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Decades after Elizabeth Taylor saved it, Clapton's Pedro youth club needs £50k to stay open

PUBLISHED: 10:38 05 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:38 05 May 2017

Elizabeth Taylor, second left, at the re-opening of the Pedro Club in July 1969.

Elizabeth Taylor, second left, at the re-opening of the Pedro Club in July 1969.

Archant

A youth club that's been helping kids in Clapton since 1929 needs £50,000 of funding if it's to keep its doors open.

James Cook (second left) of Pedro ABC receives a cheque from the Matchroom Foundation Charity at York Hall. Pic: Philip Sharkey/TGS PhotoJames Cook (second left) of Pedro ABC receives a cheque from the Matchroom Foundation Charity at York Hall. Pic: Philip Sharkey/TGS Photo

The Pedro Club in Rushmore Road is well known for its work tackling gang crime by offering youngsters an alternative to life on the street, particularly through its boxing classes and music studio.

It was set up by Baroness Harwood to help deprived children in the borough, and is now run by former British super-middleweight champion James Cook, who was awarded an MBE in 2007 for his work there.

But the building hasn’t had any work done to it since the 1960s. And that was paid for by former vice-president Dame Elizabeth Taylor and then husband Richard Burton, who raised £5,000 by hosting a premiere for their film The Sandpiper in Leicester Square.

Taylor was a friend of an early patron of the Pedro and served as a patron herself until she died in 2011. She and Burton brought their Hollywood glamour to Clapton when the club reopened in 1969 – but it’s a different story these days.

Errol Christie ducks as James Cook, right, throws a right during a match in 1989. Picture: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS SportErrol Christie ducks as James Cook, right, throws a right during a match in 1989. Picture: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

On top of increasing rent and business rates, there’s a leaking roof, problems with the electrics and no disabled access.

“We started the fundraiser to pay the bills,” James told the Gazette. “We’re struggling to pay at the moment and I’ve had to take a lot of money out of my pocket.

“The place also needs refurbishing. The money is for the toilets, the electrics, disabled access. There’s lots of people we know want to come here but can’t.

“We have an over-50s club and some of them struggle to get down the stairs to the toilet. We want this to be for everybody.”

While the club has ambitions to expand with adult education classes and motivational speakers, James knows closing it would hit the youngsters the hardest.

“If we don’t have something for the kids we’re going to have problems,” he said. “There’s loads of building going on but nothing for young people.

“We teach them discipline. Kids who come in here say hello, excuse me, thank you. They come and play games and we keep them off the street.

“They see someone like myself, who’s been on TV, and think: ‘Hang on, I can do that too.’”

Almost £11,000 has been raised so far, so the club needs help in pulling together almost £40,000 in 56 days. Donate at justgiving.com/pedroclub.

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