The Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen, was among political, community and religious leaders who gathered in the Fountain Estate in Londonderry on Tuesday 14th December for the official opening of the newly refurbished and extended Cathedral Youth Club. 

The Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, said the modern, state-of-the-art premises was “a joy to behold”. It served the young people and the whole community in the Fountain Estate and beyond. 

“The Cathedral Youth Club was founded 49 years ago, in 1972,” Dean Stewart told guests, “by Jeanette Warke, her late husband David, and the Dean of Derry at that time, George Good. The club met initially in London Street and had a membership of 11 members. Today, there are 86 members of the Youth Club. The club moved to these premises in 1980. 
“Cathedral Youth Club was founded at the beginning of the Troubles to provide a place of learning, recreation and social gathering for the young people of this area and it has fulfilled its role admirably for almost five decades. 

“The youth club is managed by a wonderful lady, Jeanette Warke, whose vision, dedication and enthusiasm has encouraged so many young people and volunteers over the years. Jeanette is a lady who works passionately for the people of the Fountain Estate and of this city, and this centre is here largely because of her vision and drive.” 
Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the City of Londonderry, Dr Angela Garvey, said it was a special day for the whole Warke family and especially for Jeanette. “You work in sometimes difficult circumstances,” Dr Garvey told Mrs Warke, “but you’ve always managed to try and think outside the box – in fact not to be kept inside the box – and you’ve always wanted to share with your whole community, and I think that is one of the trademarks of the Cathedral Youth Club.” 

The presence of Mrs Warke’s son, Graham – in his official capacity as Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District – added poignancy to the occasion. “For me as Mayor” he said, “this is a special one. When I was born, I grew up with this youth club in the Fountain community and it’s always been in our hearts. I hear his name mentioned, there – my father, David – and he’ll be looking down on us and seeing what’s here for the young people of the Fountain, and he’ll be so proud.” 

Alderman Warke said his mother had expanded on the founders’ early vision. “You have a family – and it’s not the Warke family, it’s all the young ones around this community and further afield – who mean so much to you and you’re an absolute credit to this city.” The Mayor looked forward to many more families and generations coming through the centre. 
The Education Minister, whose department supported the premises’ expansion with £640,000 in funding, said she was pleased to be present to celebrate the official opening of the newly refurbished facility. “It’s vitally important,” Miss McIlveen said, “to continue to provide young people with a safe and friendly environment, in which to meet and develop their own individual skills, which in turn would allow them to enhance these skills within their local community and hopefully improve their own educational outlook.” The minister hoped that the refurbishment would allow Cathedral Youth Club to continue for another 50 years. 

Local MLA Gary Middleton said that being a local person, he saw at first hand the great work that went on in the Cathedral Youth Club. “Whether it be patchwork, or computer classes, or youth groups and cookery classes, all of it happens underneath the roof here at the youth club. So, this additional money that has been secured – that’s been worked hard for – by Jeanette and her team here at the youth club, that will ensure that for the next 50 years there’s a legacy in place for Cathedral Youth Club, going forward.” Mr Middleton said the Warke family should be very proud that they had sustained the club through their leadership and the support of the Fountain community. 

Mrs Warke thanked the many partners who had helped to make the new centre possible, including the club’s volunteers. “It’s alright giving me all this glory,” she said, “but it’s the volunteers who make this club.” She also paid tribute to the Fountain community who had put up with much disruption while the refurbishment work had been carried out, and thanked the church leaders for their support. 

After the speeches, the Mayor unveiled a plaque on the ground floor of the centre to mark the occasion.