Tag Archives: Youth work

Youth work and the quiet moments…

For way over 25 years I’ve been an occasional, then full time, then part time, and now a Friday night Youth Worker. The Friday night group that I, my wife and a fab bunch of young and old helpers lead has now been running non-stop term time for 20 years which is also a pretty cool achievement.

So if it sounds like more than a hobby then I suspect yes, yes it is ๐Ÿ™‚ ย It’s certainly something I’ve been able to do without thinking – in as much as I’m always happiest talking to kids more so than adults where I often feel a smidge out of place. I’m a child at heart – loving animation and geek things and drawing on tablets and so on… And pretending to be an adult gets quite wearing. Chatting to kids about school and worries and happinesses and so on, occasionally while playing football or Rock Band at the same time, is no effort at all.

But there’s one point in the evening at youth group when it all goes quiet… I do the door duty as I like to welcome the kids in at the start of a night and then, just in case anyone’s running late, I hang on for ten minutes (if we have enough staff to kids or I don’t think I’m immediately needed).

And in that time I generally draw a picture if no-one’s come out to talk to me.

Fridays are a smidgeon harrowing at the moment. We have a college meeting at 8.30 and then it’s pretty much full on until 5, and then it’s registers and emails and follow up and phoning students not there and one to one emails or reading confidential papers which have to be shredded and so on and so forth. By the time I get home it’s a few minutes to gulp down a meal of some type (although occasionally I’veย been known to be sitting in the passenger seat of the car eating microwave in the bag rice) and then we’re setting up at 7.30 and the doors time is often the first chance I get to sit down and stop.

This week I was a little glum as the only stylus I had to hand was a Bic Cristal which, being a soft rubber tip, I was expecting little from. But actually it worked perfectly and the kids who came to the group made me smile so, as ever, as always, it’s a very worthwhile thing to do and be doing. I often suggest people take up some sort of voluntary work, especially if they are struggling themselves, as it can be an hour or two (or three in our case) of time away from our own troubles. In my case I also get the bonus of grown adults coming up to me and saying ‘do you remember me…?’ which is also a lovely thing.

So, um, yes. Youth work = woo.


iPad art session for ages 3 and up…

For the past week it’s been half term and, since I’m now only 2 days a week at the college, I’ve been picking up freelance work where I can. One of the loveliest jobs offered to me was three days at the Electric Theatre to take part in their Family Festival: one day mini book making, one day Manga art lessons and today, doing iPad art as part of the Arty Fun session… Katy Ashworth from CBBC was leading the day and I was in the background, encouraging all who wanted to to draw on the iPad using either a Nomad Play brush and a Stylus Sock especially when young children were queueing to have their photos taken with her – it was a pretty long line so I was the mid- line entertainment…)

Lovely day, lovely time, lovely kids. Will finish the pic off next week (was so busy not many of the Electric Theatre team got to draw on the picture so will take the iPad back in for them to add to in the coming week) but this is what the kids, ages 3 and up, got up to between 1.30 and 4.30…

Different subject.

Youth group last night was interesting. Normally I spend all week doing ‘the creativ stuffz’ so I tend to then do youthwork in the two non-creative rooms on a group night playing either football or Rock Band.

Last night was different as wifey – who does lead the creative stuff on a group night – was stuck for ideas so I said I’d do computer art with the kids. Actually it was ย a lot of fun. We did a good amount of Photo booth, a fair bit of Photoshop liquify face mangling and a smidge of Pixelmator brush painting. This is possibly my favourite image from the night and came from Paige and I throwing Brushes around. Twas fun.

And once this is uploaded to work. I may well upload the Wombat pics up here but that’ll be a later job (sorry Pants) as they’ll all need resizing.

What is shrink plastic?

I’ve been asked what Shrink Plastic is and, since the answer won’t fit in a tweet, I’ll answer it here.

Shrink Plastic is, in order of importance; a: my favourite youth work material, b: something of a party trick, c: an excellent way of showing anyone that they can be more artistic than they might give themselves credit for and d: not edible.

Or: it’s a type of plastic that you draw on in pencil or cd marker pen (on the rough side if you’re lucky enough to have bought pre-sanded stuff) and then stick it on a baking tray in the oven (gas or electric, not microwave). I’ve long since forgotten what heat you put in on as – when I’m doing youth work we have to whack the oven up high and do the stuff in as few seconds as possible. Not optimum and not what it suggests on the packet but when you have a hundred kids in front of you gas mark 3 for 3 minutes isn’t the way to goย (although I think is the right way of doing it – you cook the plastic until its flat, basically). Years gone by you could shrink plastic crisp packets in the same way although in the age of metal packets and fewer crisps that’s another thing to do with kids gone.

