The past 18 months have been like no other in our recent memories. People have felt scared, worried about the future and I think we’ve all felt that things have changed. Our young people have felt the brunt of this pandemic: extended lockdowns, missing crucial school time, the anxiety of cancelled exams and lost time spent with their friends at a really important time in their lives. This has been their reality for the past 18 months.


As soon as the pandemic hit, I was about halfway through my cancer treatment. You couldn’t see anybody. I was even told I couldn’t sit with my family. I had to use different cutlery to them, like completely isolate myself from the whole world, pretty much.


I wasn’t able to go outside and talk with my friends. I didn’t have a phone then, so I wasn’t able to call people that I cared about.


It was very boring, and it was kind of hard for me when we had to do Zoom and had no help with the teachers, while we have to go off and do our work by ourselves and how we couldn’t play out with our mates.


We had to do massive exams in such a short amount space amount of time and get them done so we could get our grades but then we got all this time off we didn’t know what to do with it because we’ve just been stressed for so long it’s just kind of like how do I relax now?


Like in school and then in mental health and friendships and everything, my whole life has just changed. School, I’ve had to start again from scratch. I’ve missed out on basically two years of education and now I’m meant to do GCSEs. I can’t even look forward to things because everything’s just so unstable.


We can’t change the past, but we can shape our future. Our Year will make up for the lost time in the pandemic and help young people in this city look to the future with a sense of hope and determination. 2022 will be a year brimming with opportunities and experiences for children and young people. Our vision is for Manchester to be a place where every child is given the chance to realise their potential, a place where young people are at the heart of every decision. There are already a number of great services and opportunities for young people that we can build upon.


So, we’re here at the water adventure park and some of us are learning how to kayak for the first time and some more experienced people are just getting to test the waters again.


I mean, as well as all of the serious issues that young people face today, I think we just need a bit of fun like after the two years now of complete disruption, we just need a break. We need a bit of fun. We need time to just really wind down as we go into this next year.


It’s important for children and young people to have access to a wide range of activities, events and cultural opportunities because it’s outside of their sort of school environment. They get to meet new friends, learn new skills and ultimately a lot of the work that we do is about having fun in an environment where they can forget about the troubles that they may be facing in life just for the moment.


I like skateboarding, bike riding, parkour, playing with like clay and all that type of stuff.


I feel like there’s not much accessible stuff for 11- to 16-year-olds so it’s like hoping that we can have more opportunities that we could access.


I’d like to see more activities open, maybe places like this where you can go cycling because a lot of people like going on bike rides.


Covid has made them very, very isolated so now that we’re kind of through the main phase of it and we’re now able to kind of go out, socialize with the friends, gain them interaction skills and social skills again and just get a good sense for their own mental well-being.


Making a better future for the children in our city means a better future for businesses in our city. My ask of you is to be part of this drive to put young people at the heart of the city’s future. Whether it’s sponsorship or in-kind support, we need you to help us make 2022 Our Year a reality and create a lasting legacy for the next generation of Mancunians. Thank you.