Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
146 Bolton Road
Tel: 0161 736 5866
For a FREE Home Safety Check please call:
Moss Side is a very diverse area, culturally with many social and economic conditions that are unique to this area. These factors have produced a youth culture where gang involvement and crime is a real alternative for many young people.
This is widely recognised by many of the local community leaders who are working tirelessly to engage with these young disaffected people to show them that there are "alternatives" and to put schemes in place that will help distract them from going down that particular road.
These groups such as, Mothers against Violence, Charisma, Reclaim, The Power House, local Church groups and many others, have an intimate knowledge of the problems that are faced by young people in Moss Side. These groups are looking for long term meaningful activities that engage and educate these young people with the aim of showing them alternatives and distracting them from the negative pathways they may encounter.
We, as fire fighters, are no different we experience a negative attitude from some of these young people and recognise that much of the work we have to do is a direct result of the actions taken by young disillusioned people with low expectations of what life has to offer. The initiative we have started is a response to these problems. We intend to form partnerships with these community groups to meaningfully engage with young people on a personal level so that they can recognise our long term commitment to them and the community; we intend to be role models whilst representing the organisation we serve.
The initiative is at the fire station, the coaches are all serving fire fighters and the environment they train in will portray this. We will work with local community leaders and local initiatives to identify the youngsters who we can help and help with the problems that they encountering. We will educate and inform, not only on the issues we as fire fighters find important, but also on the issues that the community partners are focusing on, to assist in the formation of future positive citizens.
Boxing as a sport mirrors the personal attributes we as fire fighters value. Both require courage, discipline, dedication, focus and respect for others. Each are considered dangerous yet the truth is that by recognising this both put in place safe guards and safety measures that ensure they are safer than many occupations or pastimes that are generally considered as perfectly safe. It is a sport that anyone can participate in regardless of race, creed, gender, social or economic status. Having the latest most expensive equipment does not give you the edge, however, the club provides everything so even the most economically deprived are not excluded.
Boxing is a sport that Moss Side Fire station is in a unique position to offer the community, because leisure centres are under pressure to ensure that their facilities are multi functional and offer flexible use. Boxing gyms by their nature are inflexible, they can only be used for boxing. We at Moss Side have converted a disused garage into a permanent purpose built facility.
Moss Sides youth face problems that are unique to them, territorial constrains, gang membership from an early age, fear of mistaken identity and subsequent reprisals which can, in the worst case, prove to be fatal. We intend to extend our influence into these groups and boxing we believe is the best way of doing this.
By having the gym on the fire station and utilising coaches such as Nigel Travis, Curtis Mclardie and Mike Dillon who are all serving fire fighters in the Moss Side community, we believe we can have a significant influence on these young people. Boxing has a certain kudos, it increases self esteem, and it can increase the respect that an individual gets from their peer group. If these young people have an influence in a gang or group situation and they have an affinity to the fire service then, we are in a win win situation where we can help to form citizens of the future whilst having ambassadors for the fire service on the streets of Moss Side.
Name a socially deprived area in Britain and you can identify a National, International, Olympic or a World Champion boxer from that area. I find it incredible that Moss Side at this moment does not have a single competing amateur boxer. Boxing clubs in areas like this attain iconic status and I believe in a few years when we have national champions, Moss Side Fire Station will be known for items other than providing fire and rescue cover.
Although the project is a grass root initiative it is fully supported by the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service who share the same objectives. The Organisation has provided suitable premises, rent free, and has committed to meeting all the utility and maintenance costs of the building. It has provided the initial set up costs of £12,000 to refurbish the building, provide a boxing ring and boxing equipment. It provides support in governance and health and safety matters including risk assessments and training.
The Fire Service is very proud of the project, it has invited several Members of Parliament to the Gym to see the project these include: Hazel Blears, Liam Byrne and the permanent Under Secretary, Peter Housden. We have also given presentations to CFO's of other Fire Brigades on partnership working in the community. They are committed to ensuring the resilience of the project and have pledged the support of the Organisation to enable the project to achieve its long term goals.
At present the project has been run on a goodwill basis relying on fire fighters volunteering their time but, this is not a sustainable and reliable system of work. Although there are several highly motivated individuals prepared to get involved, it is difficult to constantly ask them to cover sessions on a voluntary basis. This leads to an over reliance on key members, which threatens the continued resilience of the project if they can no longer commit to the project due to domestic or health related issues.