Why we all loved being blasted off into SPACE

June 20, 1983, was blast off for a new initiative aimed at preventing crime by providing activities for young people during the summer holidays.
The Staffordshire Police Activity and Community Enterprise or SPACE scheme was launched in Stafford on the same day that the Space Shuttle ‘Enterprise’ flew over the town, piggy-backing on a jumbo jet.
It proved to be a good omen because the programme went on to run for 17 years and kept generations of children like yours truly out of mischief during July and August.
Aimed at 10 to 16-year-olds, the SPACE scheme was at the peak of its powers in the late Eighties and it became the Rolls-Royce model for similar programmes across the world.
In 1988, for example, more than 25,000 children participated in 33 different projects under its umbrella.
That year it cost £320,000 to operate the scheme – and that didn’t include the salaries of the many police officers involved.
Each youngster paid a £1 registration fee (if their family could afford it) which earned them to a SPACE identity card entitling him or her to cheap bus travel across the county.
As well as serving police officers, literally thousands of members of the public volunteered to help co-ordinate what was a huge logistical exercise.
The highlight of the SPACE scheme was carnival day when around 20,000 children and carers visited the Stafford County Showground.
As well as the usual police dogs, Army vehicles and funfair rides, in 1989 carnival attractions included The Falcons parachute display team, the Royal Signals motorcycle display team and even the Red Arrows.
Activity courses were also staged at the Police’s Cadet Camp at Consall, near Leek, for children who were unlikely to be going away on holiday.
SPACE scheme Day trips included Alton Towers, Granada TV Studios, Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum, Drayton Manor Park and Zoo and – my personal favourite – Rhyl Sun Centre.
Football teams representing the SPACE scheme also took part in the force’s annual five-a-side football competition.
But many people remember the SPACE scheme because your I.D. card also got you free entry into the cinema to watch movies which were a couple of years old.
I have a vivid memory of being in the rowdy audience of mainly boys to watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the former Odeon Cinema in Piccadilly (now The Regent Theatre).
In those glorious pre-Health & Safety days, the SPACE scheme also allowed us to try our hands at activities such as trampolining, canoeing, archery and shooting or clamber all over an RAF Sea King helicopter. (The engine was off at the time).
The SPACE scheme ended in 1999 due to funding and staffing cuts within the force.
It may be gone, but it’s certainly not forgotten as there is even a Facebook page calling for it to be reinstated.
Sadly, unlike the Wispa chocolate bar and Monster Munch, I think the SPACE scheme won’t be landing in the Potteries again anytime soon. More’s the pity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s