WHEN it opened its doors in September 1992, The Pointers Cafe was hailed a ‘first’ in the UK as a break through in community co-operation.
And 20 years on, the youth drop-in centre is still going strong and set to celebrate its landmark birthday with a special exhibition later in the year which ex-staff, volunteers and young people are invited to contribute to.
Established as a modern, alcohol and smoke free social venue offering late night facilities to young people, the success of Pointers over the last two decades is down to one thing: “The young people who use it!” states youth worker Joanne Maclennan.
“We have the drop-in sessions at the weekend and that is how a lot of people first come into Pointers,” she expands. “In town on a Friday or Saturday night or Saturday afternoon, young people come along with their friends and pop in.
“It can take a while for them to get used to the place, staff and other young people, but they keep coming back, and through that we can speak to them and tell them about all the other things we have going on and they then start to get more involved.”
Opened by then chair of the Community Education Committee, Mr Roderick Macdonald, in a specially designed venue within Stornoway Town Hall, the cafe offered a safe place for young people to meet and socialise away from Stornoway town centre.
In 2000 the venture moved to its present day home on North Beach Street, and although the initiative has undergone a number of developments, the main focus of providing a social space for young people remains.
One former Pointers visitor who used the facility in the early 1990s recalls: “For folk our age at the time it really was a great place to go as when you hit 15 or 16 you’d grown out of local youth-clubs, but the only other real option at socialising was going into town and under-age drinking.
“If you weren’t into that then Pointers was the place to go to meet up and just enjoy spending time with your peers in a relaxed, comfortable setting.”
And the centre’s importance to the islands’ youth today is just as strong, as one female 15 year old says: “I think if Pointers wasn’t here there would be a large increase in the amount of under-age drinking, fighting and trouble with people hanging around the streets up to no good.”
The centre’s staff are also trained in helping young people find out more about the issues affecting them, how to avoid trouble and where to seek further advice, expanded upon by another 15 year old female, who says: “The staff are really cool and supportive and are great just to chat to, but they’ve also taught me about STD’s and taught me not to drink alcohol. I love Pointers!”
As well as The Pointers Cafe drop-in sessions, the centre also holds separate Boys and Girls nights. And a Young Mums group has also proved popular with a series of healthy cooking sessions teaching new mums about nutrition and budgeting.
If you have memories, photos or tales about your time in Pointers, then the staff would love to hear from you as they prepare to throw a mega birthday party later this year.
Joanne expands: “We are going to create a display – a wee history of Pointers with a time-line telling what was going on over the years.
“We want to hear from previous staff, volunteers and young people telling us what happened on normal days and nights at the cafe, any special events that happened, or just what it was like in general.
“We would also love any old photos or posters of events or leaflets and they can be scanned and the originals given back on the same day, so folks don’t need to worry about losing things.”
If you would like to find out more about Pointers, drop-in anytime, and parents are also welcome to call in and have a tour round if they wish to view the centre before their children attend.
You can also log onto the Cafe’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pointers.drop.in.centre