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Stockton-on-Tees News Column March 2020

Hi, I’m Jamie, a college student living in Stockton-on-Tees. I’m very pleased to be able to tell you more about Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF).

I joined BMBF in 2019 because I wanted to share my opinion on our local area, but also meet and spend time with some amazing people.

My first role was as an Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council Correspondent for SIRF 2019. The festival is our highlight of the year: spending three days together, watching some outstanding acts, all whilst being able to showcase it on social media. My highlight was having a role in Les Gloriables! It really broke the ice with everyone.

I then heard about the Big Committee, a group of 12 young people that represent different areas and gives them a chance to create change. The elections were my chance to be involved even further with BMBF and I was vote as the Head of Business and Regeneration. As a relatively new member, I was extremely proud to be able to get this role.

I have now had the chance to start assessing businesses for our BMBF Approved scheme. This allows us to showcase which companies are young people friendly so that they can feel safe when they are within the Borough. My favourite has to be The Georgian Theatre in Stockton.

I hope to continue developing new and exciting schemes to make Stockton-on-Tees the best it can be. BMBF is also giving me the opportunity to plan our fundraiser concert Secret Sound. I can’t wait!

Jamie West

Head of Business & Regeneration on the Big Committee


Making their Mark (Stockton-on-Tees News March 2020)

Bright Minds Big Futures, the Borough’s youth-led movement, is continuing its great work in 2020. Read more about some of its recent projects here.

Supporting the Fight against Knife Crime

Bright Minds Big Futures member, Netanya Alwis, became the first non-elected member to speak for the Mayor when seconding a motion at a Council meeting.

Netanya, Head for Community Safety for BMBF, spoke at the Council meeting in January to share her perspective on knife crime as a young person and called on the Council to support the British Youth Council project and the Chris Cave foundation. The motion was passed unanimously.

“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to speak at the meeting on this important subject. It was an honour and a privilege,” Netanya said.

A Visit to the Heart of UK Politics

Nine members of BMBF’s Big Committee boarded the train to visit the Palace of Westminster in London.

The group were given a full tour including the House of Commons and House of Lords, as well as many other offices and meeting rooms. Parts of the building date back over 900 years, and remain mostly untouched.

They also witnessed the Speaker’s procession, the ceremonial opening of the House of Commons which takes place each day.

The visit left BMBF’s Big Committee inspired and ready to look at politics on a more local level in Stockton-on-Tees and deliver on their Big Plan.

To find out more about the Big Plan and to get involved with Bright Minds Big Futures, visit


Stockton-On-Tees News Column November 2019 

Hi my name is Kameron Spence and I’m the first elected chair of The Big Committee.  I’m currently writing this column on my last day as chair and to say it’s been an amazing time would be an understatement. To chair such a wonderful committee for the year has been a pleasure.

I’ve always been a strong believer in engaging young people in politics – whether it be local or national.

Thanks to the outstanding support from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF) and The Big Committee have given young people a voice within local politics.  From inputting into official children and young people plans to having our own ‘Big Plan’ officially endorsed by the Council’s Cabinet, this award-winning movement knows no bounds.

My proudest moment as chair would have to be collecting the British Youth Council’s award for ‘Best Youth Lead Project in the UK’. To see all the hard work our volunteers do pay off was just fantastic. I couldn’t have been prouder!

To be elected as the first ever chair was a big role to fill; but I was honoured to be elected. Yes, it’s a shame to step down, but I’m so excited to see where this amazing group will go with new leadership! I know, no matter what, the young people will continue to shine, and I look forward to visiting when I come back from University.

Over and out.

Kameron Spence

Chair of the Big Committee


The Big Committee (Stockton-on-Tees News November 2019)

'I hope to foster a new sense of community and belonging amongst Stockton’s young people. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish over the next year!' - Emily Hill, Chair

'I’m very excited to be leading this area since everything we do in BMBF is about improving people’s lives.' - Eve McDonald, Vice Chair and Head of Diversity & Equality

'I feel strongly for giving SEN students the support they need as well as teaching young people practical life skills.' - Elise Watson, Head of Education

'I believe that our town centres have great potential to be welcoming places for young people across the Borough.' - Jamie West, Head of Business & Regeneration

