Become a “friend” of OPEN Youth Trust. Campaign to help Norfolk’s most vulnerable young people


City Centre charity, OPEN Youth Trust (OPEN), is launching a new fundraising initiative to help change the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people in Norfolk.

The campaign is aimed at the local business community, to make them aware that every penny of profit from the venue in Bank Plain is used to help disadvantaged young people aged 11-17. Despite positive developments over recent years, the charity still suffers from a problem of perception.  This initiative is being led by one of OPEN’s Trustees Karl Sandall, Group Chief Executive of The TaxAssist Direct Group, the international franchise group based in Norwich. (Known as TaxAssist Accountants)

The Regional HQ of Barclays Bank on Bank Plain was sold in 2003 to The Lind Trust and, after its refurbishment, the building was leased at a peppercorn rent to OPEN and now the vision of it becoming a hub for youth services in Norfolk is coming to fruition.

Mr Sandall said of the initiative: “The work of OPEN is nowhere near appreciated by us all living in Norwich and the county and I was tremendously impressed when I discovered the reality. With funding increasingly hard to come by, the team at OPEN is working hard towards self-sustainability for its youth work by growing commercial income through full venue occupancy and increasing capacity. This will take time to achieve and I am hoping that local companies and philanthropists will help to fund the gap.”

OPEN’s new corporate social responsibility brochure, which has been produced specially for the campaign, outlines how every penny of profit from the venue benefits young people in Norfolk . . . it’s a compelling proposition, especially if businesses are looking to enhance their CSR activity, either by donating a regular sum or hiring the venue’s excellent technical and catering facilities to help communicate with various stakeholders. 

The recent removal of the Bridge has restored the Banking Hall to its former glory, creating the largest and most flexible multi-purpose space in Norwich, increasing its capacities for seated events and making it the largest dining hall in the city centre, which will help OPEN achieve its long term goal of self-sustainability.

17 year-old Olivia, is one of the young people who have benefitted: “Before I came to OPEN I was very shy and faced bullying at school because of my weight. I regularly participate in dance, drama and musical theatre classes and help as a young volunteer, often running warm ups for dance classes. Without OPEN, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and honestly don’t think I would be alive if it wasn’t for the support and understanding I’ve received from members of the youth team.”

As well as performing arts, young people can find new directions in the gym with classes in boxing and mixed martial arts, but the creative writing group has also generated a lot of interest with the first group publishing a book of poems and short stories. 

Youth worker Johnny Raspin said: “Working with young people who have never written before has been inspiring and I challenge anyone reading the group’s first anthology not to be moved by recurring themes such as bereavement, disengagement, love, loneliness and suicidal thoughts. We would love to publish a second edition, but of course this requires funding, so Karl’s campaign is coming just at the right time for us.”

Mr Sandall added: “Without OPEN I don’t know where young people like Olivia or the creative writing group would go or what might happen to them. It’s thanks to the opportunities that OPEN offers young people of today, which helps them on the right road to success for tomorrow.   I would love any business to support the charity with a meaningful sum for a minimum of two or three years until the venue can maximise its commercial income to support the charity entirely. 

In return for becoming a Friend, I will work hard with the senior management team and fellow Trustees to ensure funds are used wisely, promoting your business or individual widely throughout the building, during events, in social media and on OPEN’s website. However, to fully appreciate our work and how the building has changed over the years, I recommend a tour, which may well spark further ideas of how companies can help either through sponsorship or taking advantage of the facilities for their own communication needs.

If anyone would like to take up this offer, John Gordon-Saker, CEO of OPEN and I would love to show you around.”

A regular monthly donation of £100 would cover 20 gym memberships for young people; £200 a month would pay for 80 bursary places on OPEN’s school holiday programme; £250 each month could fund a 12-month apprenticeship.

To discuss how you could help or to arrange a tour, contact Karl Sandall, Group Chief Executive, TaxAssist Direct Group, or John Gordon-Saker, CEO, OPEN,

PHOTO CAPTION: Olivia Muir centre with Elite Dance Team at OPEN – Credit OPEN Youth Trust


  •  Over 10,000 young people a year attend youth-related events, shows and conferences in the old Banking Hall, but OPEN is also a multi-purpose venue for conferencing, live music, meeting room hire, hospitality and secure storage.  
  •  All profits from the venue are donated to its youth charity, which over the past eleven years has made a massive positive difference to the lives of young people in Norfolk. 
  •  4,500 young people a year engage with youth workers in its drop-in social hub, which has a gym, café, climbing wall and dance studio. 
  •  1,500 of the most disadvantaged are given the life skills and confidence to make their own way in life and into work by attending workshops and activities.
  •  Schools send their most troubled pupils who may be struggling with secondary transition or in the last stages of intervention for re-engagement by OPEN’s experienced youth team.
  •  The youth team now works with 12 youth clubs in areas of rural isolation around the county, whose funding has been withdrawn.
  •  The charity delivers to young people most in need of on-going support as they may be suffering from poor mental health or low self-esteem, because of bullying, abuse or disengagement from their families and friends.
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