Wigan Council Children and Young People’s Services

pridethumbI’m a great believer in the value of volunteering, for both the services offered and the people doing the volunteering. I have been a volunteer since I was eighteen for a youth group in Wigan called B.yoU. This youth group was the first of its kind, a council funded youth group which offers help and opportunity to local LGBT youth.

Every year, we take the young people to the Manchester Pride festival, walking in the parade with a wonderfully arty float. I’d always assisted the artist that was commissioned by the group to deliver the workshops and develop the entry ideas. After a few years of assisting, my skills had developed to the point where I could be hired as an artist, and as I’d left to attend university, popping back and developing the pride entry for B.yoU was the perfect way to develop my skills as an artist working with young people.

One year, the group wanted to develop the idea of bringing what is memorable about Wigan to Manchester Pride. We thought about Northern Soul, Wigan’s coal mining and cotton milling, the Leeds and Liverpool canal, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls…  We decided we would put these on a series of cardboard disks to emulate old 45 vinyl records that northern soul would have been played on in the old casino. We took different images and stenciled them out so that the young people could apply paint and glitter and make them look fab.

“Wigan through the ages: We commissioned sye to deliver arts based workshops to B.yoU lgbt youth project. Sye skilfully delivered 8 workshops with young people researching & designing art for pride based on Wigan & its history. Designing some 8 large wheels Sye guided and directed the young people to sketch and colour the wheels for a large float entry for Manchester Pride parade 2008. The wheels were bright, vibrant and clearly showed a picture of Wigan that allowed viewers to become engaged & learn something about Wigan from young peoples perspectives.”


The following year, we needed an idea for a car! Youth service had struck a partnership with FixIt!, a scheme whch offers mechanical engineer training to disadvantaged local young people. They take cars and fix them up, and they had a car for us, all we needed to do was jazz it up.

I created some concept designs, Pride’s theme that year was ‘Best of British’ so we needed to think of something memorable with a british twist. I happened to know that ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ had just arrived in London. Being an iconic LGBT film, I knew it would be an opportunity NOT to miss. A giant shoe, and everything british in between.

The young people were thrilled with the idea. The shoe was covered in glitter and the heel had ribbon trailing behind it. We had a very simple marching pattern and some speakers fitted in to the boot. The cherry on the cake – if I must say so – is the union flag on the bonnet that the young people helped paint on.

“Best of British Pride project: As a volunteer Sye led a group of young people in design of a float, facilitating discussion & creating concept art work based on best of British through lgbt youth eyes. As a leader Sye is confident and able to translate project brief in understandable ways to young people that is engaging &  fun creating powerful visible outcomes with them. Young people enjoy working with Sye as he encourages their ideas using creativity to engage and capture attention.”


It would be quite a long article if I wrote up every project I have done with B.yoU, but for the last three or four years I have been working as the artist for pride. Last year I even got to deliver some circus skills work shop, so that the young people can spin poi or juggle as they walk the parade (which is where the picture on the ‘About Sye‘ page comes from)  which was a huge success :)

Circus skills:As a skilled circus performer we commissioned Sye to deliver 6 juggling & poi workshops to young people in preparation for pride parade. Sye is an engaging artist to watch, listen to and be taught by. He is kind &  understanding of young peoples needs and situations thus making him able to deliver to the most hard to reach young people with ease. Young people are in awe of his wide ranging artistic talents and he in turn is always happy to be challenged to perfection.

Therease Vernon
Wigan Children and Young People Services