Here at Wax, football is part of our DNA, a community building exercise that can bring together people from all kinds of backgrounds. That’s why we were so excited to get to talk with the amazing @Bloomsburyfootball. Bloomsbury football work with local schools, councils, and community groups to ensure that no child is ever denied the wide-ranging benefits of regular football. Their services are either free-to-access, or heavily subsidized by our bursary and scholarship scheme. Families who can’t pay, don’t – and their children receive exactly the same high-quality service as those who can.
Check out our interview with some of the people and parents involved with this incredible organisation that provides for young people, the impact the beautiful game has on community, and what to look out for in the coming year.
Head of Partnerships
Thanks so much for meeting with us this morning, please could you introduce yourself?
Hi guys, I’m Joe West, head of partnerships here at Bloomsbury Football.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Bloomsbury football and what you do?
Bloomsbury football is a central London based football charity that works with over five thousand kids a week to provide affordable football and all the benefits that come with it to all of those families and young people we work with.
How did Bloomsbury football start?
Bloomsbury started in 2018 with four kids, two that could pay and two that couldn’t, with a session based in Camden Town with our founder Charlie Highman. As we’ve grown, we’ve kept the financial model, so if you can afford to pay, brilliant, that helps us massively with the revenue of the charity and helps us subsidise the cost of the children that can’t afford to pay.
Football is the most accessible sport in the world. It’s the beautiful game for a reason, it brings people together and it massively impacts the community it works in. Football can often be painted in a bad light, but if you look around us today, you can see hundreds of kids running about, being very active and I think it’s a brilliant thing.
What are some of the positive impacts with football?
So we have parents coming up to us every session, every week, saying since Bloomsbury, my child’s concentration has improved, their ability to communicate, they’ve met other people they wouldn’t have met. So it improves their prospects massively, it improves their development, and playing sport has a massive impact on a child’s happiness, mental health and physical health.
Does the cost of living crisis impact your work here?
Massively. So as we already know, London is a very expensive place to live, even prior to Covid and the recent energy crisis, so what we see is that pitch space is very, very expensive, so in most instances, if you can’t afford to pay you won’t be able to play. So, that has been an ongoing problem forever, there’s not enough pitch spaces in London. So we want to increase the capacity in that sense, but we also want to pass on subsidies to the people that work with us, so if you can’t afford to pay, even if you can’t afford to pay the subsidised price, we will always make it possible that you can play. We’re not here to create a profit, we’re a charity, we want to see as many kids playing football as we can.
What do you think we can all do to help?
Volunteering, giving your time, if you have skills, giving your expertise to football charities, there’s plenty of good ones out there, to help develop the resilience of the game and improve the lives of young and older people, because football can have a massive impact on everyone.
What has been the highlight for you over the last year?
So here at Coram’s fields we held our first ever annual community get together. There was over seven hundred parents and kids. It was a brilliant event, really lovely to see everyone after the last tough few years of Covid. It was so nice to see everyone having a good time, enjoying the experience, see the impact that we are having and the sense of community that we are building. We’re only four years old, but we see the possibility of Bloomsbury growing all across London.
What exciting things are coming up for Bloomsbury?
We’ve just started a partnership with LaLiga. So they have partnered with us which we are absolutely ecstatic with. Twelve teams have donated kit and equipment. It’s allowed us to provide a weekly league for thirty weeks for all Bloomsbury children to represent the teams for the course of the year. The kids are extremely excited, they get to represent their icons. And aside from that we have lots of exciting projects coming up with Nike and other partners throughout the year. So there’s lots going on, watch this space!
Thanks for talking with us, please could you introduce yourself?
Hi, my name’s Hanok Grayton. I’ve been coming to Bloomsbury for about two years now. I’ve got three children coming here, all different age groups. So my week is full of football activities!
Very busy, yeah haha.
What does it mean to be a part of Bloomsbury?
When I think of Bloomsbury, I think of fun, footballing sessions. It’s not all like Bloomsbury, the kids when they come to Bloomsbury, they have fun. It can be competitive, but it’s mostly about fun. They build up skills to play as a team, and when I look at my kids, the confidence they’ve gained since coming to Bloomsbury. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing, bringing them to multiple sessions a week.
Can you give an example of those benefits? How it’s impact your children’s behaviour?
My middle son was always easy going, so he could make friends very easily. But the youngest and the oldest they were a bit reserved. Now I can see them easily making friends, and it helped them to be part of Bloomsbury.
Who’s the biggest football fan in the family?
It’s funny because when my oldest started playing football, he was not interested in football at all. All of a sudden, he turned hundred and eighty degrees. He went from not being interested to loving football. If you asked him what he likes about football, he’d tell you football is my life.
Amazing! What benefits do you think football has on the community?
It does a lot. Football can be expensive, so it’s not about the love but whether parents can afford it. Normally what might happen is, some kids might love football but they don’t get the opportunity to play in a team, or in this kind of session, but Bloomsbury, it’s for everyone.
Hi! Please could you introduce yourself and tell us about your time with Bloomsbury so far?
My name’s Milo. I joined Bloomsbury around the summer where I did some of the camps. I really like the atmosphere, the environment and the values. Since I’ve got a variety of experience, I’m doing the academy under seven team, I do the foundation under tens, do some stuff with schools and after school clubs, I’ve recently started a nursery / pre-school club as well, which was an experience!
