It’s not all about pizza: Why this girls group has a ‘powerful’ impact in Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 18:36 06 December 2019 | UPDATED: 23:40 22 December 2019
The lure of free pizza might seem a surefire way to bring teenagers together - but for these Ipswich girls, it is just one part of an inspiring group which makes them believe anything is possible.
Girls Where You At? starts every Tuesday at The Smokehouse, in South Street, with its 13 to 20-year-old members tucking into a slice of pizza after a long day at school or college.
It is a great way for young people to bond, yet it is only the start of a weekly evening where girls use The Smokehouse's hi-tech multimedia equipment to create films, music, radio packages and performances on the subjects that matter most to them.
For those dealing with the stresses of strains of exams or life in general, it is a welcome few hours away in a different world where they can have their say on the issues they are most passionate about.
Even more important though, it gives them a chance to share their problems with others - and opens up a world that many of these young girls previously did not know was within reach.
Part of the goal, according group facilitators Angelle Joseph and Jade Mayjean, is to show teenage girls that anything is possible so they can go on the achieve great things in life.
It seems to be having success, as members such as 15-year-old Charlie Nicholas say: "There are a lot of opportunities here that you don't get elsewhere."
Organisers aim to keep it fun and light-hearted, but also be a place where people can be open about their mental health and talk about whatever concerns them.
Yet despite its enormously positive impact, facilitators from the Future Female Society (FFS) - the organisation devoted to making Ipswich the best place in Suffolk to be a woman, which runs Girls Where You At? - believes much more is needed across the town as a whole to make opportunities full accessible to young girls.
Ms Joseph, who is also a director of FFS, was motivated to get involved after seeing the similar Club Aspiration scheme for young people.
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She added: "Suffolk is really low in terms of aspirations for young people, for girls especially.
"Schools do a great job but girls are not accessing extra curricular activities - the levels are dropping more and more, and they are on social media more.
"I think if there was more for them to do and a greater range of things, it would give them a chance to at least try different things."
Ms Joseph said part of the problem was that a lot of funding for youth activities can be "reactionary", for example to help tackle knife crime or teenage gangs.
While that has a huge benefit and is done with the best of intentions, she said: "Girls are sometimes left behind as a second thought - but they need to same access to the same activities.
"We try to show them that there is this space here where there is stuff going on and they have an opportunity to meet like-minded people."
Shannon Leach, 15, from Ipswich, said: "I think there are a great amount of opportunities but you don't hear enough about them."
Ella Probert, 13, from Stowmarket, added: "There is lots of different stuff you can do here and they help you find your talents."
Ms Mayjean said: "This group is all about motivating and encouraging young girls.
"It's so important because it gives girls something to look forward to when they come each week. There's not a lot going on in Ipswich for young people in general.
"If this wasn't here, it's be great a loss for these girls. I can't remember being a young girl and there being anything like this."
For more information about Girls Where You At?, contact FFS founder Kim Trotter on 01473 852552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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