Black to the Future – A Sankofa Exploration of Youth Work Practice. A traitor in the midst – visit to Tottenham Hotspurs Foundation

October 2017

Dr Yansie Rolston

In British culture football is everything and for many it is as important as religion. When else do you see men from all walks of life publicly expressing their emotions, shedding tears of joy or sadness without fear of being judged. Loyalty in the game is important – When Ashley Cole left Arsenal he was called “Cashley” and “Judas” and fans even waved fake £20 notes at him, and when Emmanuel Adeboyor left the club, first heading to Manchester City and then to Tottenham Hotspurs, he was subject to all manner of abuse.

You should know that an Arsenal supporter going to Tottenham Hotspurs football ground is not the done thing, so the guilt I felt as I passed each security checkpoint was real. I felt as though there was
a stamp on my forehead saying ‘Traitor’ in spite of knowing that the purpose of the visit was not football related. So what is it that got me to ‘cross the line’?

As the BTTF project is about exploring youth work practice I thought it would be a great idea for the team from Amsterdam, Germany and the UK to find what is done at the Tottenham Hotspurs Foundation which is the football club’s award winning charitable body. Truth be told we were all excited to be visiting the Spurs grounds.

We found out that the Foundation does some very amazing work locally, pan-london, nationally and internationally from Health and Wellbeing, Education, Employment, and Community Outreach which is the project we were visiting. That team is made up of a core of 10 with roughly 25 casual workers, and our excited group of BTTF members were warmly welcomed by Richard Allicock, the Community Development Manager – a black man from the local area who is determined to do what to can to support people from the community.

We spent a few hours in the company of Keiran and Omari both Development Workers, and Jayden who is training to be a football coach. They were all incredibly open and honest about their life
experiences, and explained how being involved in the Foundation kept them safe, gave them discipline and direction, helped them to explore their talents, and shaped their careers. They explained in myriad of ways in which they are passing on the knowledge and skills to other young people in the local area who are disadvantaged, socio-economically challenged, or at risk, to help them get a sense of purpose, and achieve their potential.

You only have to say ‘Tottenham’ and for many it will evoke thoughts of either Spurs football team, the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985, or the 2011 Summer riots. But it’s a shame more people don’t
know about the positive, and in some instances life affirming projects such as the community enterprise, and employment and skills hub being delivered by the Tottenham based Foundation.

Just in case you wanted to know, let me tell you about some of the structured and un-structured provisions delivered by the Foundation. They do School Mentoring programmes, apprenticeships, and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. They also do Coaching Qualification courses, and work with gangs, children in the care, in the prison system or in hospitals ,and take up some of the slack of the Council who are lacking the financial and manpower resources to provide the level of services required. Their strong commitment to workforce development is evident in the 1500 jobs
undertaken by local people.

Jayden the confident young man we met is a beneficiary of the services and explained how his own involvement in the foundation began when he was introduced to the football sessions at the age of
7. He is still there after 10 years supporting other youngsters.

But what about the females I hear you ask, well it turns out that the ‘Spurs Ladies Football Club’ which is one of the biggest clubs in London is also involved in the Foundation ensuring that there is
female participation in the projects.
The visit was worth every moment of being a traitor in the midst.

Thank you Richie, Keiran, Omari and Jayden for giving us of your precious time, for your openness, ensuring we were fed and watered, and for the Spurs merchandise – mine is now the prized
possession of the only Spurs supporter in the family. (comment: COYS – Alan, her husband!).

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