'I’m passionate about using my work with Stockton Police Cadets to aid my work with BMBF.' - Netanya Alwis, Head of Community Safety

'I have a real passion to help young people in Stockton achieve the best future and best upbringing possible.' - Jess Dawson, Head of Children & Young People's Services

'I’m passionate that all young people’s voices should be heard and I’m excited to move forward and make Stockton-on-Tees a better place to grow up!' - Lilly Crisp, Head of SBC Correspondents

'My role allows me to help with our local community and improve how young people travel around the Borough.' - Kasia Clark, Head of Transport

'We’re excited to get involved in designing the Borough’s new public spaces and launching our Big Bright Giving Garden.' - Head of Environment & Green Spaces and Comms Team Head

'I’m excited to work with Youth Health to help put my own ideas forward and help make a change to health care for young people.' - Olivia Jessop, Head of Health & Wellbeing

'I have many hopes, dreams and aspirations for the Borough and the young people who live here. I aspire to improve it in as many ways possible - ready for the future!' - Rebecca Dawson, Head of Fitness & Leisure

'My goals are to bring awareness to special educational needs and mental health.' - Alex Matthews, Advisor on SEN

'I think our young people of the Borough are capable of great things when given the right opportunity.' - Josh Corfield, Advisor on Equality & Diversity

'I’m hoping to try and lower bus prices for not just young people, but adults too across the Tees Valley.' - Sam Grogan, Advisor on Transport

'I was elected as first chair for the committee in 2018. Since moving to Salford to study Media, I hope to continue advising this amazing group of young people.' - Kameron Spence, Mentor and Ex-Chair

'Although I’m now studying Law in Manchester, I hope to help all the correspondents perform at their best during events.' - Elisha Kaur, SBC Correspondents Mentor

'Since moving to York to study Psychology I’m really excited to see what BMBF will achieve in the future with our new additions to the team.' - Lava Aram, Mentor

'I was the former MYP for Stockton. I’m currently studying an engineering apprenticeship at Nestle in York however, I’m excited to see the progress BMBF will make!' - Jess Hugill, Mentor


Secret Sound 3

Secret Sound has always been a success but this year, held on 30th October, it was bigger and better than ever before. We had amazing acts singing covers and original songs that had the crowd on their feet and dancing. The acts that performed were Rare Breed, Glass City, Erin Frances, Komparrison, Nephilim and our headliners Neon Waves. The night was so much fun, but a lot of work had to be put into it for it to be a success. Alex, Lilly and the Chair of the Big Committee Emily worked around the clock to bring it all together, sorting out times and organizing the bands. Elise and Jess from the big committee stepped in also to help make badges to sell on the night and they worked as hard and fast as they could to have them ready. On the night itself it was all hands on deck. From Jamie and Jess working in the ticket booth, Kendele and Elise selling badges and Netanya welcoming people on the door and not to mention our SBC Correspondents George, Lauren, Robyn and Josh. And we cannot forget our hosts with the most Emily, Lilly, Alex, Kasia, Kendele, Jamie and Olivia.

We cannot forget the fantastic staff at the Georgian Theatre, including Paul, for allowing us to use their venue on the night. More than eighty people came along to support us and have a great time. This enabled us to raise over £300, all of which will go back into Bright Minds Big Futures to support our campaigns.

Of course, the night couldn’t have happened without our fantastic acts, that we as a group chose to perform in front of a fantastic audience.

We all were amazed at how they performed and how they involved the crowd from getting them to dance and sing along.

Planning for the next Secret Sound will soon be underway yet again and we can only hope that Secret Sound 4 will be as successful as Secret Sound 3!

Alex Matthews

SEN Education Advisor to the Big Committee and Secret Sound Coordinator


Our First Youth Question Time

On 18th October we held our first Youth Question Time at Thornaby Academy. It was the day before Parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time since 1982!

We were lucky to have MP for Stockton North Alex Cunningham on our panel as he had a busy day the next day. Also on the panel we had Councillors Robert Cook, leader of Stockton Council, and Lisa Evans, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People. Completing the panel was our host Emily, Chair of the Big Committee, former Chair Kam and Elisha, SBC Correspondents mentor.

Budding politicians from Thornaby Academy, Conyers School, Billingham South Primary School and Hartburn Primary School all arrived with their questions ready for our panel.

