A summer of inspiration for Southwark’s young people

The England national team’s victory at the 2022 Euro’s is nothing short of game changing.

England women’s team ended a 56-year trophy drought in front of nearly 90,000 elated fans, the largest ever attendance for a men’s or women’s match in the history of the European Championships.

English football fans have had their share of cup final heartbreak, most recently just over one year ago at Wembley, when the men’s team lost to Italy in a penalty shootout. It was an incredible feeling for English people to see their national team lift a major international trophy under that famous Wembley arch. Finally, it has come home.

Sunday’s game and the Lionesses will have inspired a generation of girls and boys to pick up a football and perhaps become a future national hero.

Football, and sport more generally, have levelled the playing field across backgrounds and we are now witnessing the exciting growth of women’s football, inspiring our  younger generations. An amazing mural of Fran Kirby, on our very own Kirby Estate, is a testament to the growing profile of the women’s game: We are very excited that Fran, now a European Championship winner, is set to sign the artwork herself in the near future.

We have seen the amazing impact of what strong role models and good local sport facilities can inspire people to achieve, not just in football, but in all sports. Peckham’s own Olympic medallist Kye Whyte picked up another medal at this year’s BMX Racing World Cup using the skills he learned at our BMX track in Burgess Park.

Stories like this show why it is so important that kids in Southwark, many of whom will have watched England’s victory, have the opportunity to find a sport they love. That’s’ why we are investing over £8 million in a full upgrade of Burgess Park sports centre, with two new full sized FA standard 4G pitches, plus a new ball court designed to a full wheelchair use standard and a new club house and changing rooms.

There will be a further £1.5 million invested into the upgrade of our Brimmington Park Sports Centre, to provide five high quality 3G five-a-side pitches.

It’s also why we are delivering a whole new leisure centre, with pool, gym, three studios and a 4-court sports hall at Canada Water.

These fantastic new facilities will add to over £48.8 million of new and upgraded Southwark sports centres, pitches and tracks that your Labour-run council has delivered since 2010. Including our Olympic medal producing Southwark Athletics Centre, Herne Hill Velodrome and Burgess Park BMX track.

This investment in sport is just one part of our investment in Southwark’s young people. We want every child in our borough to have the best opportunities to channel newfound passions into fun and engaging activities, including those whose families are struggling to make ends meet.

That is why we have also invited children and young people to join our Summer of Food and Fun, an activity programme for children aged 4 to 16 on benefits related free school meals which will ensure that everyone, no matter their background, can enjoy free, nutritious and tasty food, and access physical activities.

Southwark has funded 39 providers who will be running 56 programmes across the borough. The programme kicked off on the 25th July and will run until 26th August. It includes multi-sports camps in Southwark’s many fantastic parks and of course, many opportunities to play football and practice an Ella Toone-inspired chip, or even an audacious Alessia Russo-style back heel. It is not just about football with something for everyone, from youth clubs to theatre workshops, aiming to promote mental and physical wellbeing.

Alongside this, I’m also really excited about our new Positive Futures for Young People Fund programme of commissioned youth activities, which went live in April. Among these are 20 different services ranging from sports, arts and crafts, drama, cooking and healthy eating, CV writing, budgeting and money management, mentoring, confidence building and lots more.

In Southwark we are determined that our young people succeed that’s why, whatever their passion, we will keep investing in their future.