About MYA

Innovative, practical and positive support for young people

How we got here

Merseyside Youth Association has a long and extraordinary history, dating all the way back to 1890. Grounded in the incredible social history of Liverpool, our affiliated clubs and their predecessors have been helping young people cope with all kinds of challenges.

Merseyside has experienced tumultuous change, from wars to pandemics. As its young people have adapted, so have we – taking on different forms and anticipating the currents influencing their lives. We’re proud of the history we’ve made, and the future our staff and volunteers are helping to create. Through a growing range of innovative projects, we’re supporting the generation who will go on to shape our city and region.

The story so far

We’ve been doing what we do since before the Liver building was built, and before any national youth work organisations were founded. Here are the biggest milestones from our journey.
  • 1890
    Liverpool Union of Girls’ Clubs forms.
  • 1892
    First recorded girls club competition and exhibition.
  • 1899
    The Florence Institute for Boys opens.
  • 1903
    Heswall Camp opens.
  • 1911
    Liverpool Union of Boys’ Clubs forms
  • 1925
    Liverpool Union of Boys’ Clubs becomes Liverpool Boys’ Association
  • 1927
    Liverpool Boys’ Association first lease playing fields in Liverpool
  • 1933
    Norris Green Club first opened on new housing estate
  • 1934
    Liverpool Boys’ Association buys Heswall Camp
  • 1936
    During his brief reign, Edward VIII attends the Jubilee celebrations of Liverpool Boys’ Association
  • 1943
    Mixed clubs first affiliated to the Liverpool Union of Girls’ Clubs
  • 1948
    Liverpool Union of Girls’ Clubs opens Barnston Dale Camp
  • 1960
    The Albemarle Report results in extra funding for youth work and several new clubs are built throughout the city in the following decade
  • 1962
    Liverpool Union of Girls’ Clubs and Mixed Clubs becomes Liverpool Union of Youth Clubs
  • 1963
    The experimental Bronte Youth Club opens
  • 1967
    The first experiments in Detached Youth Work begin in Liverpool
  • 1969
    Liverpool Boys’ Association and Liverpool Union of Youth Clubs merge to become Merseyside Youth Association
  • 1981
    Michael Heseltine visits Merseyside in the wake of the disturbances
  • 1989
    Merseyside Youth Association coordinates a youth work response to the Hillsborough Disaster from the Vernon Sangster Sports Centre
  • 1990
    Merseyside Youth Association celebrates its centenary and launches the Starting Point Appeal, to raise funds for a city centre one stop shop for young people
  • 2000
    Merseyside Youth Association moves to new premises in Hanover Street and the opening of ‘The Door’ as an inner city access centre
  • 2011
    Major cuts to funding lead to the closure of fieldwork and detached youth work
  • 2013
    Talent Match project is launched, working with long-term NEET young people
  • 2020
    MYA goes digital in response to the Covid-19 pandemic
  • 2022
    MYA is awarded the Integrated Youth Service contract on Knowsley including detached youth work and an outdoor education centre
Our Leadership Team
  • Gill Bainbridge


    Our inspirational CEO Gill has been with MYA since 2004 and is a beacon of resilience and passion for the work we do.

    As the latest custodian of our extraordinary heritage she provides the leadership and commitment needed to inspire our team and guide our culture of care and support into the future.

  • Kerry Gardzielewska

    Youth Arts Development Manager

    Highly dedicated and ambitious for her staff and young people, Kerry brings positivity and resilience to the whole team. Known for her strong motivational skills, she is highly approachable and supportive, with a dynamic and effective attitude to youth work that is very much her own.

  • Dale Blackburn

    Head of Knowsley Services

    Professional and conscientious, Dale’s work is underpinned by a passion for inclusivity and equality of opportunity. He cares deeply about the young people he works with and the staff and volunteers in his team, and takes great pride in seeing them both progress.

  • Kim Kearns

    Head of Support Services

    Kim is a highly driven, passionate and supportive team member, who brings deep knowledge and experience to her role. A fierce champion of staff development, she has become a committed operational leader for the organisation.

  • Damian Hart

    Principal Development Manager

    Damian is a huge and experienced advocate for making mental health everyone’s business. He has a calm presence and is a great listener, who loves exploring challenges and finding positive, creative ways to overcome them, whilst staying ahead of the curve!

  • Colette Taylor

    Talent Match Head of Service

    Colette is a passionate team-member with a ‘can do’ attitude. Empathetic and creative she always tries to see the bigger picture and focus on solutions that benefit everyone.

  • Diane Pattison

    HR Officer

    Diane is our HR manager, and a highly passionate and loyal team member. An excellent listener, she brings an articulate and caring communication style to everything she does.