Opening of boxing club leaves homeless Grenfell survivors fuming

The boxers of the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing club are on a mission. Their aim is to inspire the traumatized survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire to move o and unite again after deeply distressing times.

Coach Mick Delaney, who is the driving force behind the gym’s tremendous success since 1978, is a very influential figure in W10. And he tells an anecdote about that infamous night on June 14, 2017.

“I simply couldn’t believe it, it was heartbreaking.

“When you think that we were training there ourselves that evening and left the gym at 9.30-10pm, a few hours before the fire broke out, awful.

“Then I got a phone call at 5am from one of the coaches, telling me there’s a fire out, flames, I was stunned, I couldn’t speak.

“We might have lost our gym, but we are only second, the gym was only second, think about the people who lost their lives?”

“We would have carried on, we would have found something to train because we got lads here that want to box so we would have carried on, even we had to put some bags up”, Delaney reflected.

Luckily that wasn’t required, as the BBC DIY SOS team helped build the new Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Gym in Bay 20 under the Westway, one stone’s throw away from Grenfell Tower.

However while some people were delighted about the news, it triggered feelings of anger nd envy for others when word first began to spread about the construction of a new gym.

As might be expected, local residents believe that building the new gym has done no justice to the victims of the fire, as some of them still live in low budget hotels and have yet to be rehoused, nearly a year and a half later.
Credit:Alessandro Morolli

The trouble is that rather being happy for the fighters, the opening of the new gym in September felt more like a double-edged sword. It has indeed caused an outpouring of rage and given rise to local people’s protests:

“Yes, it is important to keep the area positive and lively, but was it really necessary to remind everyone that the boxers are enjoying themselves at a new place while the affected families keep overnighting in strange hotels?

“BBC? I appreciate their investment but I would have prioritized building new flats for the Grenfell Tower survivors first”, a bitter local shopkeeper said.

So, how has the gym managed to survive the worst fire in recent British history and bounce back in such a short period of time, while countless survivors of the fire have yet to be rehoused?

“The BBC helped a lot with that. They paid the boys a new gym here at St Mark’s Road”, the under-14’s boxing coach Theo reveals.

“There is not really major stuff that makes our gym different except that we were where were.

But we just carried on as a club and the BBC provided the young children of the community with this temporary gym. So the young kids still have somewhere to go.

“This club is very special as it is a community club, it’s a family club, there’s a family atmosphere.

But what about the fact that people believe that more should be done to help the community?

“ The club has organized an outdoor session after the fire in the park next to Grenfell for all the community to come and get involved, but of course that’s not enough”, he agrees.

Contrary to popular belief, Theo plays down suggestions that the club has helped the community financially: “The club hasn’t really got the finances and needed help itself. That’s down to the council, to the fundraisers and the to the charities to address that.

However, according to him the importance of the gym should not be undermined, as it served as a source of inspiration for the whole community.

“The club has been there, stayed through and carried on. We didn’t just stop but we carried on as a club. We are glad that they opened a new gym here as the kids still have somewhere to go instead of just staying out in the street. We have inspired the community in the way that we just carried on with our lives like before, and they should do the same“.

Yet, how is this supposed to come to fruition without the government’s financial intervention?

Lidia from Notting Hill cut a disgruntled figure when she was asked whether the affected families were helped sufficiently and she did not mince her words:

“I have not been directly affected by the fire, but one of my friends has lost her sister there and she is still living in a temporary one-bedroom council house with her husband and son.

“The government promised a lot but I fear they are only making money out of this story rather taking out the money, we are tired of their constant delays”.

According to boxer Will McDermott “the last few months have been hell“ as he looks back on what he calls the toughest days of his life “that no victory in boxing can ever cure“.

“It has been very hard for the gym and all the boxers“.

“There have been loads of ups and downs for us personally since last year in June.

These days, North Kensington is still traumatised because people watched the horror unfold, they saw people jump out of their windows or burn. Whatever the age, those horrifying images can hardly ever be eradicated from their minds.

And for those who weren’t present that night and who visit the area now, it’s no different.

“Walking past that building with all of the children’s toys and flowers in the streets is horrible. It’s a terrible sight to look up and imagine how those people must have felt like when the fire was starting to deteriorate, feeling that they were doomed, not being able to get out of there and it doesn’t let you forget really, it makes you sick“.

McDermott echoes Lidia’s sentiments and hopes that more will be done to help the affected families:

“Since last summer I don’t think enough has been done to help those families financially and the fact that there was nothing organized to mark the first anniversary since the tragedy last June showed it”.

“There isn’t really a way we can help those families as no words can ever be enough.
“We do a physical battle that can be either won or lost depending on the day’s form and the rival’s strength.

“And we learned that whether we win or lose, it doesn’t really change our lives. If you lose you might dwell on it for a day or two but then you accept it and move on.

“Sadly, hundreds of families might never win their mental battle and accept that their lost ones are forever gone. They will never really move on“.

In reality, what was originally meant to be a great initiative by the BBC SOS DIY team now seems to backfire as the new gym is a constant reminder of the government’s failure to provide the Grenfell survivors with a place they can call ‘home’ again following years spent in emergency accommodations.

The disparity of treatment has simply not gone down well in the area as not enough households have been rehoused since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.


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