WATCHET TEENAGERS TAKE THE LEAD

An innovative project taking place in Watchet, to get local teenagers to design and build their own common room, has just begun, with a hugely successful architect-led design workshop.

In late November 25 local teenagers come together to design a structure for Splash Point Pleasure Ground in Watchet, under the guidance of award-winning architect, Kate Darby, national timber expert, Charley Brentnall, local volunteer group, the Watchet Community Makers, with Georgie Grant and Sally Lowndes from the Onion Collective as facilitators. The workshop, funded by the Youth Social Action Fund and the Courage Family Fund, took place in Watchet’s Phoenix Centre, and included free pizza.

After working together to establish what was wanted and needed for local teenagers, and how these ideas might translate to the site, the teenagers were split into four groups, and asked to draw, then 3D model their ideas using balsa wood. They all then voted on their favourite structures, and the key aspects of each that should be incorporated into the final design.

The workshop was deemed a huge success by all involved, and Kate was particularly taken aback by the level of comfort the local teenagers felt in creating and discussing their ideas.

Architect Kate Darby said: “It was fascinating to see so many engaged and creative young people come together to design with such confidence. All of the models incorporated really interesting architectural features, and the teenagers also did a wonderful job of presenting their work to the room. My job now is to amalgamate the key features into one coherent structure that fits their brief. A first draft will be presented to them for comments before I make amends and the Onion Collective can submit to planning.

“I’m delighted to be involved in this project, and am really looking forward to working with these teenagers again in the summer, when we bring this building to life in Watchet.”

Local teenager, Chris White, who attended the design session, said: “I really enjoyed the workshop. It was great to work with an architect and understand the process involved with designing a building. Kate was brilliant. I’m looking forward to seeing how she’ll bring all our ideas together.”

Splash Point Pleasure Ground is a community area on the clifftop in Watchet that looks out onto the marina. It’s managed by community-led regeneration company, Onion Collective CIC, on behalf of the town. The grounds are accessible via the England Coast Path that begins at the Goviers Lane Railway crossing in Watchet.

Onion Collective facilitated a similar project in 2015, when a group of 50 local volunteers built a pavilion at Splash Point over the course of a single weekend. It is now enjoyed by many as a place for picnics, barbecues and events. This time the Onion Collective is working with teenagers to make the site a place that they also feel able to appreciate and enjoy.

Onion Collective Project Officer, Sally Lowndes says: “This project came about because local teenagers came to us to ask for help identifying a space they could use for socialising.

“We’re thrilled that so many came to the design workshop. It just shows what an amazing community we have here in Watchet. The level of focus and natural design talent the teenagers brought to the table was also hugely impressive. We’re all really excited to watch this project progress.”

If you know a Watchet-based teenager who wants to be involved in this project, feeding back on the design, or helping with the build, they can get in touch by contacting Onion Collective on info@onioncollective.co.uk / 01984 633496.

The project was funded by Somerset Community Foundation’s Youth Social Action Fund.

Somerset Community Foundation’s, Andrew Ridgewell says: “Somerset Community Foundation awarded a grant from the Youth Social Action Fund (YSAF) for the project, matched with contributions from its local donors. The YSAF is part of the national #iwill fund which encourages young people to engage in social action – such as campaigning, fundraising, and volunteering.”