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Summer will race by as teenagers Go4it

A full programme of activities should keep thousands of Edinburgh pupils busy and out of trouble during the school holiday, writes Raymond Ross

A huge summer holiday project for young people in Edinburgh, from those who have completed S1 up to age 18, is being launched on July 19 and hopes to attract thousands of participants.

Go4it is exceptional in both its size and its variety of provision. It will offer a month of opportunities ranging from sports and arts to broadcast journalism, video production and fashion styling.

"The provision goes well beyond traditional outdoor education activities," says Martin Hutchison, community education worker and Go4it co-ordinator.

Sporting activities include football, athletics, squash, archery, skate boarding, gymnastics, swimming, kayaking, orienteering, climbing (outdoor and indoor), white-water rafting and blo-karting (where the go-karts are powered by sails).

City venues include Meadowbank Stadium, local community and sports centres and the National Museum of Scotland, while further afield participants could find themselves hillwalking in the Highlands, rafting down the River Tay, karting along the beach at St Andrew's, walking the Elie chain path round Kincraig Point in Fife, mountain biking in the Borders, rock climbing at Traprain Law in East Lothian or canoeing on St Mary's Loch.

"Last year was our first year and we filled 7,500 places. With a much bigger programme we're hoping to fill 8,000-9,000 places this year," says Mr Hutchison.

"It began as a way of targetting young people to provide low-cost access to quality summer provision and in some areas of the city police reported that youth crime went down during the period by as much as 40 per cent," he says.

But Go4it is not a reactive, crime prevention measure. It is a proactive and fully inclusive project which shows thousands of young people in a positive light, Mr Hutchison says.

"There's a lot of negative perception of young people. We're trying to redress that and show young people as they are. The majority are good citizens with a lot to offer.

"We are tapping into their energies while boosting their confidence through hundreds of activities," he says.

"There are, for example, opportunities for school leavers to obtain sports qualifications accredited by the Scottish Football Association and Basketball Scotland which involve two weeks of voluntary experience. So it's a chance to gain qualifications and enhance their cv."

Outwith the sports arena, budding broadcasters can become radio presenters for a week, reviewing the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and interviewing the stars. Run in conjunction with Forth FM, the broadcasts will go out not just in Scotland but around the world.

Those wishing to take part in the Fringe can tread the boards at the Netherbow Arts Centre in a production of Out of Europe - Children of the Holocaust, which last year won the Standard Life education award for outstanding achievement.

Others are being offered a chance to make a soap opera, newsreel, drama or documentary. This week-long video project will cover writing scripts, using equipment, acting and presenting and at the end each participant will have a short film to take home.

For anyone who fancies a career as a beautician, there is a chance to learn tricks of the trade from professional make-up artists and hair stying consultants. Participants will also get a free make-over.

Some teenagers will have an opportunity to step into the pop limelight and work with leading singing and dancing coaches. There is a three-day course for guitarists and drummers at Go4it's rock school and a DJ workshop. Those who already have their own group can compete in the Battle of the Bands. The winning band will play at the final Friday rock concert in Princes Street Gardens on August 16 supporting The Bluetones and will receive pound;1,000 of recording studio time courtesy of Fountain Park Leisure Centre.

"There is a real chance of a career in the music industry. The talent spotters will be there," says Mr Hutchison. "Last year we had Bruce Findlay, the former manager of Simple Minds, casting his eye over the young hopefuls."

IT@The Museum will give guidance on building a website, uploading it to a hosting service and the opportunity to edit the site. For all levels, from beginners to web wizards, the course at the Royal Museum will cover the creation of graphics using Paintshop Pro, using webcams, digital cameras and videos and MS Frontpage 2000.

At the opposite end of the technology spectrum is biscuit tin photography. "This course shows you how to create your own photographs using a biscuit tin - I kid you not - and how to process the negatives," says Mr Hutchison.

For young entrepreneurs, Catalyst (in conjunction with Edinburgh Young Scot) offers the chance to negotiate deals and discounts from private sector companies on behalf of Young Scot card holders. This is an opportunity to enhance skills in graphic design, telephone and e-mail surveying, text messaging and face-to-face negotiations.

In conjunction with Sounds of Progress, the music band for people with disablities run by Gordon Dougal, a sound, music and senses programme is on offer at the Royal Blind School's new campus at Canaan Lane. "Using dance and drama techniques, it provides a platform for young people with disabilities to explore the senses," says Mr Hutchison.

"We first ran this at Easter and it was a huge success. It's back by popular demand from participants and parents.

"We supply the transport as well."

Mr Hutchison's enthusiasm for the programme is obvious.

"The success can be measured by the young people themselves. They vote with their feet," he says. "During the Easter project we averaged 100 young people a day taking part and our retention rate was a staggering 98 per cent.

"If something's no good young people won't come back and they won't tell their pals about it. The interest and the uptake are growing all the time. I think that's a sign of the quality of our provision.

"We are also attracting young people who don't normally use youth clubs: 74 per cent of our Easter participants fell into this category, so we are reaching out.

"Our job is not to replace youth clubs, who do a brilliant job themselves. What we offer is complementary to their work.

"We simply like to think that we are enhancing provision for all the young people of this city."

In keeping with Go4it's social inclusion aims, costs for participants are cheap, ranging from pound;3 per half day to a maximum of pound;10 per week, including transport for any distant activities such as hillwalking.

Running alongside the Go4it programme will be a new venture, Play4it, offering 1,500 places on holiday courses for eight to 12-year-olds.

The budget for all of this is a surprisingly low pound;250,000. Go4it's slice is pound;150,000, a third of which comes from Edinburgh Young Scot, the rest from the city council.

"It's a big team effort," says Mr Hutchison, whose post, and that of administrator Aileen McGregor, are the only full-time ones. The Go4it team involves six organisers drawn from the city council staff, such as the arts unit and disability support unit, and will employ more than 40 specialist tutors.

"It's great to have capital investment from the council, rather than having to scrape around for project funding, and it's a bonus being able to work in partnership with statutory agencies and the private sector," says Mr Hutchison.

"It shows the commitment of the council to young people. Hopefully, the programme can develop from our summer, Easter and October week projects into a year-round event."

The Go4it launch will take place at Fountain Park Entertainment Centre on July 19 from 1pm to 5pm, with a Mardi Gras style carnival including live music, inflatables and free style make-overs. Copies of the Go4it programme have been sent to schools and are available at community and leisure centres, libraries and youth clubs.

Go4it, tel 0131 550 6824www.go4itedinburgh.comAnyone who has additional support needs and would like to take part in any of the activities should contact Jane Moncrieff, tel 0131 469 3105. Transport may be available

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