There has been a boxing theme to many of my activities over the past few weeks. Boxing was a big part of my teenage years and taught me discipline, self-control and how to overcome set-backs. I’m a firm believer that sport and physical activity improves people’s lives.
At the end of last year we were pleased to offer Skemer’s Amateur Boxing Gym a Community Asset Transfer lease to manage Jubilee Hall in Knowle as a community boxing club. Skemer’s have a strong reputation in supporting young people from the local community through boxing, providing structure and discipline, which helps to build their confidence and employability. Their ‘Bully Busters’ project seeks to help and encourage young people who experience harassment on social media and in the street. As part of the lease, they have been asked to make the building available for other community-based activities. Skemer’s will bring Jubilee Hall back into full use and make it the hub of the local community again.
It was great to bring international amateur boxing to City Hall last month when we played host to boys’ and girls’ school, junior, youth and elite level fighters in a England v. Ireland bout. This is the first event of its kind to take place in City Hall as I am committed to it being a space open to all. It was a great example of the type of event City Hall can host. As the city’s most pro-sports administration bringing international sport to the city is evidence of the growing reputation we’re earning.
Last weekend I dropped into Broad Plain Amateur Boxing Club to support Bristol boxing legend Dennis Stinchcombe’s Boxing for Parkinson’s campaign. Under Dennis’s leadership, the club has already received national recognition for the positive impact it is having on young people from deprived areas of Bristol who might otherwise lack direction and focus. Now working with those with dementia speaks to the importance of sport for all for all physical, mental and social health.
Of course I can’t write a blog about boxing and not mention the visit last Friday of HRH the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to the Bristol Boxing Gym to see the work of Empire Fighting Chance. As a long-time supporter of and ambassador for the charity I was especially proud to witness the time Harry and Meghan spent talking to the young people who benefit from the time and dedication shown by the staff.
The Empire Amateur Boxing club has existed in inner-city Bristol for more than 50 years, working with thousands of young people and producing national champions and international representatives. Through former Empire boxer and now Empire Fighting Chance Ambassador, Chris Sanigar, we have produced British, Commonwealth, European and World Champions. Working with youngsters for whom poverty, poor housing and parental unemployment is the norm, the combination of education, mentoring and physical activity effects a powerful change.
I asked Martin Bisp, Chief Executive why he thought the royals had included the gym on their visit to Bristol: “I think that we are getting the attention due to a combination of our credibility, longevity and innovative delivery. This includes things such as embedding psychology throughout delivery and ensuring that we meet an ever changing need.
“In many ways I think we have the Bristol attitude. Things weren’t right, we weren’t convinced by the system so decided to do something about it. Not sure you get much more Bristol than that”.
I couldn’t agree more and was particularly impressed by how genuine the couple were in their interest in the work that Empire does.
Within a few years I hope to see a venue in Bristol that will be large enough to host big name boxing.