2022 A Year To Remember (Part Two)
Updated: Jan 10
Welcome back to our 2022 diary, where we showcase the very best of what we did
in our most successful year yet. If you are joining us for the first time, you can catch Part One covering January through June here:
Thank you so much for taking the time to join us on our 2022 journey.
An action packed July had some real wholesomeness when we were invited to The Bright Stars Awards by Luton’s Virtual School. The Virtual School support the town’s looked after children and we have worked in partnership on several hugely successful primary school projects. We have also done some 121 support for their children and it was such an honour to be invited by Jo Carter and Michelle Wright who are absolute superstars. It was such an inspiring evening meeting speaker Chris Wild and hearing his bittersweet story of life in care and after. The night was a great chance to see some familiar faces, and many of the most resilient and creative children in our town awarded for their downright awesomeness.
On the same night, I shot across town for the Beds Police and VERU ‘Safeguarding Our Young People’ event in Bury Park, chaired by Mayor Sameera Saleem. Prior to this I had only met Mayor Sameera Saleem once and yet I’d heard so many good things about her. The event focused on knife crime prevention, and was a true reflection of the Mayor’s status and ability to unite people across all communities. There were people of all ages, from all backgrounds and a real collective of organisations who are ready to play their part in keeping the town safe.
On a boiling hot July morning I travelled to Portsmouth to support Ringside Charitable Trust, a pioneering charity that provides respite for former fighters, and aims to create a home where they can get the support they need when the spotlight fades. Organiser Andrew Fairley is the epitome of selflessness. A man who always put others first, and is a true gentleman. The event was a Firewalk, which brought out the very best in the boxing community.
The Sky cameras were there to oversee boxing writers, fighters, prospects and legends take their turn walking on boiling hot coals for a marvellous cause. It was a true honour to meet Jane Couch Britain's first ever female professional fighter. Her story is the epitome of courage and an indomitable spirit.
( Here's her story https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/boxing/52942479 )
This spirit shone through as she guided the amazing Honey Jo to take her feet to the hot coals and do her bit for this wonderful cause.
Rumour has it that in 2023 the Ringside team will be back with a sky dive, which we may partake in….... however.....don’t quote me on that.
Back in the car and then off to Lewsey Park where the Eid Celebrations were in full swing. These events are a great chance for people young and old to enjoy a fun fair, but also some local talent who take to the stage to showcase the very best of what Luton has to offer. I have so much respect for Amar, Tariq and all the team who work tirelessly with funders and sponsors to create these opportunities for everyone to come together.
I wrote the below in 2020 and I’m so incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in promoting boxing to women and girls since that very day. It’s made so much easier having someone like Michelle Nelson in your team who is both an amateur and professional boxing coach, and a true champion of the sport. When we go into schools I always remind senior leaders that our programs have equitable benefits for boys and girls, and we have seen some truly wonderful outcomes for both women and girls.
Michelle spoke of her desire to restart a Ladies Only boxing class and she had a loyal following who were ready to pull on the gloves at a moments notice. I couldn’t miss the chance to harness that awesome energy, and thanks to NHS ELFT we created a Saturday morning Ladies Only session at Liam Conroy’s Ringcraft Boxing Gym in Dunstable.
From the get go it was vital that the sessions were:
1) Free -as removing the cost barrier means that no one is financial excluded
2) An open door – suitable for women of all ages, fitness levels and abilities.
This has been the sessions superpower, and the feedback we have had shows that this will go from strength to strength as 2023 progresses. Huge thanks to Stacey Drummond for some of these pictures that perfectly encapsulate the vibe of the ladies session.
July saw us say goodbye to Liam Conroy, who has been a brilliant mentor and coach for Boxing Saves Lives from the start. Liam ran projects in 8 different schools and was a fantastic advocate to many boys and girls through these projects and his 121 support. We wish Liam well as he continues to go from strength to strength with Ringcraft in 2023.
Bromley bound to link up with the iconic Kick Off At 3 team as they held one of their pioneering football festivals in the summer sun. These events are no mere tournaments, but rather a coming together of some of the most talented and resilient young people in London and beyond. The ability of founders Michael Wallace and Ashley Levien to break down barriers, and to create an inclusive environment shows why they are seen as the pinnacle of community organisations. In October we linked up again as Kick Off at 3 partnered with Ed Accura and introduced us to the groundbreaking premiere of Blacks Can’t Swim.
To Shefford, and even my son’s sports day wasn’t going to stop me joining our Samuel Whitbread Academy girls as they reached the peak of their boxing program. The girl’s final task was to demonstrate their leadership and teamwork skills by running a boxing session with the primary school children of Campton Academy. The girls crushed it! Myself and Mr Hart were blown away by their togetherness and ability to guide the children through the lesson seamlessly. Every one of them stepped up and played their part and this could be the blueprint for more leadership programs of the future with Boxing Saves Lives.
Manor Park was the destination for the return of Luton’s Afrofest and we bowled up with a bag of gloves and a smile and we were off. The day was a beautiful mix of African Music and dance, and we loved being part of a celebration of the culture and arts of Luton’s African diaspora. Some of our greatest photos of the summer happened here, including some of the mums and dads donning the gloves and getting stuck in. We even managed to get local hero, PCSO Dan McHugh to shake off the rust and get on the pads. Huge thanks to Lady Munya for the invitation, and it would be great to do it again in summer 2023.
