A boy walks into a club in the Forest of Dean … It could be the first line of a joke, but this is potentially a much more heart-warming story.

It happened at ‘Forest Fighting Fit’ which recently opened at the Miners’ Welfare Club in Cinderford with the aim of reducing anti-social behaviour and crime in the town centre.

Police Community Support Officer Sue Pritchard is closely involved with the project and takes up the story:

 “I’m working with a young person who’s been involved with gangs and a lot of the crime and anti-social behaviour that goes on. He came into a taster session acting ‘big’ but within 20 minutes his demeanour had changed and he was taking part in all the activities.

 “Afterwards, he and some of the others said they would like to join-in on a regular basis and their attitude has changed dramatically for the better. When I asked him what he liked best, he said it was the discipline.

 “I took along about 30 children to the taster session who’ve also been associated with anti-social behaviour either as a victim or perpetrator in the town and that was a big success too. Giving them a fresh focus and something to do is really paying off and to the best of my knowledge they’ve not been involved in any crime since.”

Forest Fighting Fit, which previously operated briefly as the Friday Night Project, is open to all members of the public including young people who have been referred by police, social services and Families First. It runs a boxing club on three evenings a week, 2 boxercize classes, fitness and healthy lifestyle classes. It could extend to six days a week if there is enough support.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl will officially open Forest Fighting Fit on Monday (June 1st 11 a.m.). The scheme has just received a grant of £40,000 from the Commissioner’s Fund to help it get off the ground.

Mr. Surl said:

“It’s not easy turning young people away from friends who are a bad influence and, from what I hear, the boy still has some way to go. But this is such an encouraging story and a really good example of what the project, and others like it, can achieve to make their communities better.

“Reports of anti-social behaviour in Cinderford account for over 31% of the total number reported to the Police in the Forest of Dean area as a whole.  There’s clearly a demand for youth diversionary work in the Town, which may reduce the number of young people hanging around ‘with nothing to do’ in the Triangle and in the Co-op car park in particular. 

“Giving them opportunities they will enjoy will not only benefit them as individuals but is also likely to lead to an improved atmosphere in the Town and a greater feeling of security for visitors and people who live there.”

About Forest Fighting Fit

Forest Fighting Fit aims to reduce anti-social behaviour, reduce the fear of crime in the town centre and act as a catalyst to engage families with key workers (such as Social Services and Families First) in around the Forest of Dean through engagement with positive activities including:

  • A boxing club, both young men and women will have opportunity to learn self-control and how to channel frustrations, improve self-esteem and confidence, become part of a team as well as improving physical fitness, health and wellbeing. 
  • Through innovative ‘mini moto’ off road driving experiences, the project will offer opportunity for young people to learn and increase awareness of road safety when driving or owning a vehicle. How to deal with the Roads in the Forest of Dean and help to fight the high level of mortality of young people in the district through driving accidents
  • The project will offer opportunity to include engagement with the whole family by encouraging volunteering and offering training on a range of related subjects including First Aid, Health & Safety and Marshalling.
  • The project will focus on Cinderford initially as this is a key area for anti-social behaviour, crime, underage drinking and young drivers.

For more information on Forest Fighting Fit contact masoncarr@sky.com