Black Prince Trust gets local community active

One of the key objectives for The London Marathon Charitable Trust is to reach people classed as inactive – that section of the population that has done less than 30 minutes per week of exercise in the last month.

Earlier in 2017 data were released form Sport England’s Active Lives survey that showed  25 per cent of the population were less in that category.

The costs of inactivity-related health problems often provide the headline-grabbing statistics; the rising cases of obesity, diabetes, heart disease. The use of exercise as an antidote to these conditions can also be measured.

But there are other aspects of life that can be improved – even overhauled – by sport. Perhaps not as quantifiable, but just as valuable.

In one afternoon at the Black Prince Trust (BPT) Community Hub in Lambeth, three such examples were spread right across the age scale.

The Hub, operated by the BPT and based on a former school site nestled in the Ethelred Estate in one of London’s most deprived boroughs, received a grant from The London Marathon Charitable Trust in 2016 to improve its changing rooms, sports hall and other spaces, boosting its appeal to local residents and external clubs and teams who might hire its facilities.

There are free sessions in basketball, football, athletics and boxing for everyone from the age of eight to age 80.

At the early end of that range is 12-year-old Ibrahim Cisse. He is not unlike most boys his age. Ask him how he is or what his school day was like and you’ll get a mumbled reply while he stares at his shoelaces.

Get him on to the subject of football, however, and watch his eyes light up as he explains his favourite position, his love for Man Utd and his admiration for their current No. 9 Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He’ll even open up on how regularly playing the game at the Hub has sparked a turnaround in his own mindset.

Prior to attending a summer sports camp at the Hub, Ibrahim was, by his own admission, operating on a short fuse.

“I just feel like football is what I need in my life,” he says. “When I come and play I’m happy. When I have struggles at home, playing football helps me out. When I’m angry it takes all the anger out. That’s why I love playing the game, it’s made a difference for me.”

Ibrahim’s Dad Muhammed has seen the change in his son, too: “Sometimes he has problems controlling his emotions so he comes here to play with friends and it turns him around. I’m very happy for him to come here, and we know he’s just around the corner from home.”

“I’ve got two of my cousins to start coming as well,” says Ibrahim.

There’s no telling where an introduction to an encouraging sporting environment can lead.

For 25-year-old Adrian Forde, it’s opened a career pathway he never before entertained. Forde was introduced to the boxing sessions held in the BPT’s gym through the Fight 4 Change programme, an initiative which provides boxing, martial arts and fitness training to support, mentor and progress marginalised young people and those at risk of offending in deprived communities.

“I was 19 and I’d never boxed before, but I fell in love with it,” he says. “I had always been interested in boxing so I thought I would give it a go. It’s been part of my fitness programme ever since.

“Apart from the fitness side of it, for me – and anyone involved – I think it helps boost your confidence and that can transfer into other parts of your life.”

For Adrian that meant his career, taking inspiration from his newfound sport to become a personal trainer.

“I fell in love with the fitness side of the boxing, and decided to use that to help other people.” He also now helps to run some of the sessions at the BPT’s Hub, where he still comes twice a week.

“You get to meet people you wouldn’t usually meet outside and it’s a community here, a big family. And for me it opened my eyes to the career I wanted. It gave me that foot in the door.”

From helping youngsters with their behaviour to offering a launch pad for careers, the opportunities on offer at the revamped Hub are clear, but they don’t stop at Adrian’s point on the age scale.

A study conducted by Bristol University on a group of participants with an average age of 78 found those who carried out less than 25 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day – such as walking quickly, cycling or swimming – received 50 per cent more prescriptions over the following four to five years than those who were more active. Being physically active was also found to reduce the number of unplanned hospital admissions in this age set.

Look no further than 77-year-old David Girdler for living proof of those statistics. Resident on the estate for over 30 years, David attends twice-weekly sessions with his wife involving keep-fit and dancing.

“I was always sporty from a young age,” he says, “but when I moved to London there were few facilities.” The overhaul of the BPT’s spaces opened those opportunities up to David, local residents and visitors from further afield.

“It’s about having something available that’s local, and I think it’s especially important at our age. There won’t be many people at our age as fit as we are, because many people just give up. A lot of them wouldn’t even think of doing this. It’s very important for people as they get older to stay active. Seventy is not old anymore unless you stay inactive and don’t move.

“Socially it’s good as well,” adds David. “We’ve had as many as 20 people in classes and the instructor helps you by taking the classes with a good sense of humour.”

Following the grant from The London Marathon Charitable Trust, the BPT has been able to look forward to a bright future with the rise in the standard of its facilities.

Perry Sophocleous, Community Manager, says: “When I joined, the work was in the process of just being done – previously access was not easy, there was a turnstile in the way at the entrance and it wasn’t welcoming. But we’ve changed that, and what the grant has allowed us to do is operate the facilities a lot better.

External sports teams now use the Hub as a training base, which has generated extra income, helping to fund the free sessions for the community.

“From a business perspective it’s allowed us to make it work, and without that we’d be in a much weaker position financially,” says Perry. “We’re now able to maximise what we’re able to do.”

And it’s a place that allows its users, young and old, to do exactly the same.