Burgess Park BMX Track
When Peckham BMX Club started in 2004, the riders trained on a track only a quarter of the size of the track they raced on in competitive BMX events. But thanks to the hard work of coach, and DJ, CK Flash, it didn’t stop them reaching the top. Several of the youngsters from the area have been put into the Olympic Development squad with star riders Tre Whyte and Quillan Isidore making waves on the world championship and Olympic fronts. The club has become a vibrant training ground at the forefront of the sport in the UK.
As of 2014, the club now operates at a vastly improved facility in Burgess Park, Southwark, which The London Marathon Charitable Trust provided a £75,000 grant towards in 2010. The full-sized track is now 350 metres long with three three-metre high berms and an extremely challenging 70 metre pro straight. It has proved such a success in transforming the lives of youngsters in the area that it has been featured in a 3D movie, called 1WayUp, which was released on MTV in the UK last year, as well as in the USA and Canada.
Flash, who grew up around Brixton and Peckham, takes up the story: “I used to race BMX myself when I was younger, and I decided to give something back to the kids and the community. Some of them could have gone in the opposite direction and fallen into bad company but I’ve kept them on the straight and narrow. Now I have some of the fastest BMX riders in the country, if not the world.”
It was Flash who put the hard work in to make the Burgess Park track happen. He explains: “I was campaigning after we won all the BMX titles in England, from that little track. We only got the new one last year, so for the past nine years we continued to train on our little track and make champions. People couldn’t believe it or understand how I was doing it, but I just gave the kids the best diet, taught them how to sleep, how to train and found a weightlifting coach.
“We had won all these titles and awards but we were still training on this little track, despite having youngsters going into the Olympic development squad for British Cycling. Campaigning brought a lot of heartache because some people don’t understand BMX. They didn’t realise how positive it would be for this area. So I kept looking for funding and slowly but surely it came through. Eventually they gave me this location in Burgess Park. A policeman said in 25 years he hadn’t seen anything like it – a BMX track that engages the kids in the way it does. It’s good for the community, I’m happy it’s there and that I’ve left a legacy.”
All of the money donated by The London Marathon Charitable Trust went towards the track, which cost a total of £1.2 million. The contribution was vital. As Flash explains: “It helped towards the final product which you can see there now. The London Marathon has done a great job of supporting me and my vision, which has come true. I’m really happy with The Trust’s grant.
“At the moment the track is running really well, the club is thriving and there are loads of kids coming to ride. We are looking to upgrade our clubhouse so we can deliver classroom lessons to youngsters, not just on cycling and BMX but in other areas. We’ve already built a bike shop but we’re looking to put in a clubhouse so we’ll have a bit more room for parents to sit in there and watch while kids are on their bikes. There are still a lot of kids coming to try the track as they’ve never done it before.”
The BMX track hasn’t just helped the riders with their prospects but, as Flash explains, it has enhanced the area. He says: “It’s changed the vision of what people thought of the area around Burgess Park. It was known as a park not to walk through, but adding this to the other work that’s been done on it has made people want to come here, cycle here and get involved in the park.
“It’s done a lot for the area, a lot of the youngsters see it and say ‘we need to do something positive’. It shows people do care about the community and people like The London Marathon Charitable Trust do care and want to help.”
Flash is now looking at working on a similar project in Norbury near Croydon and is considering applying for a grant from The London Marathon Charitable Trust to help transform yet another area.