Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Youth-run youth club offering antidote to 'modern times'

Despite only starting just before Covid, the club quickly set up a "virtual community centre" during lockdown

Hero for Youth-run youth club offering antidote to 'modern times'
Members of the Ratpack at Gnome House in Walthamstow (credit: Ratpack)
By Nadoya Reid 21 June 2022

A Walthamstow youth group set up just before the pandemic has received national recognition for creating a “virtual community centre” during lockdown.A Walthamstow youth group set up just before the pandemic has received national recognition for creating a “virtual community centre” during lockdown.

Ratpack, based in Walthamstow’s Gnome House, is a youth club run almost entirely by young people themselves and supervised by local artist Anna Alcock. Ratpack, based in Walthamstow’s Gnome House, is a youth club run almost entirely by young people themselves and supervised by local artist Anna Alcock. 

Its goal is to encourage young people to connect with each other and the natural world, providing an antidote to “modern times [where] everyone is on their phones”.Its goal is to encourage young people to connect with each other and the natural world, providing an antidote to “modern times [where] everyone is on their phones”.

Last year, the club was shortlisted for the Creative Lives Award for their work during Covid, which included sending 60 art packs to local children.Last year, the club was shortlisted for the Creative Lives Award for their work during Covid, which included sending 60 art packs to local children.

Ratpack member Maleah told the Echo: “Having the virtual community centre during lockdowns comforted me. Being away from school and having limited social interaction can be a bit lonely so the centre allowed me to engage with others outside of my family.Ratpack member Maleah told the Echo: “Having the virtual community centre during lockdowns comforted me. Being away from school and having limited social interaction can be a bit lonely so the centre allowed me to engage with others outside of my family.

“In modern times, everyone is on their phones and not engaging but coming here is all about connecting with others and engaging in nature.” “In modern times, everyone is on their phones and not engaging but coming here is all about connecting with others and engaging in nature.” 

While the youth club didn’t end up winning the award, youth leader Isabella said they were thrilled to be considered alongside “some really big charities”.While the youth club didn’t end up winning the award, youth leader Isabella said they were thrilled to be considered alongside “some really big charities”.

She added: “Us being nominated too highlights that our work is being recognised by more than just our local community.” She added: “Us being nominated too highlights that our work is being recognised by more than just our local community.” 

The group's latest project building a new garden (credit: Ratpack)The group's latest project building a new garden (credit: Ratpack)

Since the official end of lockdown restrictions, Ratpack has focused on turning the outdoor space at Gnome House from a “pile of rubble” into a garden with produce, an outdoor kitchen and a pond.Since the official end of lockdown restrictions, Ratpack has focused on turning the outdoor space at Gnome House from a “pile of rubble” into a garden with produce, an outdoor kitchen and a pond.

One younger member told the Echo: “I am very excited for the kitchen to be finished. We are currently growing cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries in the garden and we will be cooking using the food we are growing in the garden.”One younger member told the Echo: “I am very excited for the kitchen to be finished. We are currently growing cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries in the garden and we will be cooking using the food we are growing in the garden.”

This weekend, on 25th June, the group will also take part in Gnome House’s Summer Fayre, selling tote bags designed and painted by members at their stall, with all profit going directly to the young person who produced the bag.This weekend, on 25th June, the group will also take part in Gnome House’s Summer Fayre, selling tote bags designed and painted by members at their stall, with all profit going directly to the young person who produced the bag.

Ratpack runs at Gnome House every Wednesday from 4.30-6.30pm and every Saturday from 12.30-3.30pm. Find out more here.Ratpack runs at Gnome House every Wednesday from 4.30-6.30pm and every Saturday from 12.30-3.30pm. Find out more here.