Special report: ‘Nooky’ is teaching Grantham’s kids respect

Youth Centre, New Beacon Road, Grantham
Youth Centre, New Beacon Road, Grantham
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Bad Lads Army star Richard ‘Nooky’ Nauyokas has taken over the reins at Grantham’s youth clubs. Journal deputy editor Marie Bond paid one club a visit to find out how his approach differs.

No-nonsense taking Richard ‘Nooky’ Nauyokas has been drafted in to run Grantham’s two youth clubs...and teach the kids a thing or two along the way.

Youth Centre, New Beacon Road, Grantham

Youth Centre, New Beacon Road, Grantham

And who better to do it than a man who admits he was a bit of a terror as a youngster growing up in Grantham.

Nooky, best known as a reality TV star on ITV’s Lads Army and then Bad Lads Army after 22 years in the British Army, has taken over the running of youth clubs at Lincolnshire County Council’s youth centres – one in New Beacon Road and one in Trent Road – under his company, Not All Bad.

He has wasted no time in setting down some ground rules – no fighting, no foul language, no abuse of furniture and no hoods up or hats on indoors. Some of the tougher rules hailing back to Nooky’s army days include ‘listen when spoken to’ and ‘be courteous, polite and considerate’, which ran the risk of going down far from well with the teenagers who use the facility. But instead, the youngsters this reporter spoke to at the New Beacon Road club were full of praise and thanked Nooky for teaching them better social etiquette.

In fact, the kids enjoy youth club so much that they don’t want to go home, and so when 10pm rolls around fights are common as tempers flare.

Nooky said he hopes to become a positive influence on the youngsters as he works with them on Wednesday club evenings, so they don’t go on to become “grown-up kids walking down the street spitting on the floor and wearing their caps backwards”.

Far from storming in and dictating to the youngsters, Nooky and his wife Liz have sat them down and asked what they want from the youth centre and their ideas for improvement. One suggestion that came up time and again was to return the outdoor hard standing court to its original purpose as a sports court. Over time it has been turned into a car park, said Nooky, who added: “I’ve been told it’s unusuable because of health and safety. But actually that’s a great facility and it shouldn’t be a car park for people who work at the council.”

With little money to spend, Nooky and his team are hoping to see Grantham’s generosity come through for them. He hopes to get local businesses to offer their services for free and to donate equipment for use in the centre.

Nooky said: “If you put something in you get something out. The community has got to get involved. I need the community’s support and help.

“We’ve got to take responsiblity for what we’re putting out there, and kids have got to take ownership. I really want people in Grantham, in a few months’ time, to say ‘you know what? The youth clubs in Grantham are really doing well for the kids.”

Asked why he wants to help steer Grantham’s youth towards a better future, Nooky said: “There’s something within me – it’s Grantham.

“My other strong motivation is about 24 lads that were on TV that are really respectful of me for what I’ve done for them. One chap, in London, says ‘You’ve changed my life. If it wasn’t for you I would be in prison’. He’s now got his own business.”

The New Beacon Road youth centre holds a special place in Nooky’s heart. Grantham-bred, he remembers well, walking with his mates from his home on the Earlesfield estate across town to discos at the youth club.

**We asked the young people at the youth centre what they think about their facility and to the approach taken by nooky.

“I met Nooky when I was 12 and I’m 15 now,” said one teenage girl. “He’s kept me out of trouble. When I’m out, sometimes trouble can start and I’m always there. This club has been different since Nooky came here. I appreciate what he’s teaching us. He’s a respectable person. I think he’s changed me quite a lot. I’m more respectful...but I can still be a prat now and again!”

One 14-year-old, who has attended youth club for two months, said: “The way Nooky is, is going to help me more in life. He teaches us rules that will help us. He’s helping us with how to act around adults. They’re building on our trust and I know we can always talk to them if we need help.”

A boy of 13 who has been going to youth club for three years said: “This is somewhere to go. If I wasn’t here I would just be hanging around the streets. It keeps me out of trouble. This club is valuable, and the thing I most like is meeting up with my friends.”

“I don’t like it when people are fighting,” said one 12-year-old boy. “That used to happen a lot, but it’s better now since Nooky got involved. I don’t like it when they’re smoking around us either.”

**Lincolnshire County Council uses the youth centres in Grantham throughout the week, for support sessions for young people, meetings and staff training.

On Wednesday evenings, the New Beacon Road centre is used as a youth club, while the centre in Trent Road becomes a youth club on Thursday evenings.

We talked to Jo Kavanagh, head of youth services at LCC, about Not All Bad’s involvement.

* How did Not All Bad come to be involved with the youth centres?

Not All Bad have worked closely with Lincolnshire County Council’s targeted teams in South Kesteven for a number of years, providing activities to the young people who the targeted team support.

* Does LCC offer any funding towards the project?

Not All Bad have been awarded a grant by Lincolnshire County Council to run both the New Beacon Road and Earlesfield Youth Centre Core Offer Sessions. They have been given £10,000 grants for running the core offer at each centre – so awarded £20,000 for the two centres in Grantham as well as another £10,000 for the work they do at Bourne Youth Centre.

* Why was the company drafted in to take over the centres in Grantham?

Not All Bad have previously taken over the core youth offer at Bourne Youth Centre, which has been a tremendous success. The county council made the decision to support local communities to deliver the core offer sessions as they could offer a more dynamic range of activities to young people within the area.

* How important are these youth centres?

Youth centres are important in providing a safe environment within the local community, where young people can meet to socialise and take part in structured activities to promote and encourage positive behaviours, participation, personal and social development. This all helps to broaden aspirations for their future.

* What is LCC’s view on the progress made by Not All Bad in the Grantham youth centres so far?

Not All Bad have done an excellent job in working very closely with management and staff from the youth centres to gain insight into the young people who currently attend the youth clubs, the issues they face and the dynamics of the community they live in. They have co-worked the youth club sessions to enable a seamless transition.

Not All Bad have a structured approach in the sessions they deliver, which is underpinned by a strong value base which is to offer provision which is inclusive to all young people.