As the news breaks that the once National Association of Boys’ Clubs [NABC], founded in 1928, is from hence to be known as ‘AMBITION’, the Daily Mash reports that ‘Ping Pong Table prevents riots’! There’s a synergy here. Although the first statement is serious, the second satire.

Indeed the old NABC, most recently trading under the name, ‘Clubs for Young People’, has felt it necessary, using the inevitable discourse of business and advertising, to rebrand in order to be more relevant and up to date. Helen Marshall, chief executive of Ambition, said: “Ensuring that we are in the best shape possible going forward has been vital to our thinking about the new brand and three-year strategy.” For more information see Neil Puffet’s piece in CYPN and/or go to the new AMBITION web site. The latter is well worth a visit to get a feel of where things are up to. Behind the ambitious window dressing is to be found  a strong traditional youth organisation, focused on clubs and activity programmes and none the worse for that. By chance a few days ago in Halton the National Table Tennis Tournament took place, which brought back memories of my early days as a member of the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs, travelling across Manchester to be involved in all manner of inter-club competitions.

All of which nostalgia takes us to the breakthrough in practice reported in the Daily Mash.

THE arrival of a ping pong table at a Tottenham youth club has prevented another summer of urban riots, it has emerged.

It’s like a scale model of tennis, with an urban edge

The table, which came with balls, net and four bats, is thought to represent the tipping point between the area’s youth being bored and being inspired.

Youth worker Donna Sheridan said: “We’d tried everything: a ‘bar’ serving Fanta, First Aid classes, even a community theatre play about chlamydia.

Nothing seemed to engage them and I felt we were headed inexorably towards another summer of violence, at least soon as the weather improved.

“Then the ping pong table arrived.

“Suddenly crews from other post codes with a long-standing history of ‘beef’ were coming over, bringing their own bats in little zip-up cases.”

Local teenager Norman Steele said: “When I’m playing ping pong, it’s like I forget about all my problems. I’m in another place, like a ping-pong planet.

“Round here, young people feel like they’ve been abandoned by the rest of society, a problem I addressed in my own small way last year by stealing 200 AA batteries from Rymans then setting fire to it.

“But now I’ve stopped listening to grime and my role models are ping pong players like China’s Liqin Wang and the German Timo Boll.”

In sending this scurrilous link to the Campaign, Andy Smart asks whether the IDYW Campaign is any longer necessary. In the next moment we will be hearing that the pool table is back, along with all sorts of improvised conversations about life and politics!

In the meantime – even if we cringe a little at the new name –  we wish in all seriousness the very best to AMBITION in this latest phase of its existence.  In a page on youth clubs today, the  Rev Arthur Sweatman is quoted in 1863 as saying clubs provide “evening recreation, companionship, an entertaining but healthy literature, useful instruction, and a strong guiding influence to lead young people onward and upward socially and morally”. I wonder what he might say today?


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