I’ve got to say the questions were outstanding. They made the panel think! We started with a question about laws but we quickly moved onto climate change, Extinction Rebellion and of course Brexit!

After the questions were answered, Kam, Elisha and Emily all delivered talks about BMBF to the audience. Kam and Elisha talked about their journey with BMBF whilst Emily talked about what we do.

At the end we were swarmed with young people interested in joining us and our family. Truthfully, that was a delight to see!

Jamie West

Head of Business of Regeneration on the Big Committee


Stockton-On-Tees News Column July 2019 

Hello there! My name is Lilly Crisp, I’m 15 years old and I live in Billingham. I’m super excited to be the next person to write a column for the Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF) column in Stockton-on-Tees News.

I first got involved with BMBF in July 2018 before Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) rolled into town. To begin with, I was an SBC Correspondent and SIRF was the first event I was asked to cover and it was really exciting! I met a lot of people who are now some of my closest friends and I gained a lot of skills by using social media to report from the festival.

BMBF has given me many opportunities and has allowed me to do things I never would’ve dreamed of doing this time last year. It has allowed me to grow as an individual and has given me so much more confidence. 

I got asked to join the Big Committee in December last year - it was an absolute honour to be asked to join, I was overjoyed! The committee is a place for young people who have joined BMBF and get asked to join after showing their commitment and willingness to work hard through being a correspondent and helping out with social action projects. I now have a bigger role on the committee where I am head of Community Safety. 

I have done numerous other things with BMBF over the last year, such as spectating at a Cabinet meeting where we showed off our Big Plan to the elected members (which was very successful!)

One of my favourite events I have ever corresponded from was a mini music festival called Secret Sound which was a fundraiser for BMBF and everything we do for the young people in Stockton-on-Tees. I helped to organise the event and, considering I met some members of BMBF before I joined last year, I loved every minute of putting it together with friends old and new!

Lilly Crisp

Head of Community Safety on the Big Committee


Making their Voices Heard (Stockton-on-Tees News July 2019)

Businesses across Stockton-on-Tees now have a new rating to aim for thanks to the Borough’s award-winning youth-led movement.

Members of Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF) are busy highlighting businesses they feel are the most welcoming to young people.

The new initiative is called BMBF Approved and it sees businesses assessed against various criteria including the friendliness and approachability of staff.

When the BMBF members are satisfied a business meets the guidelines they have set out they issue it with a window sticker to display.

And that’s not the only idea the young people have been developing. As part of their on-going efforts to grow their presence and influence on social media, they have created a number of lightbulb mascots to support the work they do to promote events and places across Stockton-on-Tees.

Wattson and Lumi are a couple of the lightbulbs who will be making an appearance on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the coming weeks and months.

Meanwhile, the young people have created a recruitment campaign to raise awareness about the broad range of projects BMBF members have an opportunity to take part in a bid to encourage others to sign up.


May 2019

I attended my first meeting with the Big Committee on the 19 April 2019- the day I became a part of the amazing team! Since then I have attended meetings, gardening sessions in partnership with Cultivate Tees Valley and bigger events like Super Car Saturday. I would say it is one of the best opportunities I’ve ever taken! I have learned so much and have already made amazing friends among the group. I first found out about BMBF when they came to my school; I gave them my email and the rest is history. I couldn’t be happier with how everything has turned out! I never thought I would find a group of young people who would share the same hopes and intentions for the borough as myself whilst still being completely different and unique!

The first time I looked at the “Big Plan” I knew I was in the right place for my voice to be heard: not only am I heard but I am encouraged to speak up but there is so much support that allows me to feel confident in what I believe also having the ability to project my ideas and allow others to know my opinions. One of my favourite parts about being an active member of BMBF and the “Big Committee” is that we accept anyone and everyone, I was welcomed straight in with no restrictions and simply warm welcoming arms. As a result of feeling comfortable and able to share my passion for social justice, I have been appointed Head of Equality and Diversity.

I strongly encourage all young people to take a look around and see what the wider community has in store for them- you will never know the amazing opportunities which await you if you don’t open your eyes! Maybe your place is in Bright Minds Big Futures, maybe it is attending your local youth club or volunteering for a club or maybe it could simply be picking up litter and championing care for the environment. There will never be too much or too little that you can do when it comes to doing something to make a difference, something I realized following my own volunteering. I am filled with new-found knowledge and I simply can’t wait to see how I can make a difference and contribute to the borough, as well as be a role model for the young people all around Stockton because even little old me can make a mark big enough to inspire somebody.

