It’s 5 o’clock on Friday in Westminster and the city workers are beginning their final homecoming of the week. But in amongst the hustle and bustle of the commuters sits a playful sanctuary only a stone’s throw away from the north bank of the Thames, a London Tigers’ youth club run by youth worker Halima.
Screams of laughter and excitement bounce around the hall in unison with the dodgeballs. The acoustics in this community church certainly don’t allow for a quiet conversation to be had while the kids are playing, but it was easy to tell from Halima’s smile that she was pleased to be there and her enthusiasm was infectious.
The ages of the kids present on this particular occasion ranged from about 6 to 13, but children up to 16 are welcome to come to this free weekly session. With a visit from BBC less than a year removed, our presence was hardly daunting for the confident cubs and they all wanted a chance to tell us about how much they love coming here.
10 year old Ahmed, who has been a regular attendee of these sessions for the best part of 2 years, told us he likes coming here because it gives him a “good chance to relax after a stressful week of school,” and said he “would have nothing else to do” if this club ceased to exist. This was a sentiment shared by most of the attendees, who agreed they would be bored without the youth club.
Simple boredom may seem like a trivial matter at face value, but it’s a symptom of a greater and darker narrative that threatens to plague London’s youth. Without the help of London Tigers, bored kids may get drawn into gangs or other difficult situations. By putting on these sessions, kids can stay out of trouble and feel more a part of the local community.
Dodgeball was clearly the popular choice amongst the group, even drafting me into the madness at one point. But when energy levels dropped enough after the umpteenth round, snacks and drinks are had then it’s onto the more placid activities. We spoke to Halima outside as we watched the diaspora within. There were areas for video games and board games among others, with the kids moving fluidly around the space partaking in the different activities and socialising with one another.
“What should I say?” Halima asked, as we handed her the camera for recording. We assured her to just introduce herself and what she’s been doing for London Tigers, and from there unleashed a passionate monologue of how she’s benefiting these children and why she enjoys it so much. Including in her speech she mentioned that this youth club gives kids a chance to begin on the right path, avoiding trouble by having somewhere to go that’s safe and fun. She said she has seen a big change in the area from a few years ago, partly due to the services of the youth club that has attempted in giving youths an alternative to gang involvement and other unlawful activity.
Other than that, the youth club offers kids of all ages to take part in fun and educational activities, giving them a chance to socialise with other children around the area. If you’re under 16 or have children that are, we welcome you to come along on any Friday night. For more information, contact us on our Twitter or Facebook page.