“There’s more to Butetown than our troubles”: documentary film shows resilience of Tiger Bay community

Belonging Tiger Bay boxing club screening 1

Sharif Muhamuda, Wasem Said, Hayley Selway and Prof Florence Ayisi at the screening of Belonging: Tiger Bay Boxing Club

A documentary film focusing on the members of Tiger Bay Boxing Club has been praised by Minister for the Economy of Wales, Vaughan Gething MS during a screening in Cardiff Bay this week.

Belonging: Tiger Bay Boxing Club, created by researchers at the University of South Wales, presents an intimate portrait of the young people who train at the Butetown Club. Based in one of Cardiff’s most deprived communities, the club was taken over in 2018 by coach Wasem Said, who was inspired to create a ‘positive narrative’ of Butetown, and now trains more than 300 young men and women every week.

The film was produced and directed by Professor Florence Ayisi, Professor of International Documentary Film at USW, as part of the UK Research and Innovation funded Co-POWeR research project – a consortium exploring the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities. Belonging: Tiger Bay Boxing Club is one of a series of documentaries being produced by a team of researchers at USW and several alumni, led by Prof Ayisi.

Watch a trailer here: https://vimeo.com/886810842

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Screened at an event in the Pierhead Building on Tuesday 20 February, the documentary highlights the experiences of the club’s members during the Covid-19 lockdowns, showing how the challenges they faced helped them become closer as a community, and use their determination and resilience to safeguard the most vulnerable people in the area.

As well as investing in iPads and laptops to communicate with its young members, the club saw a team of volunteers regularly deliver food parcels to elders within their community. These charitable efforts led to Wasem being recognised with a National Lottery ‘Lockdown Legend’ award in 2020.

After outgrowing its original home in the South Wales Islamic Centre, the club received support from Cardiff Community Housing Association (CCHA) to relocate to its current home in Loudoun Square in 2022.

Belonging Tiger Bay boxing club screening 2 Vaughan Gething

Vaughan Gething, whose constituency covers Butetown, officially opened the club’s new base. He said: “Boxing is a good lesson for life itself, and Tiger Bay Boxing Club provides a valuable space to encourage young people to think about learning, and invest in their future.”

Hayley Selway, former CEO of CCHA, also attended the screening and said: “In a world of conflict and division, Tiger Bay Boxing Club stands for inclusivity and dignity, and gives us all hope.”

Sharif Muhamudu is one of the young boxers featured in the film. He said: “I was about 15 or 16, overweight, and just wanted to do something with my life; I was waking up in the morning with no purpose or ambition. Wasem suggested I join the gym and I’ve never looked back. He works so hard to help others, and make sure everyone is welcome at the club. I’m so grateful that I found the club, as it’s given me a focus that I never had before.”

Ritwan Ahmed, another of the members, said: “I lost my dad in 2017, and stopped taking care of myself. I decided to join the gym to try to lose weight and get me out of the house, and found this brilliant community. Even on my worst days, when I feel sad or angry, I come to the gym and feel 10 times better when I leave. It’s helped me meet the most inspiring people who have become my friends, and has made a huge difference to my mental health.”

Wasem Said added: "Having this fantastic new space for our club has really made us feel at home, and gives our members a sense of belonging. We loved being involved in the documentary too, which captures the club perfectly and has helped put Tiger Bay on the map."

The screening event, sponsored by Vaughan Gething MS, was also attended by Co-POWeR researchers from the University of London - Professor Anna Gupta from Royal Holloway, and Professor Claudia Bernard from Goldsmiths. The aim of the event was to highlight USW's mission and vision of public engagement, and the impact of our research on communities.