Elise Watson

Head of Diversity & Equality on the Big Committee


Stockton-on-Tees News Column May 2019

Hello my name is George, I live in Stockton-on-Tees and I’m a founding member of Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF).

BMBF helps to channel young people’s voices into the Council’s decision-making process and connects us to volunteering opportunities Borough-wide.

In 2017 I joined the #SBCCorrespondents scheme where young people attend, film and promote the biggest events around the year. Hoping to expand it into something that would give young people a voice in Council proceedings, we pitched a merger with Stockton Youth Assembly (SYA). It became the Big Committee, with young people deciding the agenda.

Since then, I have composed our rules of procedure and website text, helped build our social media following, oversaw the making of a film promoting the Borough’s libraries and created a pledge for our members to help us maintain a supportive environment.

After surveying local youth, the Committee developed our ‘Big Plan’, a wish list to the Council which emphasises what we will do to make each point  happen, and this was well received by the Cabinet.

As Environment and Green Spaces lead, I have formed a partnership between BMBF and Cultivate Tees Valley, whom we help turn unused patches of land into community growing sites. Soon, members will be involved in the design of a pocket park in Stockton Town Centre.

In January, our hard work brought a British Youth Council regional convention to the Borough for the first time in several years. Nominated by my Big Committee peers, I was nominated for a Youth Voice Star Award for Personal Development, whilst BMBF not only won the regional but went on to achieve the national prize for Youth-led Organisation or Project!

BMBF is a ground-breaking scheme and youth groups from across the North East have reached out to us for advice on how they can achieve similar results in their areas. But more so, BMBF is a group of driven young people of whom I’m very proud to be a member – send us a message on Facebook to get involved!

George Reed

Head of Environment & Green Spaces on the Big Committee


A Big Plan for A Bright Future (Stockton-on-Tees News May 2019)

Bright Minds Big Futures, the Borough’s youth-led movement, have been hard at work with their efforts to make sure the voices of our young people are heard and acted on.

In March, the group impressed when they presented their Big Plan at a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet.

The Big Plan is the culmination of a two-year programme of engagement with young people. Through the BMBF initiative so far, young people from across Stockton-on-Tees have participated in projects such as SBC Correspondents, reporting from events, and the Takeover Challenge – gaining work experience from various Council departments. The area’s young people have been frequently consulted with to find out what it is like to grow up in our Borough and learn more about their hopes and needs for the future.

Put together by BMBF’s Big Committee, the plan outlines a ‘wish list’ of the Borough’s young people and was drawn up after more than 400 young people from schools and colleges contributed ideas.

The plan puts forward a range of ideas and proposals,  some of which are already underway including:

  • working with Cleveland Police
  • environmental projects with Cultivate Tees Valley
  • Public Health initiatives
  • Stockton Libraries collaborations
  • action to tackle period poverty – the group’s own  ‘Take One Leave One’ campaign.

The Big Plan was endorsed by Cabinet and the Big Committee will present at a meeting later this year to  report back on their progress.

To find out more and get involved with Bright Minds Big Futures, visit

Awards Success

Congratulations are in order as Bright Minds Big Futures is now officially a nationally recognised award-winning movement! The British Youth Council’s Youth Voice Star Awards celebrate projects doing things differently to address issues facing young people and the people who make change happen. BMBF scooped the ‘Youth-Led Project’ award back in March at a special ceremony held in London where columnist George Reed was also nominated for the ‘Personal Development’ award.


Stockton-on-Tees News Column March 2019

Greetings! I am Netanya, a 14-year-old, Year 10 Ian Ramsey CE Academy pupil.

I have always lived in the wonderful Borough of Stockton-on-Tees.

In order to reach out to my local community and make myself heard I joined Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF) as a correspondent to promote events and activities by writing blogs and posting on social media.

Recently, I have been given the opportunity to join BMBF's Big Committee, which provides a voice for young people in the Borough on issues such as education, leisure facilities, health and wellbeing. The information collected will be used by the Council to help them make decisions about services.

