About Us

Ad Astra is a Community Interest Company formed in 2013. Our aim is to provide quality provision locally. Our mission is to raise aspirations and broaden the outlook of young people in the Barnsley area by providing a wide range of activities and support to young people through a wide range of activities and events including:

·      youth clubs/ detached youth work

.      young people’s mental health support

.      peer support training

·      after school sessions

·      educational visits

·      community support sessions

·      volunteer opportunities

.      LGBTQ support for young people

.      Sanitary product distribution

.      Community food parcels

.      School holiday activities

This has all been made possible by funding sourced both locally and nationally by our  dedicated team who have many years’ experience in youth and community work, delivering many projects around the Yorkshire area.

Our Programmes

Pre School

Ad Astra run 2 pre school sessions per week. Tinky Tot Play and Tinky Tot Dance, both of these session are designed to encourage children to engage and become more social with others. The play session includes free play, role play, crafts and singing.The dance and movement session encourages children to become more active through music and movement. Parents and carers also get the opportunity to talk and support each other throughout the session.

Children & Young people

Ad Astra offer regular sessions throughout the week. After school clubs, a junior youth club/senior youth club and a teenage dance group. We deliver school holiday activities 10 weeks per year. Look out for our holiday programme advertised on social media.


The MAD Project (Mind & Dance)

This project runs 2 session each week. One based in Barnsley town centre and the other in the North area of Barnsley. The project is aimed at bringing young people together through dance and music. The sessions are staffed with mental health first aiders and a dance instructor who are on hand to support the young people.


Schools Work

Schools work is a big part of our programme. Each week we deliver our listening support programme in 3 of Barnsley’s Academy’s, along with the Lunchtime Period project. All of our staff are trained in mental health first aid that gives them a deep understanding of issues that impact young peoples mental health. The school sessions are put in place to provide support and guidance to any young people within school. We support the schools in National children’s mental health week and safeguarding week, raising awareness and giving support. This work is funded by North East and Penistone area council.
In primary schools we deliver peer support and buddy training to year 5’s and school transition workshops for year 6’s who. We currently deliver these sessions in 3 primary schools funded by the North Area Council.



Ad Astra manages the New Lodge Community Centre in the north of Barnsley.Our community programme consists of pre school activities, women’s/men’s support groups, community support cafes, holiday activities ,food and hygiene parcel distribution and community bingo events.

We have an open door policy and encourage the community to use the centre for whatever their needs are. We are a safe space if anyone needs to talk or need support.
We love to hear from the community as to what sessions they would to see at the centre. We are also keen to hear from anyone that wants to become a volunteer. Full training will be given.

Aims and Objectives

Rachael Sharpe

Rachael Sharpe

As one of the Co-founders of Ad Astra Barnsley Rachael originally worked as a dance teacher and health and fitness specialist. However, for the past twenty years she has used her many talents working with children, young people and vulnerable adults in Barnsley and beyond.
Her enthusiastic and stylish approach transmits to the young people though it is sometimes frowned on by the grown ups (Michelle).  She is loyal and supportive when young people need it. Her main passion is supporting young peoples mental health. Rachael is the driving force behind the Lunchtime Period project and aims to provide young people with constant support.

Rachael is one of our mental health youth workers and support many young people each week in 3 secondary schools. She is the founder of the MAD (mind and dance) project. This project is aimed at raising awareness of healthy mental health.

Her interests cover the full range of the arts and some of her wackier ideas magically transform into pure artistic gold (really?). Choreographer, song and dance director, , that’s why Rachael is Ad Astra’s Creative Director.

Michelle Cooper

Michelle Cooper

Michelle has for the last thirty years worked with and for young people and vulnerable adults in Barnsley and still claims to be the right side of 40. She has worked for Barnsley Youth Services, the NSPCC, Barnsley YMCA and other community based agencies and as co founder of Ad Astra  . Appearances can be deceptive and Michelles gentle exterior hide a steely determination to do the best for the young people of Barnsley. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the people and services available for young people in the borough give her the ability to be a powerful advocate for them. Her generosity is legendary and frequently needs reining in by her fellow directors. As a forceful orator she is an ideal front person and lead for many of Ad Astra’s projects.

Her drive has given Ad Astra the opportunity to provide food parcels to families on the estate. Michelle also runs 2 after school sessions that  provide children and young people with a hot meal. Food poverty is something Michelle is keen to support, making sure individuals and households are provided with adequate and nutritious meals.

Mark Smales

Mark Smales

Mark spent 30 years in construction management before deciding it was time to get a proper job working with children and young people.  He has spent the last 7 years working for NSPCC, Barnsley YMCA and now Ad Astra Barnsley. Mark is a keen sportsman, makes things out of pallets and is knowledgeable about the arts and the environment. However any art he does looks a mess. His spare time is spent running in rivers and rolling about on muddy rugby fields as a life member of Wath upon Dearne RUFC.

A mathematician, wordsmith and a sports coach he is co-founder and Finance director of Ad Astra where his legendary stinginess is an asset.

Hey everyone! Meet George, the newest member of the Ad Astra team!

George’s passion for the outdoors, along with his professional background in teaching, has led him far and wide so far in his life.

After qualifying from the university of Hull, he spent 2 years as a teacher here in Barnsley before moving on and becoming the Adventure coordinator for children attending summer camps in the USA. From hiking and camping, to rock-climbing and whitewater kayaking, George has provided children with unique and unforgettable experiences and raised the aspirations of so many.

George: ‘We can be our true selves when we surround ourselves with the outdoors; where we forget our troubles and responsibilities’


As well as sports, George also enjoys painting and playing the guitar!


Welcome to Ad Astra George

Dawn Selwood

Dawn Selwood