TWENTY years ago, a two-year-old from Kirkby was abducted and murdered by two 10-year-olds, leading to a national outcry and mourning for the little boy.
Sadly, the name of Jamie Bulger is now indelibly linked in the minds of the British public with the killing, which saw Robert Thompson and Jon Venables found guilty and jailed as the youngest convicted murderers in recent UK history.
James’s mother Denise Fergus is determined that the memory of “a fun-loving, innocent little boy” should not be obscured by the tragedy and “horror” that ended his short life.
Along with her husband Stuart, she set up The James Bulger Memorial Trust, and is now looking to the Wrexham Warehouse Project as inspiration.
Denise visited the site – an actual warehouse – on Friday, a guest at an exhibition of artwork produced by the youngsters who learn within its walls.
Set up three years ago by UniversalAssist, the project is the brainchild of managing director George Powell, a handful of loyal staff, and a group of Wrexham youths, some of whom have spent time in care.
George, 51, said: “We bought the warehouse about 10 years ago. It used to be a World War Two munitions storage building and then it was used as storage.
“Two years ago we sat down with a group of young people and said ‘you can have the building’. At that point it was derelict, so basically they saved it.
“The project is private. It’s funded by Universal Builders, and we started teaching the kids trades, building walls, learning painting and decorating. It went from there.”
In a short time, the Wrexham Warehouse Project has expanded to include IT systems, a kitchen, a leisure area with a pool table and even a stage for music performances.
George said: “The room where we held the exhibition is going to become a gym.
Basically, the whole project is built by young people for young people and run by young people. And it keeps growing.”
George, a long-time foster carer, works with UniversalAssist, a company set up to provide support for youngsters who had left the fostering system.
Through tutoring and offering use of their facilities, the centre allows youngsters who have come out of care to master the life skills some will take for granted, like shopping, managing a budget, securing housing benefit, cooking for themselves and more.
He said: “As a society we’re always struggling to keep some young people off the streets and out of trouble. But we’ve had some real successes.
“We’ve been into magistrates courts, offering courses to keep youngsters out of jail. We’re giving people opportunities to turn their lives around. It’s about giving them the chance.”
One of the trustees for the James Bulger Memorial Trust got in touch with George, who invited Denise and Stuart Fergus along to see what's going on at the Warehouse Project.
Denise said: “At the moment our charity helps send children on free holidays.
“We loved what we saw at the Warehouse Project. We’ll obviously keep on doing what we’re already doing. But we want to extend what the Memorial Trust does so we can help other children out there – those who aren’t necessarily getting the help they require.
“We’re at a time where cuts are threatening community projects.
“Some are faced with closing down. So something like the Warehouse Project that provides people with a direction and gives them a trade in life is very important.
“We’ll hopefully be speaking to Liverpool City Council and Knowsley Council to do something here.”
Although the James Bulger Memorial Trust has already given deserving children holidays, Denise wants to leave a long-lasting legacy in her son’s memory.
She said: “Off the top of my head, the Memorial Trust has been going since 2011 and has helped 25-30 families.
“It’s a young charity and we’re still trying to get the word out there.
“When people hear the name ‘James Bulger’ they remember the news stories and the terrible thing that happened. We want to make his memory something positive.
"We don't want to stay in those dark times. We want to look to the future. We want to put smiles on children’s faces in James’s name."
In doing so, she hopes that something “positive" can come from their experiences.
l To find out more about The James Bulger Memorial Trust, vist: forjames.org.
For details on UniversalAssist and the Wrexham Warehouse Project, visit universalassist.co .uk.