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Nicky Brittan b.1956. Interviewed by Marion Webber. Nick discusses his long-standing connection to Community House, Eton Road and the challenges the youth workers face today. He also remembers Newport Carnival.
0-1 minute: Nicky has been connected to Community House for 56 years. He was born in Eton Road. He started in the Sunday School in the old Church when he was 4 and a half and continued there until he was 14. Nicky’s father used to bring him to Sunday School. He knew 4 or 5 boys from Maindee Primary School, they went to Sunday School together.
He had a sense of belonging to Community House, not least because there was a time when Mrs Selby, Brian’s mother, was his Sunday school teacher. Brian was away in Africa at the time. Mrs Selby used to meet four or five of the Sunday School boys from school and take them home to tea on Fridays.
2 – 3 minutes: He went to the Boy’s club from the age of six and then youth club until he was about 15 or 16. Then at 16, he used to help out in the coffee bar, for example and finally ran his own youth club with his girlfriend, now his wife.
Nicky preferred the old layout of Community House to the current one and thought that there was more separate areas or rooms for different activities.
He remembers a big metal staircase and a massive library. There are no toilets upstairs. He does not like the way people have to walk through the coffee lounge to use the toilets on the ground floor. He had it priced up, but it was too expensive.
“When they had the work done, they should have had a toilet put up here – but that’s my opinion.”
3 - 5 minutes - Brian was a massive help when Nicky and his wife started working with the youth club. He got the skills to be able to run it himself. They attended courses at Brynglas House for Community Leaders etc. and his wife was on the Youth Council at the Civic Centre. Nicky used to teach the youngsters to play table tennis and other games and they had artists coming in to teach.
There were eighty children from 6-8pm and then different age ranges at different times in the evening, until eventually the over 16s who would go on until 10pm.
5 minutes - The children were well behaved and no trouble. They were not cheeky, and really wanted to go to the clubs. Not like the children today.
Marion asked Nicky why he thought that young people’s attitude has changed. There is still plenty of youth work going on, for example the BBC Children in Need Club and the Football Club which Nicky is involved in.
“It’s hard. I don’t think the parents care.”
He observed that some young people that go to football club do not even really want to be there – they do not seem to want to do anything.
6 – 7 minutes - He thinks that there is no deterrent to behaving badly. He thinks even prisons are no deterrent. Nicky sees that young people’s lives are not easy today. There are still problems with gangs, drugs and alcohol.
7- 8 minutes: Nicky remembers that when he was a youth worker, the parents seemed to be more connected and involved in what their children were doing. Nowadays he says they are not interested.
“I’ve rung up parents a number of times, saying – so and so’s done this and that: So, what. So, why don’t you stop him? – NAH.”
8 – 9 minutes: Nicky’s father was a plumber. He took up an apprenticeship in plumbing with his father from the age of 16 to 21 and then worked as a plumber. After that he worked for the council, which he enjoyed more because there was something different happening every day.
9 – 10 minutes: Nicky started to come to set up for the lunch club (TLC). His mother, Jill Brittan and his mother-in-law, Yvonne Stone were coming to the lunch club. Also, Nicky volunteers with the maintenance of the building, which, in a way, he has been involved in all his life.
9.5 – 11minutes: How does Community House build a caring community?
Many people coming to Tuesday Lunch Club are not from the immediate area but as far away as Caerleon. Running the Lunch club is expensive. Nicky would like to see local businesses sponsoring meals. He is hoping to start this and is prepared to talk to the businessmen himself. The butchers – Jim Oliver – they are really good and they sponsor his local football team, so he may start there.
12 minutes: Nicky was reminiscing about the old Church which was cold and damp and had a metal drain, a gulley going down the middle of the wood block floor between the pews. He remembers losing his sixpence collection down the drain on one occasion.
In the sixties, when the lorries were going up and down Corporation Road, carrying shale to Llanwern, they were also building George Street Bridge at the time, so it must have been about 1964. Corporation Road was busy as it is now.
13 minutes: He remembers Corporation Road, Chepstow Road, Cardiff Road were all busy.
13 – 16 minutes: He remembers the old layout – a kitchen behind the coffee bar. The doorway was in the coffee lounge and there was a table tennis room upstairs. They are lacking a reception area. Nicky thinks that the outside of the building should be fenced, from the pavement, so that people could not vandalise it. Where the awning is now there should be a porch. This would help to keep the building warm.
16 – 17 minutes: Nicky remembers the carnival. Brian started it. Newport Carnival was a big thing. A trailer of a lorry would be dropped off on a Thursday evening and they would spend all day Friday decorating it with stuff that they had been preparing in all the youth clubs for weeks. Nicky was responsible for this at one time, but Brian had started it. They had the help of people from the art college, art teachers etc. to help with the design and the building. “They built things mostly out of cardboard.”
18 – 19 minutes: Newport carnival has always gone on, he thinks for about a hundred years.
“We would meet up at the Docks. There would be about one hundred and fifty to two hundred floats. There would be a procession through town to and end up in Shaftsbury Park.”
There would be a funfair and judging of the floats with lots of different categories. It was a great day to get people together.
In a way this still goes on, in a smaller way, with Pill carnival and Maindee Festival, but they are smaller events.
20 - 23 minutes Nicky thinks it was better when there was just one youth club and everyone came to that, whereas now he perceives that there are different clubs for different people and that is not so good. There is not one for everybody. “It’s the way life’s gone.”
“with football, football’s just football. Doesn’t matter how good you are or where you’re from, or what colour you are. Football’s just football. To me, if they’re good enough to play, they’re good enough”.
Maindee is a deprived area. It seems to have a lot of social problems with single parents and with poverty, which wasn’t the same in the past when he ran youth club at Community House.
23 – 26 minutes: He perceives Community House as struggling financially. It is hard since the council has stopped funding.
“They have to rely more and more on volunteers – volunteering’s a good thing. I’m a volunteer, but you can’t expect volunteer to do everything”.
He finds that he can’t be as available as he used to, to help with the building maintenance, because he often has responsibility for grandchildren. His mother and his mother-in-law are in their eighties and in poor health. So he helps when he can but it has to fit in with everything else.

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