BASED in the Old Beltex Mill in Flax Street, Ardoyne Youth Club has been delivering youth provision within the Ardoyne area of North Belfast for over 60 years.

The club offers targeted youth provision which helps to develop local young people in a personal, social and educational way.

Working with young people from ages of five to 25, they provide youth services seven days a week, including recreational drop-in, sports, health and wellbeing programmes and learning and achievement.

Joe McNeill is Ardoyne Youth Group leader and he explained more about about the weekly schedule at the club.

"We are a hub for the local community. We have a great partnership with local schools, nurseries and sports clubs," he said.

"Our programmes and our staff are second to none in providing a safe environment for young people.

"95 per cent of our staff have come up through the youth club in some way or another.

"We have generic drop-in, on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday for both juniors and seniors.

"We offer planned activities such as arts and crafts, dance and the popular midnight club on a Friday.

"We average 100 young people every night, which goes up to about 140 on a Friday night.

"We also operate during the day, delivering programmes in schools."

Like so many organisations, Ardoyne Youth Club was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the doors forced to close and youth provision services moved online.

"At the start, it was so different. No-one had ever experienced anything like it," continued Joe.

"When we closed the doors, we worked to get a strategy in place. We had to look at how can we still engage with the young people, are the staff able to work?

"We offered a drop-in session every night on Zoom. Our staff went over and beyond their normal duties.

"We were still able to deliver our OCN [Open College Network] accreditations on Zoom which was unbelievable.

"Young people had so much taken away from them during the pandemic.

"It was all a bit stop-start as well with the restrictions being lifted and then put back time and time again.

"The second lockdown was tough because it was during the winter. It was tough to motivate staff to be more creative yet again and young people to go on Zoom again but we got through it.

"We still have sanitising stations, optional wearing of mask. It looks like now that we will have to learn to live with it."

As for the future, Joe admits there are many challenges for continued youth work in the area, including the key area of funding, but he's hopeful the good work of Ardoyne Youth Club can continue for many years to come.

"Funding and resources remains our greatest challenge in the work that we do," he explained.

"We will continue to do our best in terms of youth work for the benefit of the Ardoyne community.

"You can never forward plan too much. Myself and my staff are out of contract in March next year, so that is technically when we are employed too.

"I am constantly running about trying to secure funding for staff and our work.

"Despite the challenges, the work that goes on here is fantastic. The club continues to go from strength to strength.

"We have plans for a new building and I know that can only enhance youth provision in this area, so here's hoping for a bright and positive future.

"Fingers crossed this place gets knocked down and we get a proper purpose-built youth centre that we deserve and the Ardoyne community deserves too."

Ardoyne Youth Club

Old Beltex Mill

Flax Street


BT14 7EJ

Tel: 028 9035 1482