Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, explains why Islington’s newest youth centre is the place for young people to hone skills for the future.
Islington Labour is committed to creating a fairer borough for all where everyone, regardless of their background, can realise their potential. Soapbox, Islington’s newest youth centre in Old Street, is an excellent example of how we are working towards that goal.
What was once an old Council office has now been transformed into a vibrant hub equipped with cutting-edge technology. From the virtual reality cave to 3D printers to coding classes to radio and music studios, there is truly something for everyone.
Soapbox’s technological offering is about much more than giving young people exciting things to do. Old Street’s tech industry is rapidly growing and yet child poverty in Islington is still among the highest in the country. If local residents are to enjoy and take part in the area’s economic growth, it is essential that they have access to education and activities that can help them get a step ahead in digital, creative and other tech industries.
As Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, has written, ‘regeneration’ is a word that has understandably become tarnished and is now viewed with suspicion. Too many developers argue that erecting a shiny block of flats or opening an expensive restaurant will be something the local community will feel the benefits of. But these examples are neither affordable nor welcoming to local communities, and they do not employ them. Islington and indeed the whole of London risks becoming a more unequal and unaffordable place to live.
The growth of these industries, including those in Old Street, is unsustainable if they do not employ and engage with local residents. That is why Islington Council is working hard to link them with growing sectors in the local economy, such as the tech industry, so we can support local people into jobs and apprenticeships. Soapbox is the latest chapter in this story.
Soapbox will enable local residents to truly be a part of Old Street’s growth. Its opening is part of a wider redevelopment and improvement plan of the Redbrick Estate. 39 much-needed new genuinely affordable homes are also being built on the estate, alongside improved outdoor spaces and new retail units. These are changes to Old Street that all local residents will benefit from.
We cannot create a fairer borough for all our residents if they are not included in the new opportunities provided by our borough. I am very excited about Soapbox and the possibilities it presents for Islington.