How the South Tyneside community played a part in rescuing valuable facilities across the borough

A community-run boxing club is playing a key role in keeping young people on the right track.

By Debra Fox
Saturday, 22 June, 2019, 14:02
Bilton Hall Boxer Robbie Colman and coach Martyn Devlin, at Bilton Hall Community Trust.

Bilton Hall Amateur Boxing Association runs a club in Simonside three times a week.

It takes place at Bilton Hall Community Association, which was safeguarded from closure thanks to the local community stepping in to take over its management from South Tyneside Council.

Against a background of cuts in central government funding, the council asked for community support to keep a range of facilities open. This included one leisure centre, one youth facility, 12 community associations and four branch libraries.

 

Council leader Iain Malcolm, said: “Research has shown that South Tyneside is one of the hardest-hit areas as a result of national government cuts.

Robbie Colman and coach Martyn Devlin.

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“However, we recognise the vital role that community centres play in our communities and decided to look at alternative ways of keeping these valued resources sustainable for future generations.

“The vital role played by volunteers, community groups and the third sector is becoming increasingly important in helping us to deliver services our residents rely on.”

Boxing club leader Martyn Devlin, has been involved with the club for more than 30 years. In that time, thousands of young people have come through the doors.

Martyn said: “Boxing teaches them discipline, dedication and physical excellence but we also try to guide the kids away from drugs and drink. It can be difficult in this area because there’s a massive unemployment problem.

“In the past there were plenty of jobs in shipbuilding but it’s so much harder now for young people but I feel this club plays a key role in helping to keep kids on the right tracks.”

Not only has the club’s future been secured, the centre is now looking forward to improved premises through funding bids from Sport England’s Community Asset Fund and Ballinger Charitable Trust.

The centre manager is currently working to match that funding with the support of the club and hopefully work on a new purpose-built facility will start later this year.