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“It’s just so devastating” - OPEN chief speaks of heartache after charity and venue closes

PUBLISHED: 11:47 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:22 16 April 2020

OPEN Youth Trust chief executive Laura Rycroft. Picture: Jordan Hudson/OPEN Norwich

OPEN Youth Trust chief executive Laura Rycroft. Picture: Jordan Hudson/OPEN Norwich

Archant

The chief executive of a city youth charity which has been forced into liquidation has told of her heartache at the closure - which will see around 80 people lose their jobs.

Libby Adams taking part in a dance class at OPEN Youth Trust in Norwich. Picture: Jim AdamsLibby Adams taking part in a dance class at OPEN Youth Trust in Norwich. Picture: Jim Adams

OPEN Youth Trust, which also runs the Norwich venue of the same name, announced yesterday that financial troubles exacerbated by the Covid-19 outbreak had forced it into closure.

The decision puts an end to both the charity, which provides enrichment activities and mental health support to thousands of young people and the popular music and conference venue.

It will also see the loss of around 80 jobs - 68 permanent staff and around a dozen casual roles who helped to operate the venue.

Laura Rycroft, chief executive of OPEN Norwich, has today described her heartache and how the outbreak had scuppered any hopes of the charity becoming self sufficient and financially viable.

It had previously been operating thanks to lottery funding and the support of the Lind Trust, supplemented by proceeds from the commercial venue. However, with lottery funding coming to an end and the relationship with the Lind Trust coming to an end in March, the charity was working towards being self-funding.

Mrs Rycroft said: “It is just so devastating and is going to be so sorely missed by our beneficiaries and the young people we work with in the community.

“It would take a six or even seven figure sum to get us just through the year so I think it is past the point where we can get help. Obviously we would welcome anybody that thinks they could help but until we know when we could even have public gatherings it just wouldn’t be sustainable.”

With the Covid-19 outbreak putting a stop to concerts, conferences and gatherings it put an end to the main source of revenue for OPEN, which funded the activities it offers to young people in the community.

She added: “It has come at such a difficult time as we are one of many charities at the moment that are in desperate need for support - some that probably need the help much more than we do as much as it pains me to say.

The OPEN Norwich charity is at risk of closure. Pictured, chief executive Laura Rycroft Photo: OPEN NorwichThe OPEN Norwich charity is at risk of closure. Pictured, chief executive Laura Rycroft Photo: OPEN Norwich

“Things like health trusts needing help and care workers needing PPE.”

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Mrs Rycroft said the Closed Secure Storage was “ticking over” in hopes of finding a buyer for it, but that tenants did not have access to the property at the moment.

Meanwhile, she added that anybody with existing tickets for concerts or events should email opennorwich@pricebailey.co.uk or contact their banks to get the cost refunded.

Open Youth Trust Centre at Bank Plain, Norwich. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY
COPY:David Bale
FOR:EN NEWS
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009 (01603 772434)Open Youth Trust Centre at Bank Plain, Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY:David Bale FOR:EN NEWS © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009 (01603 772434)

She said: “I only arrived in November so for me it was a new challenge and we had lots of exciting things in the pipeline, so it is just such a shame these will not see the light of day.

“I also desperately hope the building itself is not left empty - it is such a beautiful and important building. Everybody involved is absolutely devastated.”

In the coming days, the charity will be signposting young people to other places they can receive support locally, including organisations like MAP and Nelson’s Journey.

The news comes as a huge blow to the many young people who took advantage of programmes, activities and social opportunities presented by the OPEN Youth Trust.

Panto star Ben Langley (centre) with young people from OPEN Youth Trust. Picture: OPEN Youth TrustPanto star Ben Langley (centre) with young people from OPEN Youth Trust. Picture: OPEN Youth Trust

Among them is 16-year-old Libby Adams, of Norwich, who had been involved in the centre on Bank Plain since she was just 11.

She said: “I was so sad when I heard the news as Open has been such an important part of my life. I first got involved in a dance class there but it opened so many other opportunities for me.

“I’ve got to do so much wonderful stuff through it, like dance, climbing, cooking and creative writing and made so many friends through it.

“It honestly feels like a big family that is really supportive and funs - it was brilliant, so to think it’s just going to be gone is heart-breaking.”

What are your memories of OPEN and how has it helped you? Email david.hannant@archant.co.uk


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