Calls for more community focus at the Rec

Director Stuart Everitt with the team at Afewee
Director Stuart Everitt (far right) with the team at Afewee

At a screening of a film about a Brixton football club last week, the council came under fire over their approach to the management of the Recreation Centre.

The film, Uncle Steadman, was directed by local filmmaker Stuart Everitt of Marmalade Productions and produced by Zoe Jewell, editor of the Brixton Blog.

It followed the parallel stories of Steadman Scott, football coach at the Afewee Club in the Recreation Centre, and AJ Carter, a young Brixton boxer who fought his first professional match earlier this year.

The film was followed by a lively Q&A session with Steadman Scott, AJ Carter, Tony Goldring from Afewee and Cllr Rachel Heywood, cabinet member for children and families.

Users of the Recreation Centre, young and old, talked of their frustration at the management of the Rec, arguing that it no longer works for the community and pressing Cllr Heywood to show some real action on this point. One speaker said to Cllr Heywood: “I’ve seen the Rec go downhill since GLL (Greenwich Leisure Ltd) came. It’s meant to work for the council but you don’t govern them.”

Steadman Scott said: “we are the kids from the 80s. I’ve come from the street, fight in the riot and the building was made for us.

“I don’t want no politics. It’s about giving our youngsters dreams and a chance. We work here for free. All Afewee is asking for is to have more access into the space at the Rec for our youngsters.”

In the film itself, Steadman explained the importance of the Rec to the Brixton community: “Our kids are killing off each other in the street. TV doesn’t show them anything. If you open the newspaper today you don’t see one good thing about black people. The only part you see anything good is the back pages. So when you have a place like the Recreation Centre that was built after the riots this must be the beacon. It doesn’t matter what colour or race he is if he wants to be a sports person – it could change his life.”

Afewee want to have access to extra space so that they can put on more sessions for their young footballers. They have also requested an office and that they be allowed to start a boxing club for young people in the Rec.

One audience member also suggested that a schools league be set up for football across the borough.

Other sports clubs such as the Brixton Topcats basketball are also in need of more support and are currently run by a passionate few who are often not paid for the work they do.

The main issue is how space at the Rec is used, with many members of the audience pointing out that there are many rooms that could be used for community groups but which currently lie empty.

David Duncan from the Brixton Rec Users Group said: “we have identified spaces not used at all. The boxing club has actually got support from councillors but the management GLL don’t give a damn. GLL still hasn’t replied to our proposals.”

A spokesman from the GLL management at the Rec said: “At Brixton Recreation Centre we run numerous community programmes and activities, some of which we subsidise.  For example, Brixton Ballers wheelchair basketball club, which uses the centre on Saturdays, Brixton Top Cats basketball team and the local Afewee Football Club, which benefits from five hours of free venue hire each week.

“We are committed to listening to what the local community wants for their local leisure centre.  At Brixton Rec. customers can complete comment forms and attend our regular Customer Forums to express their opinions.  We are always ready to listen and act on suggestions.

“However, it should be recognised that we are dealing with many different, and sometimes conflicting demands and user groups.  It is therefore not always possible to satisfy every group we engage with.”

Under pressure from angry members of the audience, Cllr Heywood promised to take action, stating: “I am going to take this gentleman’s suggestion that we set up a school sports league; I am going to look at the contract with GLL and talk about how we make it work better with the community; I am going to see if we can get better space at a good rate – no, for free – for Afewee; and I am going to see what we can do about an office space.”

AJ Carter, also on the panel, expressed his frustration at having heard promises from the council before that had not come to fruition and stressed the need to keep up pressure on Cllr Heywood.

Uncle Steadman will screen again at 9pm on Friday August 23 outside at Windrush Square for a pedal-powered screening. We would like to thank the Ritzy for organising these screenings of the film.  

Afewee are looking for volunteers and donations on their website here.