Nick Knowles’ DIY SOS team begin building new home for boxing gym

Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS team have started building a new home for a historic boxing gym which was destroyed in the Grenfell Tower fire.

The BBC construction show has started work on the new gym which produced British stars including George Groves and James DeGale.

The Dale Youth Boxing Academy was ruined after the deadly inferno at the North Kensington tower block last June but plans were quickly drawn up to build a new one.

Mr Knowles has described the job as one of their ‘morally most important projects to date’.

Nick Knowles (pictured) has described the project as being one of the 'morally most important' jobs 

Nick Knowles (pictured) has described the project as being one of the 'morally most important' jobs 

Nick Knowles (pictured) has described the project as being one of the ‘morally most important’ jobs 

Mr Knowles was photographed assessing their plans on the site near the Grenfell Tower 

Mr Knowles was photographed assessing their plans on the site near the Grenfell Tower 

Mr Knowles was photographed assessing their plans on the site near the Grenfell Tower 

The Dale Youth Boxing Academy (pictured) was on the bottom floor and was ruined following the devastating blaze in June last year 

The Dale Youth Boxing Academy (pictured) was on the bottom floor and was ruined following the devastating blaze in June last year 

The Dale Youth Boxing Academy (pictured) was on the bottom floor and was ruined following the devastating blaze in June last year 

The historic boxing gym was located at the bottom of the high rise tower which was destroyed following the blaze 

The historic boxing gym was located at the bottom of the high rise tower which was destroyed following the blaze 

The historic boxing gym was located at the bottom of the high rise tower which was destroyed following the blaze 

The show will also build a separate hub for the community on the plot under the winding Westway carriageway, just metres from the scene of the deadly fire.

A team arrived at a long-disused site managed by the Westway Trust on Monday, cutting through a lock with a circular saw to allow their digger to enter.

The new site will be used by the academy, which helped hone the talents of British boxing talents DeGale and Groves before they both became world champions.

DeGale, the 2008 Olympic gold medallist tweeted after the fire: ‘Shocked at devastation at #GrenfellTower block where my old amateur club Dale Youth is.

‘My thoughts are with everyone affected.’

And Groves, who defeated rival DeGale in a super-middleweight clash in May 2011, also spoke of his sadness.

He said: ‘Prayers are with the residents of Grenfell Towers. Dale Youth ABC has been [there] the past 15 years. I was there Sunday. So sad.’ 

Presenter Mr Knowles was on hand to oversee the project, having first arrived in the neighbourhood just days after the fire.

He said: ‘It is the biggest and morally most important project we have done in a long time.

‘Over the years, we have had a history of being able to make things happen in difficult areas, like in Manchester turning derelict housing into housing for veterans.’

The show’s producers spent months working out what shape the project would take and finding the appropriate site, before undertaking a six-month consultation with those living in the neighbourhood about the plans.

Mr Knowles added: ‘It became apparent that it wasn’t just the people who were in the building that had been affected, this is a community that has been affected and they wanted something that would be for the community.

‘It is important that the community starts to feel like it is in charge of something and the thing that is becoming more apparent is that something is happening.

‘The general opinion is ‘why aren’t things happening?’

‘For us to be able to get something up, under way and built inside a year will remind the community that people actually do care, people are ready to come and help this community start to rebuild itself.’

Sensitivities are high around building safety in the aftermath of the fire, as a refurbishment of Grenfell Tower is suspected of aiding the inferno’s spread.

British boxers George Groves (left) and James DeGale (right) both trained at the gym before they became world champions 

British boxers George Groves (left) and James DeGale (right) both trained at the gym before they became world champions 

British boxers George Groves (left) and James DeGale (right) both trained at the gym before they became world champions 

Work has started on a brand new boxing gym after it was destroyed in the Grenfell Tower fire last year

Work has started on a brand new boxing gym after it was destroyed in the Grenfell Tower fire last year

Work has started on a brand new boxing gym after it was destroyed in the Grenfell Tower fire last year

Mr Knowles (right) talks with Mick Delaney, senior coach of the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club which used to be housed on the first floor of Grenfell Tower

Mr Knowles (right) talks with Mick Delaney, senior coach of the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club which used to be housed on the first floor of Grenfell Tower

Mr Knowles (right) talks with Mick Delaney, senior coach of the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club which used to be housed on the first floor of Grenfell Tower

The boxing gym was located in the tower (pictured in the distance) and work has begun on a new site 

The boxing gym was located in the tower (pictured in the distance) and work has begun on a new site 

The boxing gym was located in the tower (pictured in the distance) and work has begun on a new site 

To allay concerns, extra precautions will be taken in the new building, Mr Knowles said.

He added: ‘We are putting a new sprinkler system in despite the fact that it is not actually required – we are making our own judgment above and beyond what is required, because it is important the people that have been through such a disaster feel safe and secure in whatever we build for them.’

The prospect of a new space for the community to meet was welcomed by Natasha Gordon, 30, who lived at the foot of the tower.

She said: ‘It will make a difference, bring some form of peace round here.’

For the boxers who trained at Dale Youth, the fire displaced them just six months after the gym was renovated.

Now they train at a makeshift facility in a nearby car park.

Long-time trainer Mick Delaney, 73, locked up the academy just a few hours before the fire took hold on June 14.

Mr Delaney, who has been with the club for 45 years, said: ‘The boys, the older ones, thought about it a lot more.

‘There was one fella whose funeral I went to, his lads never boxed with me at a senior level but they were in our junior section – hopefully they will come back.’

Some equipment was salvaged, but debate remains about whether it should be used, he said.

‘They took some of the bags and cleaned it out, I think a lot of people are thinking ‘do we really want it?” Mr Delaney said.

One of the gym’s biggest fighters, WBA super middleweight champion Groves, has been regular contact offering his assistance.

‘George speaks to Mick pretty much every week, he called me the other day and said ‘if there is anything I can do in terms of equipment’ – George has been at the forefront throughout,’ said Peter Liggins, 36, who has been with the club for six years.

DIY SOS is putting out a call for donations of building supplies and interiors for the project, as well as volunteers.

If companies wish to donate products or get involved or work as volunteers, they can email diysos@bbc.co.uk.

 

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