Centre given cash by Southwark council to encourage more kids into sport

By Polly Nash

Marlborough Sports Garden in Bankside has received funding from Southwark council to complete the third and final phase of its community sports facility.

The multisport venue aims to tackle obesity and foster a love of sport among children from primary schools in the local area.

The sports garden, which was developed by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust after the 2012 London Olympic Games, will be completed with additional sports facilities, changing rooms, and a healthy café.

The outdoor site will cater for 20 different sports, from ultimate frisbee to roller hockey, encouraging children of all abilities and interests to get involved in outdoor activities.

Tim Wood, resident and chairman of Bankside Open Spaces Trust, said: “We happen to be very close to one of the areas of highest childhood obesity in the country, and so our aim is to include education about healthy diet and lifestyle, and getting kids interested in sport from a young age.

“In the early 2000s the open spaces around Southwark were pretty dreadful places – lots of antisocial use going on, rough sleeping, and not looked after.

“Previously this was a pretty grim area, and no one was really using it so we set up all these temporary courts and pitches for a mini Olympics in 2012 with more than 1,000 schools kids.”

“The event was chaos, but great fun and extraordinarily popular with the school children. We knew that there was a latent desire for sport.”

Now the Marlborough Sports Garden is used for free by local inner-city schools who have limited sports facilities, as well as catering to the wider Southwark community.

Tim added: “Because we’re an open space charity who looks after parks, we want to put it in a garden. Some of the funding will be put into landscaping to make the area exciting and pretty so people want to be there.”

Francis O’Kane, head teacher of St Joseph’s Primary School, said: “The Marlborough sports garden is a haven and oasis in our local community.

“It is a space where children can mix socially with those from other schools and develop meaningful friendships as well as developing an active lifestyle that will hopefully carry through to adulthood.”

Tim hopes the funding from the council will be matched by other organisations such as Sports England and The London Marathon Charitable Trust to create a truly outstanding development that aims to be completed in 2022.

The garden development is part of a wider initiative by Southwark council providing £6 million to 35 community projects put forward by local residents.

Pictured top: Youngsters enjoying roller hockey



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