I bet! So, what do you love about Bloomsbury?
I love how it really brings people together. It’s a really nice mix of people because of the initiative to remove the economic barrier to football. It makes a really nice melting pot of personalities, which in society is really important. I love how it gives equal opportunities to children, you can’t really not can you?!
Absolutely, so what opportunities do these children get?
They get the ability to have access to high-quality coaches passionate about their jobs, access to great facilities, and the opportunity to grow as people. The environment helps kids to grow, not just as footballers, but as people and mature, which I think is the power of sport really.
Definitely, you can see how excited these kids are here today. Expanding on that, what role do you see a coach having in this development?
Being a positive role model, but also facilitating what the kids want and their own demands. So with my nursery session, I’m going to try and get them to do playing intricate pattern play stuff! It’s all about fun games. If I can get them to kick a ball, it’s pretty much the most I can achieve! Whereas with the academy it’s more high level, with the district team you can bring in more of the tactical concepts. So it’s about being acutely aware of the level of your kids, where they can get to and what their motivations are. Then you develop a session around that where you can help them grow really.
So it sounds like there are two types of coaches, a coach focussed on imparting a skill-set and a more socially focussed coach. What do you see in the benefits of these types of coaching?
Well I try to do both! Obviously, we’re here to make people better footballers, but at the same time, there’s such a big social component to Bloomsbury that we wouldn’t be fulfilling our responsibility if we didn’t include that in our sessions. Every session, whether it is at the start, or a break in the middle, I’ll always emphasise life values to show them how it applies to wider life.
You must see your impact on these kids, what would you say is your biggest success story?
I’m new to coaching a team, but I just had my second ever match. The first game we lost four nil, the second game we won four nil. And I don’t know how much of a success story it was per se, but it was an incredible feeling. I remember leaving thinking, this is one of the best days of my life.
Amazing, so you saw your tactical side of coaching come into play, what about the social side? Have you seen changes in behaviour?
I think definitely. I’ve got a Bears session, which is Bloomsbury’s three to six year old session, and I’ve seen them adapt to the sessions I set. It’s really fulfilling to see them learning about these sessions and organised environments and adapt within it.
You must also see some interesting interactions with the younger kids!
Yeah, I had a kid get into a war of words with another player, and he said the kid’s head looked like Pluto. I found it funny and then remembered I had to cut it out! But things like that are great to see to watch them develop and learn to socialise with each other. It can be funny and insightful!
Hi, please could you introduce yourself and tell us about your time with Bloomsbury?
Hi, James Williams and I’ve been working for Bloomsbury for just over a year now as the lead coach and Bloomsbury Bears co-ordinator. So getting our players from three to six years old in and teaching them a fun introduction to football, getting them moving, playing sports and running around on the weekend.
Fantastic, can you tell us some more about Bloomsbury?
Bloomsbury is a charity changing the game for young people in London. We offer subsidised sessions on a pay-as-you-can-afford basis to remove the financial barriers to football in London.
So the big question: Why Football?
Why football? What a question! For me, it’s always been about football. When I was a kid, I played football everyday of my life, with my family, with my friends, with my brothers, with my mum and dad, its always football. I wanted to watch it, play it, so as soon as I became old enough to join a team, I joined one a bit like Bloomsbury, except it wasn’t a charity, so most of the kids came from a similar background. As soon as I left university, I heard about Bloomsbury and I was looking for a job in football, so I came down and did a few trial sessions. Ever since then, I never looked back. It’s the most wonderful family and environment to coach, they’re so supportive for all the young coaches learning the game and for all the young players as well.
You obviously have a real passion for the game! What skillsets do you think football can impart?
The biggest thing for me that playing football can teach you as a kid is resilience, and teamwork and communication skills, which you can take with you from football, most importantly into the classroom or into any other bits of your life as well.
Skills you can take with you for the rest of your life. As a charity, you must have seen some of the effects of the difficult living situations so many are facing currently?
Yes, in the half-term holidays we run a football camp. I was at market road football pitches and we had about seventy kids come down everyday to come and play some football and enjoy themselves. We had lots of kids that were coming and we had to provide lunches for them because a lot of the parents were struggling to provide food. So we experienced first-hand the difficulties some parents are going through and try to help them out as much as we can.
That’s an amazing thing to do. While there are a lot of challenges, you must have a lot of amazing moments. What’s been some of your highlights over the last year?
I have a highlight every week of my job. You might think that sounds like an exaggeration but honestly I love this job so much. I love working for Bloomsbury, I love working with all these amazing kids that we’ve got here, and I would say particularly working with early years. My favourite thing to see, is when you see a player score their first goal. We see it every week, we have goals over there with the Bloomsbury Bears, and maybe they’ll come to football for three, four weeks and they’re a bit to shy to get joined in, it might take some time to ease them in, but once you get a kid join in for their first session properly, and you see the look on their face, the excitement in their eyes when they score their first goal, for me that’s just magic.
That must be very special. Lastly, what is coming up for Bloomsbury?
There’s a few exciting Bloomsbury events coming up this year. We have the blind football festival coming up at the start of December, with Azeem who is a footballer for the blind national team for England. So we will be working with him to put on a festival for all of the blind players in London which will be awesome and I’m super excited about it!