The nicest thing is that the colours that you draw on shrink plastic (certainly with pencil) don’t become stronger or darker or lighter… They become more vibrant. The lil pencil speckles (scientific term) all squash together and get more friendly… And everything looks that little bit more cool. Which is another part of the process I like. 80% of kids who watch it say ‘cool’ without thinking about it and, when it’s warm enough for them to hold I let them have their pictures. Not cool. Temperature wise anyhow.

It’s also very groovy to watch it cooking. When I do Shrink Plastic stuff with the younger age groups I have to set up chairs as a little cinema for them to watch as the drawings are shrunk ๐Ÿ™‚


This is how big I normally start with (cut to size – I normally buy big packs of A4 sheets and cut them into 9 smaller bits).


And this is how small that size shrinks – about 8 times smaller and 8 times thicker too. I only discovered you could watercolour pencil on them this year (having used it for fifteen years or so) and that revolutionised the way I use it. Oh boy did I get through a fair amount once I twigged that.

So that’s Shrink Plastic ๐Ÿ™‚ It comes in 8 or so colours, you can buy it in teacher packs for bulk use, some pieces come with cartoon characters drawn on so you can colour in pre-drawn stuff and so on. It’s my favourite playful art material and when I’m working with bigger groups of kids, especially the special ed ones, it’s my favourite thing to watch other peoples faces while working with as well. And something I love playing with when time allows (not as often as I’d like then and more often than not I give the results away anyhow).

I did do the forty mini book covers in Shrink Plastic with a few small groups of kids which are findable on this very blog. A half way through photo here:


((And in answer to the other two comments on the tweet – the questions are probably guessable :

a: no, sorry my handwriting is abysmal. I did try and be neat but that’s a trick I’ve failed to learn in forty years and don’t anticipate perfecting in the next forty without ministry and team prayer. Believe it or not that was my neater stuff, I was quite pleased with it at the time although that seems to have been hopelessly optimistic it now seems.

b: the novel is in case free time allows to beg a quote. For the past two books in the series I’ve had lovely quotes from Phil Groom at London College of Theology b+r, Tre Sheppard of Onehundredhours, Mary at Goodbookstall, Lord Ron Dearing etc. All lovely and generous and kind. I’ve always stopped short of sending the Sylvers to the people I look up to from the places I spend my time (writing and comics and etc) because I basically anticipate embarrassing myself but this time felt brave enough to at least try. Maybe hopelessly optimistic on that front too. TBH I know it’s begging kindness following kindness which is hardly a reward but apart from shrink plastic I’ve little else worth sending.))

Hmmmm maybe this would have fitted in a tweet. I didn’t realise my answers could be so brief and concise. Righto my turn to cook before youth group so machine off and onwards.

Drawing with words.

I’ve taught typography a number of times during my college working years so far but a new app on the iPod touch has got m playing with it more than I had in the past. It’s called typedrawing and, as the title suggests, you draw with words and sentences.

It’s a lot of fun but the tool is a lot more limited than I would like. There is no way of outputting the file to your computer to upres it, which is a crying shame. Similarly there’s no colour tools, import tool, save tool… You get the jist. I know this is a little hypocritical bearing in mind I often applaud Brushes for it’s ability to do so much with so little, but at all time Brushes allows you to do what you need, typedrawing doesn’t.

Still it is loads of fun and I’ll keep playing with it… This came out of yesterday night post youth group.


Youth group was ace, incidentally. We’ve got a few new faces this term since we reopened the books and, for the most part, they’re slotting in really well. The one caveat is that a group uses the halls prior to us now and, where we used to have forty minutes to set up we now have four.

Not easy.

Anyhow; back to the pic:

The Tapestry has been breached.

Which will make sense post Oct when Dr Sylver three comes out.


Those who know me have probably become long used to me with headphones stuck in my ears listening to my iPod.

It used to be that I was listening to music and, by and large, that would be bands such as Onehundredhours, Quench, Alison Moyet, Blur, Booley, Duke Special, Gorillaz and a fair few more.

Nowadays it’s split between that and podcasts. When I bought my first iPod (a nano that said it was {red} but was in fact metallic pink) I downloaded a podcast onto itunes to see what they were like and was hooked ever since. So if you see me with headphones in it’s as likely to be One Life Left, Macbreak Weekly, TWIT, BOL, Joystiq, Kermode and Mayo and iFanboy as it is likely to be music and they’re all ace and fine companions to the week.

