These notes have been written by head of the Hatters Community Trust, Kevin Thoburn, for tomorrow's edition of This Is Our Town!
We've had a lot of interest in our cohesion projects lately with our Football for Peace ambassadors meeting the Duke of Cambridge last month, and our Trust up for an award at the prestigious Football Business awards as well as our Community Operations Manager Daniel Douglas being recognised in the Sporting Inspiration category at the 2018 Love Luton awards.
A lot of the interest is centred on the 'perceived' rise in racism in football in the UK amongst some supporters, and yet we all recognise that away from matchday situations football has the power to bring people together from different ethnicities like no other sport. Recognising this, and following Daniel's award he has recently been interviewed on BBC 3CR and this week Sky Sports, no less, visited one of our centres in Marsh Farm which is funded through the Premier league KICKS project to see first-hand the work our cohesion team are involved with.
PL KICKS seeks to promote sport in deprived areas with unemployment and anti-social behaviour challenges, where lots of students under-achieve at school or college and now find the jobs market challenging. KICKS projects aim to use football a hook to engage and target young people aged 11 to 24 and attempt to divert them away from anti-social behaviour by providing training and employment and volunteering opportunities. Longer term it all leads to improved health and self-esteem where they can feel safer through by bringing different communities together.
Our cohesion team are out every night in Luton right across the town – up Farley Hill, down Lewsey and Park Street, up Crawley and in Marsh Farm engaging with the town's young people and enabling access to facilities they can't book on their own. Of course, it's not just KICKS but other organisations, such as our own council, are heavily involved through a project called Luton Street League, which is part of a Community Led local development project which hopes to use sport to engage with the disengaged and try to bring them back into mainstream society and the jobs market – tough but rewarding work.