Wirral-based Hype works predominantly with people under 24, giving them the skills to get into employment. Its key objectives are to create more opportunities for young people; support young people to reach their potential and in doing so to strengthen local communities. It has developed a number of products and projects to support young people, moving to an increasingly sustainable business model as it grows.
Hype began in 2007, with chief executive Matt Houghton and his two co-directors combining their shared interests in football and music to run holiday activities and clubs for young people in deprived wards across Wirral.
Hype Merseyside chief executive Matt Houghton
“I used to go to youth clubs at that age and was inspired by youth workers,” says Matt. “Some of my circle are in prison now, and others have had problems with drugs – but I always had football to keep me away at times from the other things that were going on.”
Matt and co-directors Dave (a PE teacher and coach) and Sean, a DJ and club night promoter, began Hype with a £10k grant from Expanding Horizons. It set them on their way, delivering workshops for free during school holidays in Rock Ferry, Seacombe and Woodchurch. As its work with young people expanded, the team was asked to run evening sports sessions in local schools: Gino, one of the first young people Hype worked with, became a volunteer at their next holiday workshop. He went into coaching, volunteering, youth work and became a paid member of Hype staff, before going into teaching. He’s now a deputy head of a year at a local school and testament to the transformational nature of Hype’s work.
Seeing widespread demand, the Hype team focused its activity to key areas: Bidston, Central Birkenhead, Rock Ferry and Woodchurch. A strong geographical correlation led it to partner with Magenta Housing to work within its communities, taking on work with the younger siblings of its traditional clients and their parents, if they were out of work.
Matt admits that gaining the trust of local communities that has proved a catalyst for Hype’s work. It used community centres as a base for youth clubs, employability and holiday clubs, before adding work with schools and dance, health and wellbeing, football, art to its roster of activities, alongside work with young people with behavioural issues, vulnerable groups and hard to reach groups.
In 2020, as schools provision, youth clubs and holiday clubs stopped with lockdown, its bike projects – from guided bike rides to maintenance and bike leaders – have snowballed. By far Hype’s biggest growth area has been in its social bike shop. The community shop opened in June 2019 in the centre of Birkenhead, designed to help more people get out and about on bikes. Yet the coronavirus pandemic saw a renewed focus on cycling, aligning the project with government plans to encourage more environmentally friendly forms of transport.
With 120 bikes on its books that were due to be used for group rides, Hype turned its attention to donating them to key workers at Wirral and Liverpool hospitals, to get to and from work more safely. Demand for bikes to borrow rocketed, alongside hundreds of donations, and the maintenance needed to get bikes roadworthy and serviced.
A new unit near Cammell Laird now houses around 200 bikes, and Hype’s bike mechanics shop, running programmes aimed at employability, linked to the bikes. Repairs and hire brings in an income for the shop as Hype moves towards a socially-trading model, whilst providing training for the young adults it works with.
Hype has made a success of working with young staff under 24, that leave the organisation not only more qualified and experienced, but with a good understanding of social enterprise and how it works.
Extending that practical ethos to its work, in 2015 Hype began redeveloping shops and buildings with its young volunteers, in order to deliver more activities in them. 2015 also saw it take on a series of garden tidy-ups, which led to the identification of a fenced half acre plot of land in Birkenhead Park in 2016. Running its own fundraising campaign, the team transformed the space within 18 months into a vibrant park, with planting, an outdoor classroom, nature trail, safe play area – with young people involved in its design throughout. As an event space, it has become a focal point for increased participation and the perfect environment for its wellbeing programme.
Hype’s work in Birkenhead Park led to similar work across other areas of Liverpool City Region. As a football coach, Matt had delivered coaching projects in South Africa for a number of years, and pulled together a project to link his young volunteers in LCR with sports coaching and teaching in Cape Town’s Greenpoint Park in South Africa (2018) and New York’s Central Park (which has historic links to Birkenhead Park) in 2019. Working in school, parks and communities gives Hype’s young people a variety of life skills alongside their work experience, exposing them to new cultures, broadening their horizons and boosting their confidence.
Although in 2020 many park initiatives stopped, in February last year Hype delivered its first European Park project as part of the Erasmus programme, with 24 young people from Portugal, Italy and Greece, plus volunteers from LCR observing and developing activity in the city region’s parks. Now, they’ve taken that learning home and will be encouraging people to engage more in parks in their home countries, and have secured a repeat of the project for 2021.
As a result of the growth of its bike programme, Hype saw its turnover double in 2020, although it only managed to work with a tenth of its usual number of people (600, compared to 6,000 the year before). It is now using investment from Kindred to continue to develop trading income and oversee projects in communities centres, schools and parks, prioritising those which will ensure the STO’s sustainability and increase the impact of its work.
Hype has just recruited its first cycle development officer to make the most of demand for its bike service and its Full Circle bike project will see projects run for every age group, developing skills around balance and employability, and combating anti-social behaviour.
For more information about Hype, head to its website, hype-merseyside.co.uk, or for its bike project, have a look at www.hypeurbanbikes.co.uk.