The Hunslet Club kicked off their 75th anniversary celebrations with a packed-out Review of the Year event on Friday evening (24 April 2015) – featuring a clutch of celebrity guests, news and stories from the club over the years, dazzling performances from some of the club’s young dancers and cheer-leaders, and well-earned awards for members and volunteers.
The club was founded in 1940 by one Dr John Wyllie, to provide positive activities for local teenage lads during the difficult war years. They opened their doors to girls from the 1980s onwards, and have in recent years exploded: membership has shot up from 150 to 2,000+ since 2000.
The club is now the largest independent youth club in the country, and is also – with several awards under their belt – widely recognised as one of the best. They run a busy programme of activities (96 sessions per week and counting, featuring dozens of teams and groups), seven days a week, run by 30+ staff, and 130+ volunteers – who are, to quote Sports Development manager and MC at Friday’s event Craig Gilmore, “the lifeblood of the club”.
Special guests on Friday included acclaimed Leeds DJ Tom Zanetti, who reported on the club’s flourishing gymnastics programme, which includes everyone from tots to adults.
Gerald Jennings of Leeds Chamber of Commerce presented ambassador awards for outstanding young members of the club to: Jake Griggs, a hard-working and ever-polite member of the club’s boxing team; and Keeley Haige, an enthusiastic and generous-spirited member of the club’s dance and cheer-leading troupes.
Hanif Malik of Hamara – with whom the Hunslet Club work closely – reported on the club’s track record with boxing: 1,000s of participants over the past 30 years, several national champions (most famously, flyweight Levi Pattison), and currently 28 sessions held each week, including 15 competitive boxers.
And perhaps south Leeds’ most famous son of recent years, Jason Robinson – born and bred in Beeston Hill and Hunslet – was also there. He joined Hunslet Club himself aged 8, grew through the ranks, went on to play international rugby league (for Great Britain) and union (for England), and came back to become the club’s patron in 2011. After presenting awards to some of the young players, he enthused about the club:
“The Hunslet Club kept me on the straight and narrow all those years ago. It’s a community club, and the people here go out of their way for you. Massive thanks to everyone, especially all the volunteers who make it what it is.”
Other speakers included Leeds enterpreneur and philanthropist Terry George, and local MP Hilary Benn – who presented a Special Achievement Award to Wayne Robbins, long-standing secretary of the open age football section. And there was also a presentation to mark the 80th birthday of chair of trustees Colin Whitaker, involved with the club for 40+ years.
For full info on and updates from the Hunslet Club, check them out on Facebook, Twitter, or on their website. They’re always looking for more volunteers, and participants, for their programmes – and are open to suggestions and new ideas for the club!