Video: Celebrating our city’s inspirational children

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We are celebrating our children with the first Child Friendly Leeds awards. Laura Bowyer reports.

they have spent the last four months searching for Leeds’s very own children’s champions.

SEARCH IS ON: Left (back), Beth McConnell, Steven Vaughan and Jamie-Leigh Fish; front, Jacob Bennett, Fatima Maumoniat and Nadia Maumoniat.

SEARCH IS ON: Left (back), Beth McConnell, Steven Vaughan and Jamie-Leigh Fish; front, Jacob Bennett, Fatima Maumoniat and Nadia Maumoniat.

The team of ten youngsters are on a mission to celebrate the city’s army of unsung heroes at the first ever Child Friendly Leeds Awards.

The group, who are known as Y-Productions, are made up of Child Friendly Leeds young advisors and members of City Varieties Youth Theatre.

They have been searching for inspirational youngsters, fantastic foster carers and places in Leeds that champion children.

They have meticulously planned the running of the glittering awards ceremony - which is being backed by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

And today we can reveal the shortlist of young people and child friendly businesses who have been nominated for their campaigning efforts.

Fatima Maumonait, 11, decided to get involved with planning the awards after she heard about it through her family.

She said: “My cousin told me it would be really good fun to get involved with something exciting like this.”

Beth McConnell, 17, added: “I got involved after attending a Child Friendly Leeds event at the Museum last summer.

“I wanted to do something productive with my free time.

“For me, this is an opportunity to prove people wrong and to show everyone that young people can actually make a difference if they want to.

“I want to prove to my mum that I can do something really productive and to prove her wrong.”

Jacob Bennett, 16, and Jamie-Leigh Fish, 17, said: “We hope that the awards will give recognition to all the people and places in Leeds that help make it child friendly.

“We are challenging stereotypes of young people in society.

“We love being given opportunities such as this to prove our critics wrong.”

Steven Vaughan, 19, added: “We think Leeds is a child friendly city because there are lots of things for children and young people to do - such as Breeze events and the City Varieties Youth Theatre.

“However, as kids we still wish there were more places to relax with our friends and make new ones.”

Among the inspirational youngsters to be nominated for an award is 17-year-old Francis Edwards from Roundhay.

Francis weighed just 890 grammes when he was born three months premature.

The youngster, who has cerebral palsy, spent the first five months of his life in hospital.

When he was younger his mum Jane Howarth took him to the Donkey Sanctuary in Leeds to help strengthen his muscles.

But the teenager, who relies on a wheelchair, decided to give something back to the sanctuary that transformed his life and now he volunteers there to help others.

Francis is also campaigning to make sure that Leeds is wheelchair friendly.

His proud mum Jane said: “I think he wanted to volunteer as a way of paying back for all the help people had given him when he was little.

“He says that this is just his way of saying thank you.

“He is a role model and it shows that even though you have a disability and use a wheelchair you can still achieve things.

“I’m just so proud of him.”

Also nominated for an award is disability access campaigner Nathan Popple.

Nathan, 16, from Adel, developed cerebral palsy and severe disabilities following his traumatic birth.

The teenager, who uses a special computer to communicate, has made it his mission to make Leeds a wheelchair friendly city.

He set up a website called Accessible Leeds to name and shame venues in the city that are not wheelchair friendly.

He told the YEP he was delighted to be shortlisted for an award.

The teenager said: “When I found out I had been nominated I felt very happy and excited.

“I am glad that people like the work I have been doing.

“Accessible Leeds is going well and I have started to also do podcasts.

“At the minute I am doing an accessibility campaign with Stuart Andrew MP.

“We did a survey about how easy or hard it is for disabled people to access things and then Stuart and I will look at some questions for him to ask in Parliament.

“I’s all very exciting and I hope that all of my work will help people.”

Also in the running for a prize is the team from First Floor Leeds at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

They have been shortlisted in the Best Place for Children and Young People category.

First Floor Leeds provides a venue for youngsters of all ages and abilities to help channel their creative sides.

The team encourage children to develop new skills such as drama, art and music in a bid to boost their confidence.

The project also aims to show youngsters what work opportunities and experiences are available to them in the theatre.

Director of arts development Sam Perkins said: “We’re thrilled to be nominated.

“It means so much that they came directly from young people and their parents and carers.

“To discover that we have been shortlisted in the final five within the Best Place for Young People in Leeds category is great testament to all the hard work that goes into building a friendly and vibrant space for young people.”

The awards will be held at the City Varieties on Thursday, January 30.


Children’s champion

Francis Edwards, 17: campaigner for wheelchair access and volunteers at a riding centre for disabled children.

Natasha Raistrick, 15: volunteers at Breeze on Tour, Breeze Friday Night project and a local summer camp.

Nathan Popple, 16: created to review accessibility and campaign for change.

Paul Cowling, 16: organised a youth forum leading to the development of a skate park in Swillington.

Zak Kershaw, 13: a member of Youth Matters, Zak gets involved with interviewing staff to supporting the minibus driver.


Kathy Burgess: her support changes children’s lives.

Angela Morris and Julie Calvert: dedicated foster carers.

John Forbes: a member of the Foster Carer Liaison Group and foster carer.

Abdul Ghafoor Ratyal: a governor and supplementary school teacher.

Mandy Brown: a travel buddy for young people with additional needs.


Abbey House Museum and Kirkstall Abbey

The ArtBug Studio

First Floor at West Yorkshire Playhouse

The Beck

Herd Farm Activity Centre:


Out 2 25

Dance Action Zone Leeds:

The Grand Theatre & City Varieties Learning Team

Trinity Leeds

Catering Leeds


As part of the YEP’s survey we want to hear from you.We want to hear from children, parents, carers and organisations about what it is like to be a child growing up in Leeds. Tell us what it is like to be a child in Leeds, whether the city is child friendly and what changes you would like to make .


Tweet us via #cfleeds

Visit our Facebook page

Or write to: 
Yorkshire Evening Post, 
No 1 Leeds, 
26 Whitehall Road, 
Leeds, LS12 1BE

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