Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees received a warm welcome when he visited The Park Knowle Boxing Club yesterday evening.
Former boxer Skemer Winters who runs the Knowle West club invited Mr Rees to come and see what they did for himself.
The visit comes at a time when the future of the club is uncertain – as the land where it is built on Tavistock Road is up for sale.
The club caters for youngsters from six upwards as well as adults – and members came out in force for the visit as a show of solidarity they want it to continue.
Mr Rees chatted to members and parents and watched a 12-16s class taking place.
He said: “Boxing was a big part of my teenage years growing up – at Broadplain – and I’m a believer in boxing and what it can do… From boxing I learnt you can overcome failure and that was a important lesson for me…
“I’m trying to visit a lot of community sports clubs. It’s massive how we support places like this, look at how many members of the community are here…”
When asked what the council could do to keep the club going – Mr Rees said: “…Once we know what the needs are we can keep our eyes and ears open and make the connections and find a solution within the city…
“We are looking at the moment at community assets. We have this map of how would we want to design the city so we use these assets more efficiently.”
The Mayor also invited a group from the club to visit City Hall because he “wants the building to be a public space.”
Skemer who is determined his club should stay within the community is currently looking for a new base. But it would need to be somewhere flexible as he runs day-time classes for schools such as KnowleDGE and Fosseway as well as evening sessions – and his anti-bullying classes take place at weekends.
He told The Knowledge: “His visit gives a boost for the community – everyone is really excited and we have a good turnout. Hopefully we can carry on with the boxing club in Knowle West, that’s my priority and give the kids somewhere to go instead of hanging about on the streets…”
Mum Kirsty Roberts (42) has been bringing her eight-year-old son Troy to the club for the past six months. She said it was “terrible news” it would lose its home.
She said: “It’s a very busy club – Skemer is so hands-on with the children and does anti-bullying classes and is all about the community. He’s here every night doing classes for younger children to 16 and over…
“It’s fantastic news the Mayor has come… it’s a small community here so I’m really impressed.”
And Tracy Davis who brings her granddaugher Remaya (10) and grandsons Kayden and Michael-Jay (6) said: “They have been to a lot of clubs but this one here is just so family orientated. Skemer is dedicated and makes each child feel special. It will be a great shame if they close it down … it’s just a sanctuary.”
Remaya said: “It feels like home and it makes me feel confident.”