Tysie Gallagher brought an army of supporters to Essex as she took her shot at Commonwealth glory in just her 4th professional fight. Tysie is Luton’s first female professional boxer and is a rising star in boxing perhaps not getting enough recognition as some in the sport. This fight proved that. While we may be a ‘tad’ biased…. we and many others are convinced Tysie won the fight while the decision was controversially given to her opponent. Nevertheless, despite the setback Tysie is resolute in her quest to lift that first professional title in 2023, and we hope to have some very exciting news soon! One last point, given the esteemed reputation of boxing in the town perhaps it is time for local companies to join Tysie on her journey through sponsorship, as this is going to be a hell of a ride in the next few years. Be a part of history!
With the school holidays in full swing we were buzzing to be able to collaborate yet again with Luton Youth Partnership to provide FREE boxing sessions in parks across the town. We were getting them Striving And Thriving in Manor Park, Brantwood Park, Kingsway Park and a hidden gem at Castlecroft Park. It was such a thrill to see so many boys and girls lining up to get their Boxing Saves Lives buzz, and to see the mums and dads stepping up once again. For me it’s a difficult balance of us coaches having time off over summer and us being there for the young people. Their problems don’t take summer holidays so we always want to be present, to give them a safe space, to take the financial pressure of parents and carers, and more than anything…. We just love seeing them.
I will never forget rolling up to Castlecroft Park on a horrible wet August afternoon, and watching the kids come running out of their houses to have their session. This is why we do what we do.
Tysie and Michelle were absolutely phenomenal in their sessions across the town. Girls made up a third of the total children, which is astonishing and heartwarming in equal measure. That’s the power of positive role models who are community conscious, and seek to make a difference to everyone they meet. The engagement of the children with the Youth Services was so encouraging. Bernie, Gareth, Alisha, Sheena ,Abdul, Louise and Charley were fantastic to work with, and no surprises we are already making more plans.
Massive thanks to Councillor Abbas Hussain who joined Tysie at Kingsway Park on a typically busy day. Taking the time out to show his support for us and the children of Dallow was so appreciated, and won’t be forgotten. On week 2 at Kingsway we had 6 children waiting for us as we arrived and over 40 showed up and shone. Detached youth work works.
Tysie and I shared Wednesdays in Jubilee Park, Bedford, and linking up with Kingsbrook and Cauldwell Big Local was a stroke of genius. Getting to see Vanessa and Stacy's interactions with locals, and their unending enthusiasm for community was so wholesome. We really did have a mix of boys and girls of all ages, and like Luton they were offered a range of activities by the team to keep them enthralled. Having seen their presentation at Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation’s event recently, it was great to see Bedfordshire Open Door in action in the Jubilation Centre, providing enrichment for the young people.
August saw the launch of Community Interest Luton’s Keeping Luton Warm campaign, and when Mostaque Koyes calls you answer so it was a no-brainer signing Boxing Saves Lives up. The plan was to run as part of the AWESOME Luton Lions at the Love Luton RunFest in October, and we put together a wee team. The initiative to supply fuel vouchers and support for the most needy was something very close to my own heart having worked supporting tenants and people in debt for over a decade. It just typifies the remarkable work of CIL, and the way that they are able to tap in to the needs of the people of Luton in the most considered and thoughtful of ways.
World Suicide Prevention Day in September coincided with Boxing Saves Lives receiving funding from the NHS to provide support for those at risk of suicide or self harm. Our work behind the scenes means that we often deal with young people especially girls who have tried to counteract trauma through self harm. This funding is a vital lifeline in building a bridge to a better life for young people, and furthermore it is the foundation of our support for older people who carry a huge burden in later life.
The return to schools began as a slow process, but in late September we were firing on all cylinders across Bedfordshire. First school off the mark were one which we have such an affinity for, and that is Farley Junior Academy. They were our first ever primary school, and the support of Mr Hitch, Mrs Thomas-Sloley as well as the TA’s and teachers has always been so remarkable. Having seen many of the children progress through years 5 and 6, it was clear how much of an impact the work of coaches Tysie and Michelle had made on their confidence, behaviours and mental health. I was particularly struck by the progression of the SEND children who were showing a sense of freedom that was difficult to find just months before.
I often tell people the story in the early days of Boxing Saves Lives, when I visited a local school to discuss what we do. A 'quick chat' with an Assistant Headteacher suddenly involved a trestle table being pulled out and a meeting began with a whole Senior Leadership Team. This was such a rite of passage for me, as being able to discuss the staffs concerns, their hopes and fears for having boxing in their school taught me so much about myself and gave me faith in what we do. That was Icknield Primary School.
I have so much respect for Mrs Kennedy, Mr Bartlett, and headteacher Mrs Farbon for putting their faith in us. In September we returned to Icknield and we had 58 children on a waiting list to join our afterschool club. Astonishing.
New school year, new idea. A girls only session launched at Chalk Hills Academy on a Wednesday after school, and took off immediately. We have a brilliant little team together who are excelling every week, and who do their school so proud in the process. In October a behind the scenes video emerged from Tysie’s afterschool session at Stockwood Park Academy and we used this to light the touch paper for some healthy competition between two brilliant Shared Learning Trust schools.
The addition of Sidney Thompson to the Boxing Saves Lives team was a real statement of intent in our quest to expand across Bedfordshire. Sidney has come very very highly recommended, and I was delighted to see him in action as he took over programs in Bedford Academy and new addition Daubeney Academy. Sidney runs East Area Boxing Academy in Bedford and it’s great to have someone with so many years of experience of boxing, mentoring and changing lives.