Through BMBF, I have learnt new project, communication and teams skills. I would like to thank Jane Webb for helping me.

I am also a member of the Stockton Police Cadets and am raising funds for RSPB, as I think it is important to help protect wildlife – even if it is in a very small way.

This year, I am completing my Duke of Edinburgh-Silver award. I am volunteering at my school library, doing my Diploma in piano and am also doing dancing as part of this.

I enjoy going to Stockton Taekwondo Club at Elm Tree Community Centre where I am a black belt. I am also a violinist and play with top youth orchestra, Tees Valley Youth Orchestra.

I am taking four GCSE subjects this year including Latin and Astronomy.

I am very optimistic about growing up in Stockton-on-Tees and for my future in the wider world. The wonderful opportunities given to me, successes, failures, joys, sorrows, friendships, all light up my future path and make me a unique individual and one of a kind.

Netanya Alwis

Head of Democratic Services on the Big Committee


March 2019

undefinedI am happy to announce that we are launching our Bight Minds Big Futures (BMBF) blog! Here we can keep the wonderful people of Stockton-on-Tees up to date with all the amazing things we get up to.

I was elected the Chair of The Big Committee in September of 2018, after we took over from Stockton Youth Assembly, and as the chair it is my honour to write our first post.

Over the last few months the entire committee and wider BMBF have been tirelessly working on our “Big Plan”. In simple terms, it is The Big Committee’s “manifesto” of wants and needs that have been brought forward to us by the young people of the Borough. Within it we list the issues facing young people in our area and then exactly how we will go about achieving them and the support we would need from Stockton Council. I am delighted to announce that, after an outstanding presentation to Cabinet, The Big Plan was approved and given fantastic feedback from Stockton Council and council leader Bob Cook directly.

On behalf of the committee I would like to say how much of an honour it was to present to Cabinet and we were grateful for the time dedicated to face the issues effecting young people in the Borough.

If this wasn’t fantastic already, the very next day on Friday, 8 March, five BMBF representatives, including myself, and our coordinator, Jane Webb, traveled to London for the “British Youth Councils: Youth Star Awards” after winning the award for “Best Youth Led Organisation in The North East” and then nominated for the same award on a national scale.

After a long journey and a quick stop to the Harry Potter Store, we arrived at the venue for a quick buffet lunch, and the awards commenced. It was fantastic to see all the amazing projects ran by young people in the UK and all the hard work put into giving young people a voice. When our category was finally announced, we were all on the edge of our seat! The nominations were read out… waiting with anticipation and then… we only went and won! I was so proud of the entire Committee and the wider BMBF team for all the fantastic hard work they do.

So if I do say so, I think March has been an overwhelmingly fantastic month for BMBF and I look forward to many more months of work with them. 

Kameron Spence

Chair of the Big Committee


Stockton-on-Tees News Column November 2018

My name is Elisha and I am a young person who has grown up in Stockton-on-Tees. Recently, I moved to Manchester to attain a degree in Law - a dream of mine achieved with the opportunities provided to me through Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF).

From becoming a correspondent to then an advisor/ mentor, the scheme has finessed my skills which I can now use within a workplace. I was then able to include these skills in my personal statement when applying for my degree.

I was a correspondent during SIRF 2017, but I found a passion for the role so decided to carry on further. I’ve been lucky enough to attend consultations where I am able to give a young person’s outlook on life in Stockton-on-Tees. I felt like my opinion was taken into account and people were listening to what I had to say. The scheme has allowed young people to have some input in decisions which affect their daily lives.

This summer I was fortunate enough to work as a National Citizen Service (NCS) mentor which wouldn’t have been possible without my experience as a volunteer through BMBF. We also partnered with NCS to provide social action in our local area which is fantastic since I was able to develop my interest in volunteering in the local community.

Working with young people was never something I intended to do but becoming an advisor for BMBF is one of my greatest accomplishments. The initiative has a positive impact on young people and helps guide them to a future which once may have seemed impossible.

Although I’ve moved away for university, I hope to continue with Bright Minds Big Futures as an advisor. My hopes for the future are to pass my degree and hopefully push BMBF to be an initiative which is accepted by all young people in the Borough. Even though I’m studying elsewhere, my heart will always be in Stockton-on-Tees!

Elisha Kaur

BMBF Mentor