For 12 years Jed Sullivan has been striving to make a difference in Blackpool.
He’ll probably hate that line. A straight-talking Scouser, he’s not the type to speak in cliche.
What he does want is to help as many young people in a town he loves and make it a better place to live.
Jed is one of the Trustees of Blackpool Boys Youth and Girls Club, which have bases in Mereside and Layton.
Both offer local children a place to go three nights a week. It used to be every night but they’ve had to cut back due to a lack of funding.
“This youth club,” says Jed as we chat at the Mereside base, “is at the heart of an estate that has been vilified in the past.
“But if you look at Mereside estate and Grange Park on a map what you’ll see is they are great big islands, they are surrounded completely by a moat of roads and it has been dead easy for people to say ‘I’m not going onto Mereside, it’s dead rough’, ‘or don’t go to Grange Park, it’s full of bad people’.
“Actually one of beauties of places like Grange Park is that there’s a real sense of community and, in fact, in Blackpool there is a genuine sense of community.
“The community are quite tight with each other and when the chips are down they come together.
“We’ll have 60 kids at our youth clubs each night and every one of them will be a gem, though some of them might be a bit rough around the edges.
“I park my car outside, leave my keys on tables, leave my coat out, and I’ve more chance of someone saying ‘Jed, there’s your keys’ than taking my keys away because predominantly they are good kids.”
The youth club isn’t just a place to hang out at and play pool – though you can do that – it’s about learning and developing the confidence of the young people, even if they don’t realise it.
“More often than not they don’t know we are helping them, we are just providing a consistency in their life,” added Jed.
“So no matter what happens to them, this is a safe place for them where they talk to a youth worker about anything.
“The youth worker will do their best to support them through whatever issues they’ve got. It’s almost like when they step over the threshold here, it’s a bit of a step out of reality.
And for all those who reckon youngsters can’t wait to get away from Blackpool, Jed has this to say.
“I did a piece of work with some youngsters last summer called Hopes and Dreams.
“One of questions was ‘when you get older would you like to bring your family up in Blackpool and work here?’ and the majority of kids said ‘yes, I like Blackpool, it’s where I grew up, it’s where I know people, it’s where I’m comfortable – all we want is good opportunities, a job’.”
Jed added: “Unfortunately if you’re a kid in Blackpool you will have less opportunities than if you are a kid in Kensington or Chelsea.
“If you’re a man in Blackpool you are going to die younger than anywhere else in the country.
“You’ve got more chance of being on zero-hour contracts, in a low paid rubbish job.
“We’ve got houses and the rented sector where people are absolutely abused because of the way the benefit structure works.
“It’s really hard.
“Young people in Blackpool deserve the best, deserve to have an aspiration to live here and grow with their family here, and be able to stay in the place they know.
“They deserve to be able to get a reasonable job, to be able to invest back in the community because when you take jobs and money out of the community, people don’t spend and it becomes a spiral.”
Jed argues that cash-strapped Blackpool Council hasn’t helped by cutting youth services.
“They’ve just shut a place in Bispham which was a thriving youth club,” he said.
“There is nothing in South Shore and those kids need something there.
“There is a voluntary youth club in Grange Park. That is well meaning local residents who want to invest in local community.
“I think we do a different thing, provide a different service, in that we employ people from the local community but they are trained, professional people.”
What’s Jed’s message to any youngster in need?
“It’s as simple as this –if you are a kid in Blackpool and you think your life is hard, there are places out there where you can feel better, where you can come in and not be judged and we are one of them,” he said.
“Take a chance, walk through the door, and chances are you won’t regret it.”