It's 1993. Cher's 'Greatest Hits' is riding high in the album charts and Mr Blobby is the talk of every playground. It's also the year that Jamie Bulger is brutally murdered by two teenagers.
In Luton, like every town up and down the country, there's a growing sense we're losing too many young people to apathy, hopelessness and disaffection from their communities.
Forty-five churches in the town start a movement to do something positive. They put their money where their mouth is and create a charity to offer hope and practical help to young people. The local community rally behind them and Youthscape (then called LCET) is born.
Within a few years Luton is in the national news as rioting breaks out on one of the large housing estates over one hot summer week. Youthscape is already there - working with young people in the local school and out on the estate. Impressed with the impact, The Church Urban Fund sponsor the work and the staff team grows to three.
Later that year, as Autumn approaches, Youthscape hold a series of special events for local young people. A church lends their building and the Youthscape staff and local volunteers wait to see who will turn up. That evening over a thousand young people queue to get in and be part of what's happening. Standing along the aisles and crammed into every corner, it's clear there's a hunger for something different.
In a short time, Youthscape is working alongside every secondary school in Luton. The work is varied - programmes for young people facing exclusion from school for their behaviour, support for those with chronically low self esteem, values education in assemblies and much more. The aims is to show that Christians can and should be promoting positive change in their communities and in the lives of young people. These are also years when some legendary events take place - the team make it snow (literally) in the middle of summer and hold dog-sled races for young people, plays are written and performed by local teenagers to much acclaim, and there are overseas trip to take 6th formers to the developing world to widen their experience and understanding of the world.
The team grows quickly over the next few years to over ten staff and, by 1999 it's not only time to party (thanks, Prince), it's also time to move. Funds are raised and an old hat factory in the town centre becomes the base for the work. Now there's a cafe and drop-in centre too. Specialist work with young people with specific needs, like being in care and self-harm begins to develop to respond the real needs we're meeting.
As the work expands, Youthscape becomes more widely known around the UK. Training for others becomes part of what we do and specialist national projects like selfharmUK are launched to make that possible. There's a determination to help the church offer credible support that welcomes all and every young person, regardless of their background. Partnerships with other charities, like Childline, help us develop more new initiatives and work that tackles the key contemporary issues young people face. Resources and new materials developed in Luton begin to be used by youth workers across the country - and helps us develop a new income stream bringing financial stability to the organisation.
By 2012, it's clear that Youthscape's vision far exceeds the capacity of it's offices and drop-in centre. In the Autumn of that year, a plan is hatched to find a bigger and better home. Bute Mills is spotted and, despite the price tag, it's clear this is the next stage of the YS story. Our campaign begins to raise the funds needed - and it starts with every member of the Board and team raising £40,000 from their own pockets. We're serious about making a difference and we know it starts with the commitment and quality of the people at Youthscape. On New Year's Eve, in December 2013, with just hours to go before the seller's final deadline for purchase runs out, the transaction is completed and Bute Mills becomes part of the Youthscape story.
Today Youthscape continues to work in depth in Luton directly with teenagers - not only for their benefit, but to develop approaches and programmes that aothers can use across the UK. That way, we can make a bigger impact. The positive transformation of young people is at the heart of everything we do - especially those facing critical challenges and issues in their lives. As the work begins to refurbish Bute Mills ahead of it's opening in the Autumn of 2015, the twenty five staff at Youthscape, the many volunteers and the Board are united in our determination to take the vision of Youthscape forward into the future.