A Burton charity which has provided fun and friendship to members for the past 50 years has looked back on five decades of success - and thanked the town after closing its doors for good.

The Burton Venture Trust, formed in 1967 by Graham Marshment, has challenged youngsters to step out of their comfort zone and make the most of their youth.

Now, as Graham bids farewell to the charity, he has expressed his "deepest thanks" to the many organisations in the town who have supported the trust throughout the past five decades.

The father-of-three, 72, said: "The trust has been unique, enjoyable and great fun. It has been a part of the town and a part of my life for so long and we always had one message; it was about having fun and staying safe."

The Burton Venture Trust - 1967 - 2016
The Venture Trust is unique, independent Charity which provides training and activities for Burton's young people and has a long standing reputation for high safety standards.
Pictured is a past member trying her hand at caving

Graham, who lives in Dalebrook Estate, said there had never been a shortage of people wanting to join the trust.

He said: "We have always had a queue of youngsters wanting to join and I think one of the successes was that we allowed them to drive what we did.

"I have always said to the children that it is 50 per cent about the activity and the other 50 per cent is about being outside and having fun with their friends in the great outdoors.

"This was always very important to us and we wanted to promote the social side of things and nature, which I think is something that children are at risk of losing by sitting in front of computer screens. It is a very different generation now."

Graham, who is a parachute enthusiast, said the aim of the trust was to "make a change."

He said: "We would take the children parachuting, caving and camping and introduced them to an array of adrenaline-fuelled outdoor activities.

"We got out there and took the risk sometimes but they were managed risks, there was no namby-pamby stuff; we got stuck in.

The Burton Venture Trust - 1967 - 2016
The Venture Trust is unique, independent Charity which provides training and activities for Burton's young people and has a long standing reputation for high safety standards.
Members took part in an array of activities including swimming

"Crucially it was these exciting but new activities that allowed us to gain the confidence and trust of youngsters so that we can try and influence them in their lives and their lifestyle choices. We were never just an outdoor activity club, we always wanted to be a positive influence."

Graham said he had "always enjoyed sharing the rewards of taking part in exciting activities with others" and his enthusiasm and passion for exercises such as parachuting, spurred him on.

He said: "The more things you do the more you enjoy them. I have done 207 parachute jumps and I am currently working to get my flying wings. My passion for parachuting came across and others wanted to give it a go.

"We were very lucky that it was independent because that gave us the freedom to make our own decisions and in all of those 50 years no child has ever come to any harm or been injured in our care. We are all very proud of our safety record.

"The trust attracted some very competent and caring people to staff it and they paved the way for its success."

The Burton Venture Trust - 1967 - 2016
The Venture Trust is unique, independent Charity which provides training and activities for Burton's young people and has a long standing reputation for high safety standards.
Founder Graham Marshment is pictured with Prince Charles

Graham said the voluntary sector faced increasing difficulties. "I would like to have kept it going indefinitely but age was a concern and after 50 years I had reservations about leading outdoor activities.

"Finding someone to take over was nearly impossible because there are so many barriers in this day and age.

"Sadly I think society has now made it so difficult for voluntary work because people lead much busier lives, there is fear of litigation and the excesses of modern safeguarding have made adults almost fear working with children. On top of that there is the modern demand for paper qualifications. People are rightly fearful of taking frontline responsibility.

"What we always valued was proven competence and experience and we have had some very good, possibly the best years to carry out youth work.

"Part of the success was making contact with the people when they were young and keeping them in membership. At least half of our staff came through that route, starting with us at eight or nine-years-old and working their way up to become volunteers.

"However, I think the way our society acts would make it almost impossible to do it again in the current climate."

Graham, who is now a grandfather, said he had "absolutely no regrets" and would do it all again.

The Burton Venture Trust - 1967 - 2016
The Venture Trust is unique, independent Charity which provides training and activities for Burton's young people and has a long standing reputation for high safety standards.
Youngsters used to go on camping trips and excursions with volunteers

He said: "It is funny because I never set out to do this but life throws up coincidences. It began in 1967 as a church based youth group and my Christian faith has always tried to underpin what I have tried to do.

"We went through various names until 1977 when it formed as a charity and expanded so it could offer a lot more to more youngsters. I became a victim of my own propaganda in that I enjoyed the activities myself and I wanted to spread that joy.

"The greatest thing for me was the enthusiasm and youngsters zest for life. They are not cynical, they are there to be inspired and they do help to keep you young, as anyone with grandchildren will know too well!"

Graham believes that the trust could not have existed without the support of so many in the town.

He said: "We have had a good reputation and we have had wonderful support in the town particularly from Consolidated Charities and the Breweries Trust and the Staffordshire youth service.

The Burton Venture Trust - 1967 - 2016
The Venture Trust is unique, independent Charity which provides training and activities for Burton's young people and has a long standing reputation for high safety standards.
A girl is seen showcasing her talent for rock climbing
"We always had great contact with other local groups so where we didn’t have the expertise we could send them elsewhere. The Burton Diving Club is a great example of that.

"We really want to say a thank you to those who have helped us throughout the years and let them know that the money left over has gone to other groups while all our equipment has also been donated to local groups including scouts, guides and outdoor activity groups after the trust was formally dissolved.

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"We have got 28 staff and they have all been a massive part of it. Without them it just wouldn’t exist and all of those experiences and opportunities given to the community would have been lost.

"I wanted to acknowledge their commitment and the trust’s uniqueness in the hope it can inspire others.

"For me, the future for me is all about the three F’s; family, fun and flying. I just want to try and enjoy the remaining years."

The Venture Trust is unique, independent Charity which provides training and activities for Burton's young people and has a long standing reputation for high safety standards.
Actor Johnny Briggs, who starred in Coronation Street visited the trust

2011 was a "bumper year" for BVT

"One of the best ever" were the words used to describe an activity-filled year organised for Burton youngsters by an independent charity back in 2011.

Burton Venture Trust (BVT) activity leader Graham Marshment spoke to the Mail after the charity completed a wide range of tasks during a bumper year, which featured activities including orienteering, ice skating, caving, subaqua training, climbing and sailing.

In total, 9,004 hours of activity took place with more than 3,000 hours of volunteering hours provided by BVT staff.