I made the most of my trip to Newcastle with a packed three days in the North East of England, kicking off by catching up with Peter Nicol, former Deputy Chief Scout and now DC for the Newcastle districts, and later Alan Craft, Chairman, on his home turf.
Making the most of AGMs
As one of the quickest growing Scout Counties in England, Northumberland’s AGM was another celebration, with contributions from many young people, including the Jamboree contingent and a poignant remembrance presentation compiled by Whitley Bay Explorer Scouts to commemorate the community’s fallen heroes over the years. Very moving, although also probably the most challenging introduction to making a speech that I’ve ever been given.
It’s great also that the area where B-P held the first official Scout Camp in 1908 (the site of which we visited) is still the home of some innovative Scouting.
Scouting for those that say they won’t Scout
LookwideUK is focused on helping those young people most in need (referred usually by youth justice, job centres or schools) by providing what is essentially the Explorer Scout programme, leading to nationally-recognised and meaningful national qualifications.
Over 1,000 young people have benefited from the scheme since it started in 2004. It was interesting to meet some of the participants, and to discuss why they were happy doing this, knowing that it was Scouting, but still not wishing to be seen near a Scout Group as such.
I also discussed with the staff and County leadership how we could extend this form of Scouting across other parts of the UK and link it with some other innovative projects we have.
Scouting in the countryside
An hour’s drive north from Newcastle took me to Seahouses, a village on the north east coast which is also home to the latest thriving Scout group to be opened through Project Lindisfarne, a three-year project to resurrect Scouting in England’s two most northern districts on the east coast.
It has been very successful, with twelve sections opened and an Explorer Scout Unit who I joined for their youth council.
With a large influx of volunteers, a big challenge now is to ensure that they are properly supported and trained, and continue to be motivated as they overcome some of the everyday challenges leaders face.
Not surprisingly however, the key to their success has been building on other elements of rural communities such as churches, schools and community centres where the enthusiasm has been overwhelming. Local leadership are committed to proving the sustainability of the project now that the development officer’s contract has finished, and I have no doubt they’ll succeed.
Crossing the county border to face some tough questions
Over 50 DCs and other members of the County teams of Northumberland and Durham joining me on Friday evening for a two-hour question and answer session where it was good to debate a variety of key topics, listen to the participants' views and explain all aspects of our current strategy and environment.
A celebration of youth achievements – a most appropriate finale
The Discovery Museum in Newcastle was an appropriate and very impressive venue for one of Northumberland’s two annual Achievement Award presentations where I was honoured to present a variety of Chief Scout, Queen Scout and Gold DofE awards to 175 young people from across the county – the most fitting finale to a great few days in Northumberland.