The Hunslet Club has been serving the community for 75 years and marked the anniversary on Saturday (28 November 2015) with a get together for past members.
The club’s origins lie in the early years of the Second World War. Teenage boys and young men acted as firewatchers and messengers during the blitz, running between Air Raid Wardens and First Aid stations. It was at one of these that Dr John Wyllie first got to know the streetwise teenagers from this industrial part of the city.
Wanting to give these young people more opportunities to develop and with the support of the local community he formed The Hunslet Boys Club in 1940.
Dennis Robbins, the current Chief Executive Officer adds “There was a concern that with fathers away in the forces, their youngsters would get into trouble. The club was set up to give them positive activities.”
That theme runs through the clubs history and since 2000 it has been running vocational training programmes for young people from across the city whose needs are best met outside the classroom.
Although sport is at the heart of the club, there’s always been a lot more going on. Camping trips, amateur dramatics, cookery and crafts were all on the agenda.
The club started life in an old school building on Jack Lane. Later it purchased and converted an old Methodist Chapel on Waterloo Road next to the Garden Gate pub and then at the beginning of the 1970s moved to its current, purpose built facility on Hillidge Road.
The name has changed over the decades too. The Hunslet Boys Club was accepting female members by the 1980s. In the 1990s it changed its name to the Hunslet Club for Boys and Girls, before shortening it to simply The Hunslet Club.
The club is thriving. On any evening or weekend you will find it buzzing with activity. 500 young people come to club every week, they are enthusiastically greeted by 30 staff members as many volunteers. Once inside they head for the dance studio, the sports hall, the gym, the stage, the workshops, or straight back outside again to the all-weather artificial training pitches.