‘Do you want to see this Tudor house we built?’: An Interview with the Bright Sparks

Bright Sparks is an Ignite youth group run by North Yorkshire Youth at Carlton Lodge Activity Centre, Thirsk. They blend traditional heritage crafts with outdoor adventure activities to create a space for young people to socialize and learn new skills.

Since Summer 2018 they have been building a structure known as a bodger’s lodge: a wooden lodge built as a workshop. The Bright Sparks are also the youth steering group for Carlton Lodge, coming together to consult on future activities and plans for the lodge.

Members of the Bright Sparks shared their personal highlights and journeys with us during a session on site this Autumn…

What is your favourite thing about being a Bright Spark?

S: I’d say either meeting new people, making new mates, or building the bodger’s lodge, because we actually all put a lot of effort into it. That is what I enjoy the most. Because a lot of my mates I don’t see often, so coming here, that’s why I like it, because I get to see them.

T: Literally all of it. I really enjoyed the blacksmithing. I really enjoyed making the house. I really enjoy all the bush craft and the stonewalling. It’s great.

J: It’s boosted my confidence knowing there’s other people that enjoy it. I struggled at school because no one found this type of thing interesting. It’s just relaxing to do it without having to think ‘what will people think’ because everyone’s on the same page.

Why was this all started?

S: It was started, like any other youth group, to bring teenagers together and give them an experience. At first we started with the typical Centre stuff like axe throwing and zip lining. But then it grew to stuff we wanted to do. We wanted to build a house or do blacksmithing, and we could do it. All we needed was to book it and that was it. So we wanted to do blacksmithing. The next month we did it.

What do you think is the biggest achievement of the group so far?

T: Have you seen the house? I’d say the house. That’s been the best thing that we’ve done. And we’ve all learned traditional woodworking. We’ve basically learnt how to do it all, all the skills, a Tudor bodger would have.

S: All of us coming up with plans together of what to do and how to do it. With the bodger’s lodge we had many different ideas for it. So we all did drawings and stuff like that, and it’s ended up like the drawings. We all collectively built ideas together.

J: I just enjoy being somewhere where I can do it for free. Because obviously if you wanted to do a bush craft course like this it’s £500 for 5 days. This is free.

What is it like working with all the other people here?

S: Chill. Honestly, just really chill. A lot of youth groups have a lot of pressure, I think that this one doesn’t. It is chill, we do literally what we want. We wanted to do blacksmithing at one point, and we went to do blacksmithing. Same with glass making and the bodger’s lodge.

T: It’s good. They’re all lovely. We just have a good time whilst we’re making stuff.

J: I’ve always been practical but never actually had people that want to teach me…For me it’s always been really difficult trying to do hobbies like this or learning how to use a saw or whatever because my mum or dad haven’t really been into it. But here I’ve just learnt how to use a whet stone, things like that. Being able to use it and having people respect you for what you enjoy.

Is there anything that you’ve found challenging?

T: When I started coming here I had a lot of social anxiety and I was finding it really difficult to get out of the house. This helped me get out of that. So I come here and build stuff with my mates, and that’s really helped. And I’ve been able to get into stuff like Canal Connections with the confidence that this gave me to do other stuff.

Have you told anyone about Bright Sparks, like friends or family?

T: I’ve got one of my mates involved. It’s an interesting conversation point to say ‘Do you want to see this Tudor house we built?’

J: A lot of my family are like, it’s really great to see you doing something you want to do. I’ve really struggled finding friends or finding people that want to do this type of thing. It’s just nice to do it with people that want to do it.

What is the future for you and the Bright Sparks?

S: I still plan on coming to this regardless of whether I have a job here next year or not. But yeah, I still want to come here. I want to finish off the bodger’s lodge, I want to do all the inside bits, stuff like that. We’re going to put a forge and a workshop in it.

T: Bright Sparks has connected me to Canal Connections, where I’m starting an apprenticeship. I’ve got my CCC qualification through that, which is Competent Crew Course. I think the plan at Canal Connections is to get a new group of young people in, teach them up on the boats, and then I will also teach them some blacksmithing.

J: It’s just nice to have practical experiences because five days a week at school is just full on. I’ve always found that difficult. But here I’m doing what I want to do and doing more outdoor stuff as well. Now I’m training to be a tree surgeon at college.

Interview by Eleanor Chesterton

Photos: JMA Photography