Sheffield youth charity ‘in their element’ after move to Yorkshire House
Good news for the young people of Sheffield – Element Society, who have empowered over 2,400 teenagers to make changes in their lives and in wider society, have flown the nest from their cramped office on Arundel Street, making the move to a sprawling new home in the heart of the city. The Yorkshire Building Society has handed over its offices, which had stood empty for a decade, to Element Society on a peppercorn rent. The vast three-storey property – which overlooks the Town Hall and Peace Gardens – has been rebranded as a giant youth club and meeting space and will become a hub for a host of young people’s charities.
Initially offered just one floor of the former offices, the charity campaigned to take over all three floors of the building and they were eventually granted all 12,000 feet to make their own. Each floor has been transformed into a separate space with its own identity. The first floor has become Engage, a space for young people to kick back and relax, featuring a café, relaxation lounge, and pool table as well as a study area and library. Moving up, the second floor has been rebranded as the Action Floor where young people can focus on social action projects to benefit the local community. The top floor of the building, which features panoramic views of the city, is home to the Ignite floor where the Element team go about their work. Fitting with the charity’s ethos of supporting the young people of Sheffield, all the redecorations were carried out by construction students from Sheffield City College.
The move to Fargate has been the latest success for this local charity which has gone from strength to strength since its launch six years ago. The charity’s founder and CEO Chris Hill set up Element Society after working on the launch of the national Young Mayor Network, which got school-age children involved in local politics. “There’s a perception that young people don’t want to make a difference in the world, but the enthusiasm I saw said otherwise. They just need the opportunity,” he said. Initially a small project working with a handful of Sheffield teens, the organisation quickly ballooned, and is now working with hundreds of young people, from a diverse range of backgrounds and religions, every year. Element have kick-started over 160 projects across the city, tackling hard topics from knife crime to child sexual exploitation. They encourage young people to become the change they want to see in society, and their members have delivered a staggering 140,000 hours of voluntary work in the local community through the National Citizen Service programme.
The aim is for the space to become a hub for not-for-profit organisations in Sheffield. “This property is going to make a huge difference, not just to Element but also to other charities in the city,” Hill said of the move. Already, Element has hosted events for charities and trusts across the city including ChilyPep which promotes the right, wellbeing and opportunities of all young people across Sheffield and South Yorkshire. Now, they plan to hold evening social clubs in partnership with other charities and for other organisations to be based in the new building.
The move to Yorkshire House is a “huge boost for the young people of Sheffield”, according to Hill. “There are places in the city centre where young people can go for specific support, but thanks to the generosity of YBS, this is now the first safe space where they can come to be themselves, make new friends, develop ideas they are passionate about and be encouraged to make a difference in their communities.” Chris is not the only one to believe in the power of Element, as Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, has been vocal about his support for the plans for the building, including the ‘Lift the Lift’ fundraising campaign, which hopes to increase disabled access to the building by fixing the broken elevator. He said of the project: “A building which has stood empty for years is now a place our young people can call home and find their voice. This is great news for our city centre, and our youth. Element Society’s new home will make a huge difference. It deserves support from everyone.”
Find out more about Element Society here