'The Greatest Oak Was Once A Tiny Acorn That Held Its Ground'

A proud history of West Yorkshire Boxing Clubs is being celebrated in a new exhibition at The Piece Hall
Mag North
April 27, 2023

The Gallery in Halifax's Piece Hall is launching a celebration of the traditional boxing clubs found around Halifax and Calderdale this weekend.      

“Halifax Stars” is a newly created film and oral history project which focuses on the sport’s working-class roots in the many clubs which have operated proudly in and around the area for decades.

This unique free-to-enter exhibition opens at 10am on Saturday 29 April 2023 and will run until  Sunday 28 May.

Nicky Chance-Thompson DL, CEO of The Piece Hall Charitable Trust said: “History isn’t just about grand buildings like our beloved Piece Hall, it’s the stories of everyday people, the battles they face and the challenges they overcome. I’m incredibly proud that we are able to share these important local stories and shine a light on these captivating characters which have shaped our communities so much over the decades.”

An innovative intergenerational project led by verd de gris arts and co-created with local boxing coaches and community workers, it shares the stories of older fighters and the gyms that used to be a prominent feature of the area.

It also celebrates the importance of boxing to young working-class people today to the instilling of self-discipline, self-care, respect and pride in community.

Jeff Turner from verd de gris arts said: “In developing this project, we wanted to reflect the strength and communal nature of boxing culture in working-class towns like Halifax and across West Yorkshire.

“Rather than us trying to tell this story through historical facts and statistics - we have chosen to let the boxers speak for themselves and give you an insight into why boxing is perhaps the most noble of sporting arts.

“Many of these clubs have historically worked with some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged people in the borough - offering support and positive relationships for young people suffering adverse circumstances, at risk of crime, alcohol, and substance abuse.”

verd de gris Arts worked alongside filmmaker and photographer Geoff Brokate on the project with extensive support and commitment from local gym owners Mick Rowe, Cass Varey, Josh Sandland, and the family of Clarrie Shaw, whose book 'Roy's Boys' lovingly documents the history of the local boxing scene.

Halifax Stars is one of 57 projects that Historic England is funding through its Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories. These projects reveal  and celebrate fascinating untold stories from across England.

Sean Curran, who leads on Historic England’s Everyday Heritage Grants scheme said: “Halifax’s boxing clubs have played a huge role within their local communities, helping young people to hone their minds and bodies. We are really pleased to be able to play our part in celebrating the history of these clubs and the fighters who trained in them.”

Halifax and its surrounding area have a long and proud tradition of boxing clubs and academies and currently the area has a growing number of successful boxing clubs and fitness gyms - with owners and trainers steeped in the stories, memories, and glories of the amateur and professional boxing scene.

Halifax Stars will be open daily at The Gallery on the top floor of The Piece Hall from 10am until 4pm from Saturday 29 April until Sunday 28 May.

Header Image: Halifax Stars Archie Holden