A TALENTED teenage street dancer took part in a top international competition, thanks to a cash boost from a youth enterprise project based at Stretford Mall.

Aaliyah Harriett, 17, from Stretford, was one of the first to benefit from the Young Dragons Youth Bank, a new scheme for young people living in Stretford, Gorse Hill, Lostock and Old Trafford which has a total pot of £30,000 up for grabs.

Based on the hit BBC2 show Dragons’ Den in which people have to pitch their bids for cash assistance, the scheme aims to fund innovative, imaginative and inspiring ideas for youth-led activities involving the arts, music, sports, charity and community work. Young Dragons is based in Stretford Hive, a community hub in the Gallery, opposite Tesco, in Stretford Mall, which has literally become a ‘hive of activity’ for communities and individuals to learn, relax, socialise and go to for information and advice.

The scheme is open to young people aged 11 to 17, with grants of up to £150 available to individual applicants and £250 for small to medium groups and potentially more for larger groups.

Once all the money has been spent project leaders have to return to the dragos’ lair at the Hive and, through video, photography, contemporary dance or whatever other creative means they choose, show how the money has helped them.

Aaliyah was one of the first to successfully apply for financial help from Young Dragons which is a Gorse Hill Studios project, funded by Trafford Council through the LAA Reward Grant from the Government.

The £150 grant she received paid most of the cost of her recent three-day trip to Germany where the group she was with took fourth place in their section of the 2014 UDO European Street Dance Championships staged at Kalkar Wunderland amusement park just north of Düsseldorf.

Aaliyah, a former pupil of Flixton Girls’ Grammar School who is now in her first year at Loreto College, Manchester, studying business, maths, psychology and dance, said: “I’ve been into street dance now for about four years and a member of a dance group from the Manchester area called Blanc. “Our style is hip hop and is mixture of house, locking and waacking. We dance, usually for free, at all kinds of concerts and events and do a lot of gigs at places like Stretford Sports Village or the Gorse Hill Studio in Stretford.

“I also teach street dance every Tuesday evening, which I enjoy very much. “My group Blanc, which has five girls and one boy, qualified for the European championships in Manchester earlier this year but we all needed quite a bit of money to pay our way to Germany for the finals in early May. “I raised some money from doing things like a sponsored silence and bag packing in a supermarket but applied to Young Dragons for the rest, which was £150.

“I heard about Young Dragons from the people at Gorse Hill and decided to give it a try.”

Aaliyah added: “I arranged to go along to the Hive at Stretford Mall one Thursday evening and I did my pitch to three of the dragons who were all young people from the Trafford area.

“I spoke for about 15 minutes and then about a week later I was delighted to hear that I had been given a grant for £150, which took care of the cost of the trip to Germany.

“I’m pleased to say my group came fourth in the under-18s advanced category, which wasn’t bad considering we were up against the best dancers from right across Europe. We won a trophy and individual medals. “I’m really glad I applied to Young Dragons and I’d encourage other young people to do the same. It wasn’t difficult at all.”

Colin McCrory, Stretford Mall Manager, said: “We are pleased to have Stretford Hive in the shopping centre because there are so many worthwhile projects and schemes for people from our community to get involved in. “This terrific pot of money is clearly creating wonderful opportunities for young people like Aaliyah and I would urge other youngsters to have a good think about how some of that money might benefit not just themselves but others around them too.

”When her exams are out of the way Aaliyah says she plans to go on with her street dancing with the aim of one day becoming a professional dancer like the woman who inspires her most, the American star Saidah Nairobi. Louise Russell, a youth work co-ordinator based at Gorse Hill Studio who is in charge of Young Dragons, said she was delighted the scheme had been able to help someone like Aaliyah to further her artistic development.

“When she pitched her idea to them the Dragons were very impressed with her and decided to award her a grant of £150,” she said.

“Her experience of taking part in the championships in Germany was invaluable and I know she will be passing on what she learned there to the other young people she teaches street dance to at her weekly sessions at Gorse Hill as a peer educator.

“Our dragons are not scary in any way and are just a group of regular young people from the Trafford area who are all interested in helping people from the same age group to finance ideas which in some way benefit their own development or the wider community. “With Aaliyah’s experience in mind I’d encourage as many people as possible to put in an application.”

Trafford councillor Dolores O’Sullivan, who has been closely involved with the Young Dragons scheme, said: “It’s an exciting youth enterprise for young people in the area. “The grants go to fund innovative, imaginative and inspiring ideas for youth-led activities in the arts, music, sport, charity and community work.”

Anyone up for the challenge of facing the Young Dragons can find out more by calling Louise at Gorse Hill Studios on 0161 912 5251 or popping down to the Dragon’s lair within the Hive community space, upstairs at Stretford Mall opposite Boots, any Thursday evening between 5pm and 7pm.

More details and an application form are available at http://www.gorsehillstudios.com/young-dragons-youth-enterprise-funding-for-young-people/