How Volunteer It Yourself project has been All Stars’ ‘life saver’

November 6, 2020 | by Matt Halfpenny


The refurbishment project at All Stars Boxing Gym was the first in Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) and Sport England’s new programme designed to renovate more than 200 grassroots sports clubs in need across the country over the next three years, while, at the same time, teaching local young people trade and employability skills.

About All Stars

All Stars Boxing Gym is a popular community boxing gym based in West London.

The club was founded by Ghanaian boxing champion Isola Akay in 1974 to provide a space for young boxers who were excluded from other clubs on the basis of race.

The gym continues to meet the needs of the local community by providing a safe space for disadvantaged young people, alongside offering an anti-crime mentoring programme.

All Stars had fallen into disrepair after a legal battle with the owner of the building over the club being allowed to stay on the premises. The landlord had neglected to make essential repairs, but the club had no money left for renovations after paying large legal fees.

The Project

Having heard about All Stars previously, VIY reached out in early 2020 to see if there was still work to be done on the building that would be suitable for the new programme.

They then worked alongside All Stars to create a refurbishment plan for several parts of the gym.

The main focus of the work was on the balcony space, fitting a new kitchen that was to be used as a new community café space, creating an area for parents to watch their children training and providing an additional source of income for the club.

VIY also carried out work to many other parts of the building by redecorating central areas such as the entrance, reception and main hall, as well as the corridors to the changing rooms.

The project took four weeks to complete and has greatly improved the function and look of the club. It is expected the renovations will enable All Stars to attract more members, generate more income and safeguard its future.

A ‘life saver’

Muf Akay, Manager of the club, said: “VIY has been a life saver for All Stars. The work they have carried out has breathed new life into the gym, refurbishing tired and scruffy areas such as our balcony and kitchen into a bright, attractive usable space suitable for a community café, which will go a long way to helping the club become self-sustainable.

VIY’s intervention has sparked All Stars’ ‘comeback’ and is allowing us to continue providing services so important to the community.”

An army of volunteers inspire investment

Over the course of the project, 22 young people volunteered their time and were mentored by six trade skills mentors.

Volunteers came through referrals from All Stars, Chelsea FC Foundation, The Amber Foundation, the YMCA in Walthamstow, and City YMCA.

Tasha Bradberry, a volunteer from the Amber Foundation, which helps young homeless and unemployed people get back on their feet, said:  “I liked working with the mentors, learning a bit of everything, and enjoyed being involved and helping to make progress with the space.”

Alongside Sport England, the project was supported through funding or in-kind support via the Chelsea FC Foundation, Dulux (who donated £1,500 of paint), Travis Perkins (who donated £1,750 worth of free materials and tools) and GAP Hire Solutions.

As a result of VIY’s involvement in the project, the club has attracted significant further investment in its facilities through Laing O’ Rourke and A. N .Contract Services, who will help finalise further works to the changing rooms and toilets in the building and continue All Stars’ recovery.

‘The difference is amazing’

“The difference is amazing and our members have been commenting on how great the gym is looking,” added Akay. “The rear passageway and staircase, which were also transformed, has also attracted lots of positive comments from members and coaches alike.

“At a time when we feared we would not be able to turn the clubs fortunes around, faced with so much refurbishment works and no funds because of our long six-year legal battle to secure a new 15 year lease –  a situation made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic – VIY’s intervention is allowing us to continuing providing services so important to the community.

“We can’t thank Tom, Atma, Alan, the VIY team and volunteers enough and hope they are able to return to complete all the remaining areas in the building they want to transform for us.”

Find out more about VIY

TO learn more about VIY and how they are helping communities around the country, click here.


Sign the petition to #SaveOurSports. We at England Boxing, along with UK Active, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, other national governing bodies of sport, and a host of others in the sports sector are calling for the government to instigate emergency funding in the form of a Sports Recovery Fund to ensure sport clubs, fitness and leisure facilities – the lifeblood of communities across the nation – can remain open and survive the coming difficult months of the Coronavirus Pandemic.