Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is a key focus for Bolton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers in the Community (BWitC), and the club’s LGBTQ+ Youth Club has been hugely successful in creating a safe space for people to be themselves and making a difference in the local area.
Launched in 2018, the LGBTQ+ Youth Club focuses on hate crime, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and offers young LGBTQ+ people and allies aged 13-17 a safe space to socialise, meet others they identify with and open up about important topics and issues they may face.
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Beth Warriner, BWitC Programme Lead, plays a key part in the weekly running of the Youth Club and is delighted with the positive impact it is having in tackling exclusion and hate crime in the Bolton Community.
“About 50% of the people attending the community work we deliver around the Bolton area were identifying as LGBTQ+,” she told The EFL.
“They expressed an interest in wanting their own night as part of the Youth Club. We looked at what we could do to support them, so initially the LGBTQ+ Youth Club was formed on a trial basis to see what the turnout would be and it was hugely successful.”
The Youth Club - delivered in partnership with Bolton Council’s Play and Youth Service - has been running for almost six years, with the group meeting on a weekly basis in Farmworth, Bolton, and once a month, 9-12-year-olds are also invited to join the session.
Beth added: “We advertised it in schools, sent flyers out and got a fantastic response. It’s been running every Tuesday night for over five years now and it’s been really successful. Having a separate Youth Club night for members of the LGBTQ+ community gives young people a safe space to chat and meet others who are also LGBTQ+.
“The staff area LGBTQ+ as well which really makes a difference to the young people, because they’re able to support and guide them through any tricky life situations.”
The Youth Club participants also work with BWitC and Greater Manchester Police on education around hate crime, with the youngsters taking part in hate crime training as well as becoming hate crime ambassadors and helping educate others on what hate crime is and how to report it.
“It was reported back by the young people that the hate crime training wasn’t very user-friendly or interactive for their age groups.
“So we applied for some funding locally and managed to get some hate crime training delivered that was specifically tailored to young people. As ambassadors, the participants were then able to go out and deliver that to other Youth Clubs and schools around Bolton.
“It was a really impactful and empowering experience for those young people and really gave them all a lesson on the importance of hate crime.”
Hate crime training has also extended to all staff members at Bolton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers Community Trust, with the University of Bolton Stadium now also becoming a third party hate crime reporting centre.
Such is the success of the LGBTQ+ Youth Club, BWitC are also looking to introduce a second weekly session as they look to reach and benefit more young people of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s certainly growing in terms of how we’re able to expand the provision," Beth concluded.
"Four of our participants recently started university, most of whom joined us on our first-ever session back in 2018. We’ve had the privilege of watching these young people grow and develop into confident and resilient adults.
“There are endless young people who will benefit from this, we've seen that first hand.
"I’ve been to schools that have LGBTQ+ sessions and they have 40 or 50 attendees, so there is definitely a real need for the support and if we can help benefit these young people with our Youth Clubs then it’s great.”