Ash Razzaq, (CATCH’s co-founder) at the time worked for the Gipton & Harehills Neighbourhood Policing Team. On one of his foot patrols he came across some wasteland in Harehills next to Hovingham Primary School and Hovingham Park. Over the years this land had been neglected, attracted crime, anti-social behaviour, environmental issues including drug use and fly-tipping.
Ash kick started conversations about the land and campaigned for its development, this led to several community clean-ups taking place over a two year period. Ash galvanised support from his policing colleagues, the fire service, local schools, members of the community, young people and businesses. It soon became apparent at the scale of fly-tipping and drug use which had taken place due to all the discarded items left under the overgrown vegetation.
Watch the development of the land in its early stages by clicking the play button above.
CATCH was formally constituted as a community group in January 2011 with support from Voluntary Action Leeds. The group was made up of police officers, school staff and members of the community. The group’s main aim at this time was to focus on the development of the land and raise the necessary funds to create a much-needed community green space which could be used for sports.
CATCH also started to focus on issues surrounding local young people. It was apparent there was a lack of youth engagement taking place, the area was also short on youth provisions and positive role models. Young people were being drawn into crime and anti-social behaviour. After consulting with a number of young people CATCH created a programme of youth activities utilising local parks and public spaces.
During the course of 2011, CATCH was able to engage with hundreds of young people in sports and diversionary activities working in partnership with Leeds City Council and local schools.
Whilst the development of land continued to take place CATCH continued to engage with young people through outreach work in local parks and streets utilising space ad-hoc in Hovingham Primary School.
CATCH set up junior cricket teams based at the Leeds Police Sports ground based in Gledhow. The teams were entered into official junior cricket leagues. For the next four years CATCH engaged over hundred young people within a structured cricket programme. A partnership was formed with Yorkshire Cricket Board and a number of key objectives were achieved to attract more BAME representation into the game at grass roots level and skills development. During the winter months we were able to continue delivering indoor activities in the sports hall at Carr Manor Community School who offered their space free of charge for community use.
This first short video above shows the young people involved in the early stages of the cricket project:
If you’d like to see young people playing in their first official league match click here
CATCH was granted permission to setup a temporary base in a cabin based on the Hovingham Primary School site. CATCH organised a youth club running four evenings per week which attracted over hundreds of local young people in a matter of weeks of opening. ‘The Hub’ was officially launched in June 2013 by the Police & Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson. Later that same year CATCH moved into a larger modular building on the school site and developed this into a much-needed community and youth provision working with a range of partner organisations. It was furnished by young people themselves who helped with the running of youth activities.
CATCH also became a registered charity and formally acquired the land (mentioned above) from Leeds City Council.
CATCH commissioned Groundwork Leeds to develop the land, installing drainage, fencing, steps, goal posts and reshaping the earth to maximise usable space for sports. Young people were involved in the design throughout the process and helped with various fundraising initiatives. Later that same year young people began using the land for sports activities and holiday clubs.
In July 2015 due to the Hovingham Primary School expansion plans, CATCH were given notice to vacate the modular building. Unfortunately at this stage there was nowhere else to re-locate to and the positive youth engagement which had been built up over a number of years was at a real risk of ending.
Ash Razzaq identified a used modular building on an old West Yorkshire Police training site in Wakefield (pictured) which was due for demolition. Ash and CATCH put together a business case to acquire the modular building which was approved by the West Yorkshire Chief Constable Dee Collins and Police & Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson. CATCH arranged for the relevant planning permissions to be obtained and raised funds to move the donated modular-building from Wakefield to Leeds.
In January 2016 the modular building was moved to Leeds by Enviro Building Solutions Ltd. Adults and young people volunteered countless hours to refurbish the building and grounds. Several businesses contributed towards the refurbishment gifting services and donations. In September 2016 the building was launched as ‘ARK’ to serve as a community and youth provision and a permanent base for CATCH.
