Youth Zone appoints new chair as Straw steps down

By Tim Aldred

06 Dec 2023

Wayne Wild

Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone has appointed trustee Wayne Wild as its new chair. He succeeds Jack Straw, who steps down after holding the role since 2015.

Andrew Graham, founder and trustee of Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone, said: “We are excited to welcome Wayne Wild to his new role. Wayne brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to our mission. We believe under Wayne’s leadership, Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone will continue to thrive and make a positive impact on the lives of young people in our community.”

Blackburn-born Wayne is the former group commercial director of WEC Group, a Darwen-based business, which he helped steer to a national group of 19 companies, turning over £100m per year and employing 1,000 people. He is also chair of the Darwen Town Deal, a £110m investment plan to stimulate internal economic growth in the area.

He said: “As a born and bred Blackburn-er and passionate trustee of Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zones, I could not be more honoured to be taking on the role of chair, and especially to be succeeding Jack, whose contribution to the Youth Zone since its inception is immeasurable.

“As a charity dedicated to young people, Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone provides over 60 hours of services when schools are closed. With over 4,500 members benefiting, our provision takes place at a state-of-the-art centre in Blackburn, our satellite site in Darwen and within the community. Core services are open for ages five to 19, and we also have dedicated SEND and Employability services open to young adults up to the age of 25.

“It takes a minimum of £2.2m every year to keep our doors open for thousands of young people, and we pride ourselves on working with our patrons and supporters to help bridge the gap between young people and local businesses to support them through employability, education, volunteering and employee engagement."

Jack Straw was the town's MP from 1978 until his retirement in 2015. Between 1997 and 2010, he also served as home secretary, foreign secretary, leader of the House of Commons, lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice.

Andrew Graham added: “We are immensely grateful for Jack’s unwavering commitment and invaluable contribution to Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone. His leadership has been a guiding force for us, and his impact will continue to be felt in the years to come.”

Jack Straw said: “It’s been such a privilege to chair the Youth Zone for the past eight and a half years. It’s a brilliant organisation now serving 1,200 youngsters (and more) each week. This is the right time for me to step down from the chair (though I shall remain a trustee) – and I can think of no one better than Wayne Wild to lead from now on.

"He’s an extraordinary dynamo, with immense energy who’s already transformed youth services in Darwen. He will have my unwavering support.”

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