Our biggest battle with One Eighty was always venues. We started off with the perfect city centre venue, a massive hall that was already used for rollerskating. Unfortunately due to lots of different reasons, we were kicked out of this venue after just a few months. I struggled to find a venue that even came close to our first one, but eventually found a youth centre which had a small hall we could use. It didn’t even have enough space for all of our ramps, but at that time we were only attracting around ten young people a week and I thought this venue would be a temporary solution that would allow us to build up the project.
Then, the project exploded. After a few months at the youth centre, our numbers had tripled, the hall was getting dangerous and we needed somewhere bigger. I tried everything. Schools, universities, garages, car parks, warehouses, churches. No one wanted us in their space. We prayed, prayed some more, and did everything we could possibly think of to find a better venue. Nothing, for months, nothing.
Then we found out about a church, half a mile from the city centre, which had no regular congregation. It was a massive church, complete with storage space, kitchens, toilets, access and basically everything we wanted. The only thing it needed was a new floor. We suggested the idea to the church, and they seemed interested. Within weeks we had found an architect who said he would help us through the process, the approval of the church PCC and diocese as well as a floor company managed by a Christian who agreed to build us a new floor at cost price.
It moved so fast, it was ridiculous. It seemed to fit, it seemed to make sense. The doors were opening, the right people were coming forward to help. There seemed to be something so incredible about holding One Eighty in a church, about destroying young people’s stereotypes of what church is. It seemed right to reclaim the church for the mission of God, to breathe life back into a dead building… everything just slotted into place!
We would have to raise around £12,000, but in my mind that was only half a big black truck, we could do that. We were all ready to go, all we had to do was find the money and then we could finally get our dream venue.
Then, the phone rang.
It was the PCC. They had had a meeting. They had decided it was a bad idea. They were putting a stop to it. The answer was final, the answer was no. I was stunned, gutted, so disappointed. I thought this was it, everything had fitted so perfectly into place, why had this happened? I didn’t understand it.
I had to start all over again. All those meetings, all those plans, all that time I had spent on proposals and research…for nothing.
Within two weeks another option appeared, totally out of the blue. A school had asked us to come and do a skate event for them, at their sports hall. It was like the hall had been built for us. The access was perfect, the floor was amazing, the location was good. We asked the school. They said yes. They offered us weekly slots on a Friday night. We couldn’t believe it! Maybe all the hassle of the previous potential venue had been to lead us to this one.
They were slightly concerned about us marking the floor, and we were also not able to move our sessions to a Friday night. We decided to hold five monthly events there over the winter to test the format of the venue. This would reveal any potential problems to us, get the location known by the young people and reassure the school that we would not damage the floor.
We made a big deal out of the events, we called them ‘Fight the Elements’, we paid for flyers to be designed and printed, we organised a date to have a massive competition in partnership with the local skate shop. We were excited, the young people were excited, the buzz around the events spread, and when the day of the first event arrived, we were more than ready. The team were all in the office, about an hour before we were due to leave to pick up the trailer and head across town to the school.
Then, the phone rang.
It was the bursar of the school. I felt the room start to spin slightly, as I heard the words ‘too worried about the floor’, ‘the teacher you dealt with didn’t get my permission’, ‘cancelling all five events’, ‘no possibility of you using the hall for skateboarding ever again’.
I couldn’t believe it. I was fuming. For a few seconds I sat there thinking about it. The young people had been so excited about these events, they would be devastated. I had no way of telling them in time that it was cancelled. We needed that venue.
The event was not going to be cancelled.
I told my team to pray, and I phoned the school and asked to speak to the bursar. She wasn’t at her desk. I waited five minutes and tried again. She wasn’t at her desk. I waited five minutes and tried again. She wasn’t at her desk.
I felt like I was going to explode. I went into another room in our offices where people wouldn’t be able to hear me shout. I texted everyone I could think of and asked them to pray, I told them what the venue meant to me, what it meant to us, what it meant to those lads. And I shouted and screamed and stomped at God, because I was not going to lose another venue.
I went back upstairs and phoned the school, asking to speak to the bursar. She wasn’t at her desk. I waited five minutes and tried again. She wasn’t at her desk. I waited five minutes and tried again. This time they stopped answering the phone.
I had half an hour before I was supposed to leave with my colleagues and pick up the trailer. There was only one thing for it. I needed to go to the school.
By now, rush hour traffic had hit Bath, and the roads outside our city centre offices were gridlocked. To get to the school we would have to go right through the city centre. With a massive four by four truck, it would probably take us over 45 minutes to reach the school.
My colleague had a smaller car, parked on a back street near another longer route which would avoid the traffic. We rushed to it, and I made him drive like a total maniac. Sorry Luke. Also sorry to that lady walking her dog that we nearly killed.
We arrived at the school, swerving into the car park like the A team. I ran into the reception but no one was there. I went into the staff room but no one was there. Eventually I bumped into a teacher who was holding a glass of champagne. It was the end of the Ofsted inspection, of course she wasn’t at her desk. I explained the situation in a frenzied waffle, and the teacher said she would take me to her. She was new, and forgot how to get to the room everyone was in. The clock was ticking. I had fifteen minutes to find this bursar, persuade her to let us hold the event, get back to the office, pick up the truck and my staff, pick up the trailer, then get back to the school and set up the skate ramps.
We reached a set of double doors, to which the teacher said ‘ooh there she is’, she tried the door but it was locked. I could see the bursar pick up her handbag and put down a glass was holding…she was about to leave and I couldn’t get to her because the door was locked. This was my last chance to save the event and possibly the venue. I decided I couldn’t take any more of this, and under my breath I commanded the doors to open in Jesus’ name! I’m not sure who was more surprised when the doors opened.
As I walked towards the bursar, I tried to calm down, take some deep breaths, remind myself that she would probably get a restraining order against me unless I handled this properly. I needed to be passionate, but not psychotic. Sometimes this can be a fine line with me.
Hello Bursar, I’m blah blah from blah blah, how’s Ofsted gone, blah blah oh great that’s nice blah blah blah. My turn. In 60 seconds I told her everything. I told her about the project, the events, the flyers, the boys. With tears in my eyes I told her things I didn’t even know I felt, I had no idea what was coming out of my mouth but I just went with it. I told her she couldn’t cancel my event. I begged her to let us go ahead.
I thanked her and bolted for the car, telling Luke to step on it! As soon as we got near the centre of town again the traffic hit gridlock, and I got out of the car and ran.
I jumped into the truck, drove like a total psychopath, went through two red lights, picked up the trailer and made it on time.
The event went ahead, despite many more battles that night, including the hall being double booked.
It was brilliant, the young people loved it.
We stopped half way through for our ‘Think Slot’ and I told them the story of what had happened that day.
I told them that we would never give up.
I told them that we will always fight for the things that are important to them.
I told them that God would never give up.
I told them that God will always fight for the things that are important to them.
I told them they needed to write lots of letters to the school.
Despite a successful event, the school wouldn’t budge, and we lost the venue.
And that’s it. We fought, we battled, and we lost.
One Eighty never moved out of the youth centre.
Some locked doors open, and some don’t.