Frank Bruno: Knocks ‘Em Out! (Comicus in the Community)
The Change Foundation in association with The Berkeley Foundation have, in conjunction with local councils, been running the inner-city initiative called ‘Street Elite’ around London’s Tower Hamlets area. This is a ‘training for work’ initiative that uses sport, mentoring and youth engagement; to help young adults living on the edge of gangs and crime get a job or find a place in college.
Street Elite – The Background
Most young people are recruited from ‘estate walks’ and referrals, from last year’s graduates of the programme. It starts with 12 weeks of paid sports based training and mentoring. Then the young adults test the skills they have learnt, by delivering sports sessions on local housing estates. All of them are offered work placements, either in the Berkeley Group or with another partner. Finally they graduate at a one day sports festival, involving hundreds of school pupils in a celebration of young people’s potential.
Why Does This Matter?
- There are 465,000 young adults in the UK who are unemployed and not looking for work.
- Youth unemployment will cost an estimated £28 billion over the next decade.
- One hundred people have been fatally stabbed in the UK so far this year. Almost half of the victims were under 30 and male.
- Youth service budgets have been cut by more than £22 million across the capital over the last five years.
- London has lost 30 youth centres and the equivalent of almost 300 full time youth workers.
“Street Elite targets young people who have been left behind. It uses the power of sport to re-engage them and build their self belief. It changes lives and it helps employers like Berkeley recruit talented young people who bring a whole new dimension to their business.” – Rob Perrins, Chief Exec of the Berkeley Group
Finding the right Sports Personalities who have come from the same background as people in the programme, but have met with success which can be related to as a role model. Past supporters have been Ian Wright and Henry Glynn (Project Manager). Speaking on the initiative, emphasised the pro-activity of the project; he said “You need to go into the inner cities to find and help these people. They will not come to you. We need mentors and sporting personalities who understand and genuinely wish to help”.
A team effort with former World Heavyweight champion Frank Bruno was an ideal fit. Ticking all the boxes as well as his ‘street wise’ communication skills, which the young would understand. Frank being easily identifiable with those around him.
The buzz around the park when Frank arrived was incredible. He took time out to talk about his own problems and the environment he was brought up in; saying “I grew up in London. It can be a tough city and talented young people can go off the tracks. Street Elite is about giving them a focus and real self belief”. Frank sparred in the park, with guys in the boxing programmes.
Graduates of the programme spoke openly about how it had helped them. How their lives, had been turned around. At times the morning session was quite emotional. Frank speaking on the initiative further “It’s a life changing project and shows the huge power of sport and mentoring. Together they can strengthen your mind, your self esteem and connect you with other people. It’s important for young men to come together and talk openly about their well being”.
What Has ‘Street Elite’ Achieved?
- This is the 8th year of Street Elite. So far 400 young women and men have gone through the programme.
- 74% have successfully moved into education or employment and 15 have been employed by the Berkeley Group.
- Over the last few years, over 6,000 young people have been involved in 30 Street Elite Festivals.
In 2016 Street Elite won the global ‘Barclays Sport for Employability & Enterprise Award’ and the Third Sector Award for ‘Best charity partnership in construction’.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.