Not that I have a favourite but this image just sprung to mind and I started and finished it yesterday on a bus and in the Weatherspoon’s. Twas fun to do… The image isn’t really original I guess but it works (for me at least) so up it goes. Financially and time wise I don’t really follow comics as much as I would like at the mo (I was hugely into them in the 80’s/early 90’s) but still catch up with the various universes through iFanboy at least.



Brushes again, with a hint of Pixelmator as well to finish off. Now to have a rest for a while, worked with 120 kids this week and it’s time for ten minutes of silence to let my brain cool down…

Big Book Draw day stuff…

OK so October is shaping up to be a doozey. For a start I’m fairly sure we’ll see Dr Sylver and the Tapestry of Time hit the streets (third and final book in the Everything series although, not necessarily, the last we’ll see of Sylver).

Then I’ll be doing the Big Book Draw with my youth group kids, a couple of friendly teacher helpers, some students and all sorts. Should be ace. The venue is BRILLIANT for drawing and creating in and they’re keen to be involved which is always good in a partnering venue. As well as all that the story is strong (although I always say that, egotist that I am) and the beginning and end doodles look pretty cool (massive ego ahoy). (Well, I like them anyhow ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Better than that this years book draw is different because I’m approaching well known people and asking them if they could fill in a template of doodles for inclusion into the whole piece. So the kids (of all ages) can go away with a book written by them and Tom Merritt (Buzz Out Loud host and writer of Boiling Point), Jan Pienkowski (Meg and Mog), Paul Cornell (writer of Marvel comics and Dr Who novels), Emma Dodd (loads of books for Templar publishing). Nick Page (The Longest Week, Whatever happened to… and many more books) and more. Which is great… So far spent a good portion of the evening sending out more begging letters so shall see what I get back. But whichever way round it’s going to be an interesting day.

I think we’ll be doing a second book draw day but that’s very much tbc so we’ll see what happens on that score. More info later, maybe.

And then, lastly, someone offered their venue as a host to an exhibition in Oct for the Brushes artwork for the BBD and more besides so it looks like that one may be a goer too. We’ll see. All exciting stuff.

Less excitingly wifey was DIYing (I was doing kid duty and setting up youth work stuff for tomorrow) and… hmm… let’s just say that one tin of paint should have had a top on. And not be trodden on. And catapulted over two carpets, a wall, two library books, four books of photographs etc. Oh well, we’ll look back on it and laugh I’m sure.

Righto, onwards. Loads to do, just fancied a rest from it for a min.

Actually I do need to learn to say the word ‘no’…

So unsolicited advice welcomed ๐Ÿ™‚

And I need to say ‘no’ to myself as much too. No, you’re already doing 1 – 3 books in the next year, don’t add 2 more to the list etc… (But they’re so concise! And sorted, and cute, I argue with myself, hey ho).

Diff subject, in lunchtime of summer school 1 of 3 this week (trying to get all of my youthwork in one week in Aug to free up the rest for family stuff). So far lovely kids and results ๐Ÿ™‚ On to silk painting in a few mins from badges and shrink plastic. Onwards ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t know why, but…

… last night, just as we were heading out to run youth group, there were four police cars, empty, and one fire engine, full of people, presumably firefighters, blocking the road directly in front of us + had the police helicopter flying overhead through much of the night. Which was a bit strange.ย 

Also: last nights youth group = very good. Higher intake than normal and all five of the … ones who cause us more issues than any other on the evening plus three new faces but, all told, it seemed to go very well indeed, which was good as I could have fallen asleep just prior to it starting I was so wrecked. ย These past couple of years doing the youth group on the council estate have been pretty good which, bearing in mind we’ve now done it every term week for the past 15 years, is good… This is possibly the best year on year group of terms we’ve had I think* which is strange because this is the first year wifey and I have been considering taking a break… We’ll see, still mulling over that one – although a decision would have to be made soon so that appropriate things can be done to see if it’s still runnable, but having now done this so long we’ve seen three other groups start up and stop around us…. Dunno. It’s been a good run with a couple of hard years interspersed, but it is something that we feel that we do well – certainly the craft table that wifey’s bought into force more this year than ever has never been quiet…ย 

Ahhhh changes changes. Who knows what any year will bring.

*and yes, for the benefit of the group leaders who read this I know that last weeks was pretty dicey but I think we dealt with things pretty well and this weeks reflected that.