The Drop Inn was established in 2000 as a Youth centre.
A place for the Youth to meet and call their own, "a space for the Youth, Run by the youth."
Street / Stage One: Summer of 1999 had brought weekly reports in the local newspaper about teenagers taking drugs, vandalising the town, being intimidating and a nuisance etc, the final straw came when I read the latest headline quoting 'zero tolerance' from a local councillor. I couldn't believe that teenagers could all be that bad, so armed with my Belper News I walked round to the Memorial Gardens - the main area for the bad reports. A Group of about 12 hooded teenagers lingered round the benches, without a thought about personal safety I marched over to the oh so fearsome teenagers. They looked up as I approached, un deterred I walked in to their midst and said "you may tell me to F off cos I'm a mad cow but you will listen to me first", They were so surprised that they invited me to join them, within minutes a crowd of around 20 had congregated, a nicer crowd you could not wish to meet. They were polite, respectful and had a great sense of humour. We talked for an hour, all they wanted was somewhere to hang out, somewhere they could call their own, minimum adult supervision so they could take responsibility. They weren't asking for alcohol to be available, nothing fancy, just somewhere to meet up and chat, maybe have a pool table, some computers, coffee/snack bar, listen to their music, but also to feel safe. I told them it could take 5 years to set something up, their response was Òwe all have younger brothers and sisters, they will need somewhere to go just as we do that convinced me they were worth fighting for, so I made them a promise, that was to do everything possible to get something set up but also to keep letting them know how things were going - good or bad - I wouldn't be just another adult asking what they want then forgetting about them. To this day the original 'crew' call me the Mad Cow.
Basement / Stage Two: After being in the right place at the right time I was offered the basement in the premises of Richard Moss at the top of King Street from February 2000. I dropped leaflets with all groups of young people hanging about in areas around the town at the time, inviting them to an open night to get ideas.
The open night attracted 83 young people! They came up with different names for the club and voted on the ideas - The Drop Inn was born. The young people set the ground rules which became part of the policies.
2 of my friends (Nicky and Sue) agreed to help me and we each put £1 forward to open a bank account in the name of The Drop Inn, we were the first volunteer team. We opened 2 nights a week with just a kettle and a couple of mugs, we would sit at a table chatting - gradually the young people started approaching us giving ideas and building relationships. We learned as we went along, anything we didn't know about we found relevant training so we did know. Belper Town Council gave us funding to purchase a pool table which became the major attraction (and still is today).
After a year Kieth and Mark took over from Nicky and Sue, the following year John joined us to create a fantastic team of volunteer workers with different qualities and skills but all having the right dedication and humour.
During the first 2 years there was absolutely nothing we hadn't had to deal with, from substance and alcohol issues, homeless, family fall outs, pregnancy, problems at school and more, we had to learn and think on our feet but the team were strong and supportive to each other and the young people we were working for.
Over the Basement 3 years we took our young members to conferences, built up networks with other organisations gaining support and started delivering training to young people, the fun nights and projects were incredible - creating giant art pieces, a 'Santa's Grotto' , street art, carnival entries, the games nights which included food fights (cleaned up by the participants) really allowed everyone to get involved, get messy but take responsibility for their own safety and cleaning up.
Warehouse / Stage Three: During a week in February 2003 you may have seen sofas and chairs being wheeled down the main street of Belper along with tables stereos and the all important kettle!
We had outgrown the premises on King Street, and again being in the right place at the right time I was offered a disused warehouse on Derwent Street, perfect, a non residential area of the Town but still central. 15 young people were given permission to be out of school to help with the move as part of a community project - for which they gained positive recognition.
All the equipment we had was dumped in the warehouse and gradually sorted into areas as decided by the young members - the precious kettle was straight on!
The first winter was freezing! The warehouse was not insulated and we only had a free standing calor gas heater and hot drinks - but we continued to attract young people off the streets.
The following year we secured funding to insulate the warehouse and Gloworm donated us an industrial boiler - we then had heating!!
The premises on Derwent Street has undergone many changes over the years we have occupied it � changing with each new generation of young people to support their ideas. Whatever the changes, the young people have been involved in the design and build or creation of the space always giving them ownership of the Centre.
Changes within the premises over the years have included building 2 rooms within the warehouse � a chill/music room and the CINN projection space. The chill/music room turned into a fully equipped gym then into the existing games room. We changed a small computer games room into a toilet with disabled access, created a separate small computer room and installed a small kitchen area which transformed into the trendy cosy DI Bar. The office has remained an office but doubles up as the sexual health centre and advice room, it was split to make a music room but this part fell into disrepair after rain damage caused the roof to cave in � it has now transformed into the JamJar music and recording studio.
The main warehouse space has housed a full sized half pipe designed and built by young skaters, staging designed as multi use, and a 20� skeleton for Halloween. The self built Frankenstein Sound System lives in the corner, the UV lasers and club lights live in the roof beams.
Art work within the centre has seen many changes with each generation having their input and will continue to change. It presently has an interactive UV wall.
Support services for young people have increased as have training opportunities due to continued networking with other agencies and our staff training.
The volunteer bank has increased with 5 original Drop Inn members becoming part of the management team, regular volunteers and qualified trainers within the centre. Add to this our experienced independent volunteers and it gives us an unbeatable dedicated first rate team.
Legacy / Before Drop Inn: There has been some extensive research done into the origins of where The Drop Inn unique structure and ethos came from. What influenced the founder Andrea Fox and the connections made to our heritage. The research goes back quite a way and has created a perfect timeline, once we have typed it all up I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised what The Drop Inn legacy is ...
1.Street - 2.Basement - 3.Warehouse - 4.Legacy