helping with (fellow ex-MYP) Lloyd Russell-Moyle's election campaign (I'm proud to say he is now my MP!) and I decided I adored these people from my community who had this passion for positive change and a wealth of knowledge. They took me under their wing and I joined the party. They continue to support and encourage me. I feel like I was drawn in this direction by happy memories of my UKYP family and the strong friendships we formed. My involvement with BYC has given me the skills and knowledge to at least try to leave the world a little better than how I found it - as has The Labour Party. In fact, my CLP is currently paying for me to learn some British Sign Language (more than just applause)!

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?
I was involved in BYC from 2011 when I was elected at Vice Chair for Participation and Development. I hadn't been actively involved in BYC before this, but I was encouraged to stand by one of the former board members and a member of my organisation, Woodcraft Folk. It feels like it all happened a bit by chance but I'm so glad I had that opportunity. I only sat on the Board as a Trustee for one year but it feels like much longer - BYC has a way of not really letting you go and keeping you involved afterwards!

Stand out key memories
My first stand out memory was when I turned up to the AGM to stand for the Board in Cardiff coming straight from a week long camp with my Woodcraft Folk group. I was quite aware that while I arrived with my rucksack in short and a screen printed t-shirt, there were a lot of people surrounding me in suits (including the three other candidates for my position). That's what I love about BYC - it brings together such a diversity of young people. Another memory that stands out for me is the National Members Meetings, which I coordinated alongside the wonderful David Clark (the then Deputy CEO), which was a fantastic opportunity for a hugely diverse range of organisations come together to share ideas and projects. The Equality4u activity that I was involved with together with the National Union of Students (NUS) in 2012 or 2013 was also a stand-out memory - it was inspiring to see young people come together not just to discuss and debate, but come up with concrete actions to promote the inclusion of young people from marginalised groups (LGBTQI, women, disabled people and people of faith). 

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?
I gained a huge amount from BYC - it was my first opportunity of getting involved in a network outside of the socialist family, so I learnt how to work with different organisations and with people from different political backgrounds. It made my recognise how important it is to have a collaborative approach in advocacy, campaigning and in education, a practice that I've been able to take with me in my voluntary and professional work. I think without BYC I wouldn't be where I am today professionally - the Secretary-General of an international NGO in Brussels - due to the invaluable experience I gained through BYC and the contacts I was able to make. And it goes without saying I've also made some great friends through BYC. If you're a young person now, you should definitely get involved in BYC!

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?

I was involved with the British Youth Council (BYC) from 2011-2013. I was the chairman of Redbridge Youth Council (RYC) and the elected Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) for the London Borough of Redbridge from 2012-2013. At the time, I was responsible for representing 28,000 young people in my borough. In this year, the Redbridge youth election received 9,716 votes, which is 44% of the electorate and 19 schools took part out of 20.

Stand out memories?

During my time in office, RYC established the “In Youth We Trust” campaign, which aimed to change the negative perception of young people after the London riots. As part of the campaign, we had a spirit ceremony to celebrate the positive youth of 2012. The event was attended by 160 young people, with friends and family at Wanstead youth centre. Also, we organised a community litter pick to ensure that the streets were cleaner for residents just before the Queen’s visit. To complete our campaign, we had a red accessory day where students were asked to donate fifty pence and wear a red accessory to school. The £540 raised from the campaign was donated to Haven House Hospice, in Woodford.

Another highlight was speaking in the House of Commons, alongside Speaker Rt Hon John Bercow MP. In 2012, the five motions were “a curriculum overhaul, marriage for all, getting ready for work, make public transport cheaper, better, accessible for all and an equal national minimum wage for all”. MYP’s argued that “the national curriculum should be overhauled to include wider life skills including political knowledge, better sex and relationships education and cultural awareness, according to the UK Youth Parliament which has chosen ‘a curriculum to prepare us for life’ as its campaign for the year”. It was exciting to be in the chamber with 307 MYP’s aged 11-18, discussing nationwide issues, which were voted for by over 250,000 young people from across the UK.

My proudest achievement was being able to preserve frontline youth services with my fellow youth counsellors and the immense support from our youth service worker, Raina Gee. The local council was going to cut £696,000 to youth services, including three youth centres. RYC was able to obtain funding to carry out a borough-wide survey with at least 1% of every school represented. We designed and conducted the survey to determine which youth services the youth of Redbridge valued most. Around 1000 young people responded, and we found that the top priorities were work sessions, Duke of Edinburgh, Connexions and teen pregnancy services. We presented the findings to the lead member of children’s services and discussed how the council could make efficiency improvements without cutting frontline youth services. After back and forth meetings, the leadership decided to put back £500,000 into services for young people and £175,000 into the Redbridge music and drama centres. As a result, no youth centre would close as initially proposed.

Lastly, I proposed the idea of a conference to unite youth representatives from each secondary school in my borough. Initially, it was the School Council Conference, where youth councillors from each school would attend to discuss ideas and challenges faced in their schools. These challenges could then be funnelled to the RYC agenda to inform higher level decision makers. In the first year, 14 schools and 40 students were in attendance. A series of councillors were also present to engage with the youth. Currently, it has evolved into the Redbridge Youth Conference where students get together to envision the year ahead. The conference is still held every year after my time with the youth council. It is amazing to see that the work is being carried on several years after my time with RYC and BYC.

