Taj Butt is a familiar face in community sport in Bradford, having spent over two decades working for the likes of Bradford Council and the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, as well as a number of years involved with amateur football and cricket clubs as both player and volunteer.   

He’s currently one of two Community Engagement Managers supporting  Sport England Local Delivery Pilot in Bradford in the initial research phase.  We caught up with him at Great Horton Church Cricket Club, where he plays a leading role at the club.

I saw the Community Engagement Manager advert at the start of the summer, and the thing that caught my eye was the areas it was working in.  Manningham and Girlington are the areas I’ve grown up in and worked in for a number of years. Also, the idea of local delivery really appealed to me, because it’s something I’ve always believed in over the years.  

My remit is to work with the project’s research partners, Born in Bradford, at a local level.  As I’ve gone around meeting various community clubs and groups, it’s been a case of letting people know about what’s going to happen over the next few years in their areas with the pilot.  

I’ve been trying to find out what role they can play in this, and that’s what this research phase is all about – finding out about individuals as well as facilities in the area.  

We’ve been asking people, ‘If you had a blank sheet to do something to make more young people active, what would you do?’  I’ve been helping Born in Bradford to make contact and meet with some of these groups that they otherwise might not have been aware of.  

The response from people has been really positive.  Speaking to young people, it’s been quite shocking the level of activities available to them.  There’s probably fewer opportunities for those young people than there’s ever been.  Hopefully we can change that with this pilot.  

We’ve had a lot of initiatives that have come into these areas, and whilst some of them have made a difference, not all of them have worked.  What local people can deliver for themselves cannot be matched by any kind of initiative.  If we can empower local people to deliver this then it can be sustainable.  

In inner-city areas we’re quite good at organising events, and there’s a big demand for them as well.  I was brought up in the days of the Bradford festival where thousands of people used to attend community events.  Due to austerity, there’s less opportunities these days, particularly for families in the summer.  

We’ve had a really nice summer so people have been desperate to attend events.  There’s been some good events in the parks, recreation grounds, and at local sports clubs as well.  They’ve been very well attended and that’s given us an opportunity to get face-to-face with people and find out what they’d like to see from the pilot.  

We also been able to organise activities in the six-week summer holidays. Not everybody in inner-city areas can afford to go away on holidays or trips, so it’s really important that we’ve always had organisations who will put on different schemes where young people can do things through the day.  

Across two of the sites – Great Horton Cricket Club and Manningham Sports Association – kids aged 5-14 have been able to turn up and play different sports and activities, for four days a week, for five weeks.  We had a bit of a break for Eid and also the bank holiday.  The weather helped and we were inundated with young people who wanted something to do through the day, and we probably saw around 200 kids a week.    

It’s always great to see young people enjoying themselves, but the main thing for me was some of the feedback we got from the parents, and particularly the mothers.  It’s obvious to me that there’s families out there who are crying out for opportunities.  Some of the comments really motivate me to want to keep doing more.  

There are a couple of bigger sports clubs who have done really work organising bigger events this summer.  One was hosted by Fairbank United, who had about 1,000 people at their event.  We had a ‘The Big Lunch’ event at the cricket club, and that attracted around 500 people.  From that, we’re looking to do a couple more, including one at Manningham Mills on the 23rd September.  It’s a family fun day with loads going on, and hopefully the weather will be good to us.  Again, it’ll bring the community together and provide Born in Bradford with the opportunity to get the views of lots of kids and their parents. 

I really believe this pilots is a huge opportunity.  As I’ve already said, we’ve had projects and initiatives come into the area and for various reasons they haven’t necessarily worked.  As it says in the title, it’s ‘local delivery’.  If we want to get people active, we need more people.  Yes, we need resources and facilities, but it’s people that make other people active.  If we can get more people with qualifications and experience, then I think those are the assets to the community.  

As I go around meeting people, I’m excited that they will make a big difference in their own communities.

Janet Jewitt, also a Community Engagement Manager, will be blogging about her experiences soon.

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