This was CATCH’s first year in our own premises and it took a great deal of time and effort by volunteers to understand the complexities of running a community building. All the health and safety implications, various policies and procedures which all had to be developed from scratch. Not to mention all the hidden costs we had to contend with through various licences! Let’s just say it was a steep learning curve! At this stage CATCH was still being run 100% by volunteer contribution. There was so much work in the background by passionate volunteers to ensure we could bring in sustainable income through hiring out our meeting room spaces. We promoted CATCH through a range of community events. Our volunteers also started to landscape our site – which was the start of building our ‘oasis’ in the middle of Harehills.
The point of no return! Our youth activities continued to develop attracting hundreds of young people including much-needed homework clubs. We also put together holiday programmes to keep young people occupied when they were not at school. We started to focus on Youth Social Action projects getting young people to think about the community and the world they live in by volunteering. They helped organise events, took part in various campaigns and continued to develop our site including converting containers into a volunteer gym. Our young volunteers became more and more part of running our community space this led to the birth of our volunteer development, recognition and reward programme ‘SuperStars’.
We also began our partnership with Carr Manor Community School with the introduction of an off-site provision within our CATCH premises known as the Pupil Enhancement programme serving several local secondary schools. Learn more about this programme here.
We received an award for the ‘Best Place for Children and Young People in Leeds’.
Our young people finally got the chance to build an Educational Farm for our pet goats after several months of research and planning. Through business support we managed to get the materials donated and teach our young people wood work and joinery skills.
We continued to enhance and develop our site with additions of more modular buildings for the expansion of the Restore educational provision and a double-decker bus kindly donated by First Bus West Yorkshire.
We also launched our ‘SuperStars App’ for our Volunteer Development, Recognition and Reward programme. We co-produced this app with our friends at Engage Interactive. Learn more about the programme here.
We received several awards this year including the Howard League ‘Policing and Children Award’ and Leeds Architecture Award.
We launched our ‘CATCH on Wheels’ concept offering consultancy and youth empowerment support to other organisations. We also supported Leeds City Council to start youth activities at the Nowell Mount Community Centre helping them with our expertise to build an extension to the centre to facilitate more space for young people.
We were hit by the covid pandemic but this did not stop us from carrying out essential work in the community! We continued to offer covid safe activities for young people – due to limited numbers allowed we ended up running more sessions. This was vital resource for vulnerable young people. We also setup a food bank on site supporting Leeds City Council and partner organisations with referrals. This became a daily task – collecting food donations and distributing parcels to households. We even made use of our double decker bus and temporarily converted this into a food bank.
We used this period to do more outdoor work – converting shipping containers into useable spaces such as a music studio. We expanded our farm and added more goats! We also built a Peace Garden in memory of our Café Manager Anne White.
This year demonstrated the power of volunteers, businesses and services coming together to help those desperately in need!
As the lockdown restrictions started to ease we started to look at ways to transform our community space with young people and this was the start of a truly inspiring partnership with businesses led by Ian Short, our Chair of Trustees. Together we moved our café space, developed our peace and games room, enhanced the educational facilities for Restore and started replacing outdated doors/windows to bigger and better energy efficient ones. We also built our amazing roof terrace alongside our conference room! The work was carried out by professional trades people and our volunteers.
We also started the development of our ‘Grow Together’ project focused more on the horticulture aspect of our Educational Farm. We constructed poly tunnels and raised vegetable beds.
Later in 2021, we had a special visit from His Royal Highness Prince William, The Prince of Wales who presented our volunteers with the Queens Award for Voluntary Service. A truly momentous occasion!
Read more about this here.
We created a ‘Partnership Hub’ – home for the 2gether Cluster and hot-desking facilities for local services who contribute towards making Harehills a safer and healthier community working with local families and individuals.
We also added more growing areas and the addition of another polytunnels after the success of the previous year’s growing activities with young people.
The year was focused on resuming normal activity after the chaos and disruption caused by the covid pandemic. We found that many young people had disengaged over this period and we had to work harder to re-engage them. We used this as an opportunity to take stock of our strategy, mission and vision. We had to re-build income streams to sustain our community building. We launched our First Aid Training Centre offering accredited first aid courses.
Oh and we revamped our toilets and created a self-service kitchen for our conference room!
Memories in the making! Check back to find out more about what we got up to in 2023!