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?

As a member of BYC, I was able to learn about the social challenges faced by young people in my borough. I learned how to engage and cultivate interest from councillors and decision makers to ensure that policies were driven by data provided by young people of my constituency. It is important to note that the youth council members are aged 11-18 years old and are able to accomplish the above. I think it shows to adults that we need to advocate for the voices of youth. Young people are bright and have strong ideas; we should vouch to listen to them more often in the decision-making process of this nation. I look forward to seeing how the organisation will keep on doing impactful work.

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?

I was part of the Girlguiding delegation to BYC from 2004 - 2006 and then I was on the board for a year before being the chair from 2007 - 2009.

I also came back and worked for BYC in the transition period between CEOs in 2016. It was great to see the change in the organisation but that its core values were still the same

Stand out memories 

I've got lots of memories over the years. Some of them are from being involved as a member, BYC really gave me the opportunity to feel that I could stand up, voice my opinion and know that it was being listened to.

When I was chair I was involved in the BYC Campaigners project, which was always a highlight and reminder of why we did all of the strategy and finance work. We were really giving young people the skills and experiences to make a difference in their communities, I remember taking our votes at 16 petition to number 10.

As interim CEO I was involved in the House of Commons event which was new from when I had been involved before. It was so amazing to see such articulate, confident young people listening to each other, debating key issues and being able to get their voices heard.

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?

I gained so much from BYC which has shaped the work that I do today. It shaped and reinforced my fundamental belief in the value of young people's voices. It gave me the skills and confidence to stand up and make sure that I'm enabling other peoples voices to be heard. All of my current work focuses on participation and inequality which stems from the work I did at BYC.

When were you involved with the British Youth Council?
From 2011-2014 as part of UK Youth Parliament in Somerset and from 2014-2016 as a trustee.

Stand out key memories

Speaking in the House of Commons was an obvious highlight. It felt so empowering to be able to speak on my pet subject of transport, and to represent the needs and concerns of young people growing up in rural isolation being let down by bus services.

Outside of the amazing national opportunities we had, I remember being 15 and taking the leader of Somerset County Council to task about the way they were cutting funding from youth services. I had been really nervous before the meeting, but having youth workers support me gave me the confidence to really take the poor guy to task.

One moment that really touched me was another young person I had been mentoring as part of my role on the Procedures Group giving me a card and going on to run to be Procedures Group representative herself. I remember feeling really attached to everyone in my region and wanting to do the best by them.

What do you think you’ve gained from being involved with the British Youth Council?

I think the most important thing I gained was the self confidence to make mistakes. As an MYP, I felt comfortable enough to talk out new ideas for campaigns with youth workers and young people and to not feel bad about the really bad ideas I had occasionally!

It was also really crucial in helping me with coming out. I have a lovely and supportive family, but school wasn't especially easy for me at times. Being part of a group that saw the things that made me different as strengths rather than weaknesses moulded me into the person I am today and gave me the self belief to get involved in politics as an adult.

I think one of the really amazing things about BYC is not just its role in representing young people, but also ensuring that those of us who leave and get involved in decision making listen to young people.

I first got involved in the British Youth Council through my work with the Stockton Youth Assembly when I was 15, in 2007. This was my local youth group ran by the council to empower young people to get more involved in their area, and it still runs today. I overheard my friend in school talking about being involved in this group that discussed politics and local issues. Curious, I asked her whether I could go along with her. I quickly became a regular member and got involved in different campaigns, such as the one to ban mosquito alarms (which discriminate specifically against young people) from being installed in local shopping parades.

Having not long been a member of the Youth Assembly, we held elections for national Members of Youth Parliament for Stockton. I confidently put myself forward knowing extremely little about the role, and won the election along with some of my peers. I was quite nervous to get involved at first – after all, who was I to represent other young people? But through the work of the Youth Assembly and puberty, I ended up getting very involved in the UK Youth Parliament and, through this, BYC.

I was one of the first MYPs to be given the amazing opportunity to debate in the House of Commons, in October 2009. BYC helped organise our trip to London from the North East and made sure the whole event ran smoothly. Having taken a serious interest in politics from a young age, it was surreal to be sat up in the opposition backbenches, actually debating real issues for young people with others like me. At a risk of sounding dramatic, it instilled in me a feeling that I could do anything if I put the work in: that I should, and could, reach for the stars.

I take these experiences with me to this day. Having graduated from Newcastle University in Urban Planning and in Digital Civics, I am now studying for a PhD. Through this, I am looking at ways we can involve young people in urban planning through digital technology, and working closely with several youth councils and schools in the North East. I credit my involvement with BYC, UK Youth Parliament and Stockton Youth Assembly with giving me the confidence to go on and do this. My hope is that through my research, I can give back something to other young people and the organisations that empower them – even if just in a small way.

We'll be celebrating throughout the year.

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