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Tim Holtam

Tim Holtam set up Brighton Table Tennis Club, providing a sanctuary and transforming the lives of young refugees, former prisoners, pensioners, national champions, schoolchildren and people with learning difficulties.

When Tim Holtam moved to Brighton in 2005, he found there was no youth club for the sport in which he excelled as a junior champion - table tennis. So he set one up himself, securing a free room and two worn-out tables. Sixteen years later, the club is now engaging more than 1,500 people from all backgrounds and ages, in 70 weekly sessions.

It has grown into so much more than a table tennis club. Thanks to Tim’s determination to transform lives and create opportunities for all, the club provides people with positive role models and a place to train, but also with an identity, a sense of belonging and purpose.

While they have helped develop a Paralympic Gold Medallist and national champions; it's their outreach work in schools, youth centres, prisons and with asylum seekers that has really made a difference. Today the training programme includes those with Down’s Syndrome, ex-prisoners, and people living with long-term health conditions, as well as high performance players.

Footballer Bobby Zamora presents Tim Holtam with his National Lottery Award
Footballer Bobby Zamora presents Tim Holtam with his National Lottery Award

In 2016 Brighton Table Tennis Club became the UK’s first Club of Sanctuary, recognising its work with refugees and asylum seekers and providing table tennis lessons to 80 unaccompanied refugee children from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Algeria and Vietnam. Hoang Nguyen, a teenage refugee from Vietnam, went on to become the first of many qualified table tennis coaches.

Last year, as one of three partners, they opened a new community food hub, which includes a new café serving food on a donation basis.

Tim said: “I firmly believe that sport can be used as a powerful tool to engage people from all ages and transform lives if you give them the opportunity."

"You’ve got someone who is in their 80s, someone who is 10, you’ve got the national Down’s Syndrome champion, or you’ve got someone from Sudan or Syria. It’s just people playing table tennis. It’s not about their label.”

Tim Holtam with his National Lottery Award
Tim Holtam with his National Lottery Award

"I'm absolutely delighted to have won this award and really want to emphasise that Brighton Table Tennis Club is very much a team effort. We have collectively built such an amazing group of people all working together to instil a lifelong of table tennis and a positive sense of community in all of our players."

"Thank you to absolutely everyone who has helped along the way since 2007, especially Wen Wei Xu and Harry McCarney, who have been in it since the very beginning. It is a great feeling to still look at what's coming up next and sense that we are only just getting started."

"I am convinced that what grassroots sport needs is more community activists motivated by social value. Those driven by passion to use sport to bring opportunities to those who wouldn't otherwise have access to them. We are going to use the money that comes with this award to expand our table tennis programme in prisons."

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