The Bradfield Club in Peckham dates from 1912 and its current premises were bought in 1928, in memory of the Old Bradfieldians and Club members who died in the First World War. It aims to provide the young people of Peckham with a safe place in which to exercise, learn and eat.

The challenges facing young people in the area are more complex than they used to be and the socio-economic hurdles they encounter hit earlier in life than in past generations. However, the fantastic youth team is realistic about these difficulties and attuned to the needs of those who now come to the Club. Their work, supported by amazing volunteers, is highly valued by Club members and because of financial support from various quarters, including the Alumni community, the Bradfield Club is still able to provide its long-established support for young people, offering both group activities and an individual listening ear.

Recent conversations with club members highlighted the complexity of life faced by these youngsters who are the same ages as those in Bradfield’s Faulkner’s and Shell. On the one hand, they appreciated the diversity found in the community and the way this means that people with very different appearances and from very different backgrounds can all find a welcome. All stressed that Peckham is still an intimate community, and its friendliness was valued in their daily lives.

On the other hand, they are only too aware that Peckham has a reputation for violence, and no one was dismissive about knife crime: they talked about ‘skanks’ with daunting acceptance, as an inevitable, if unwelcome, feature of life. They spoke freely, too, of their disappointment that adults often look the other way when violence finds its way onto the street and all of them felt that they have no option except to look after themselves in such circumstances – the temptation to ‘carry’ seemed all too understandable.

The Bradfield Club aims to be a safe haven where these kids can enjoy the best of their rich community without fear that things will be spoiled by someone from the gangs.

I love cooking at the Club and love eating the food made by staff members. I feel safe at the club because all the staff are nice and treat us very well. The only other places I feel safe are sometimes school, home and football club.

The staff always support me and my friends. If I didn’t go to the Club, I’m not sure what I’d do because I hate being inside and my Mum will not let me go to some of the other clubs in the area.

My favourite thing about the Club is football. I feel safe here because the staff will defend me and there are tall gates to keep bad people outside. I feel safer inside the gates rather than outside or at my local park. If I didn’t come to the Club, I would stay home …

The lives the Club touches are enriched and the gratitude expressed by members speaks for itself. The emphasis they place upon the sense of security fostered by the Club is noteworthy and reminds us that things we take for granted in the leafy suburbs are not part of the life experience of many in the inner cities and, when provided, can make a vital difference to youngsters’ life chances.

Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ suggests that a sense of safety is more important to individual happiness than things like family, friendship, and intimacy. Only shelter, clothing, sleep and sustenance are more crucial. Seen in this context, the sense of safety created by the Club would be enough to justify its existence. That it adds opportunities for sport and one-to-one support to the basic security it provides means that what the Club is providing for the young people of Peckham is of even greater worth.

Daniel Campbell is the current Club Manager and he has been associated with the Club ‘boy and man’. Thinking of his time there as a schoolboy the same emphasis on safety is apparent:

“My first experience with The Bradfield Club was as a 12-year-old in 1999, when my friend invited me to join him there one evening. At that time, Peckham was a very rough place and the Club sat directly in the territory of a local gang named YPB (Young Peckham Boys). The Club was busy, people were playing football, table tennis, snooker and plenty of others were just hanging around and chatting amongst themselves.

Many YPB members were also present that evening – and what struck me was their behaviour whilst in the Club. They respected the staff and building, they didn’t bully other Club members and most importantly, they seemed to be having so much fun. For a gang with such a notorious reputation, it was amazing to see them in a space where they were free to be the young people they were.….

After my first visit to the Club in 1999, I am sad to say that I couldn’t visit again for nearly a year. Whilst I lived close to Peckham, in East Dulwich, the journey to the Club was full of potential dangers. I knew a few people from Peckham but was still very wary of encountering people that I didn’t know – firstly because of the local gangs operating in the area, but also of neighbouring gangs who would visit the area looking for enemies to start fights with. Street robberies for mobile phones, bus passes, and even expensive clothing were very rife at the time…

When I left school in 2003, I started to hang around with people from Peckham a lot more. For the next couple of years I would frequent the Club a few times a month, meeting new people, making friends and getting to know the staff members. Shortly after that, I stopped attending any youth clubs and got wrapped up in street life.

In the early months of 2008, I decided to leave the street and try to do better. I discovered that working with young people was my calling and I was prepared to do anything to make that dream a reality. My first youth-related job was in Lewisham where I volunteered once a week for a few months before becoming a full-time Youth Worker and in 2010, I took up a job at the Bradfield Club. A couple of years later, I progressed to a Community Development Worker – responsible for wider reaching youth-work initiatives – and shortly afterwards, around 2017, I took over as the Manager and I haven’t looked back.

For me, the Bradfield Club stands out from other clubs due to the safe space created here by staff members. Kids feel safe coming to the Club after school and during the evenings despite the Club being situated in such a dangerous area and they badly needed the respite from the trouble outside the Club doors. It’s well known locally that gang-related behaviour will not be tolerated at the Club and we don’t have any gang members at the Club; however, we do have gang members who receive support from staff on a one-to-one basis.

The staff create this safe space through the strong relationships they have with the young people and their parents in the community and the Club has a real community vibe, it is very much a home away from home for those who attend.”

Daniel is ambitious for the Club he now manages. His aspirations go beyond providing a safe space for young people. As he looks to deliver, Daniel is working closely with the Club’s trustees, of whom the most significant is the Chair, Old Bradfieldian Nick Sansom.

Nick recalls that when he was at Bradfield (during the 1970s) the Club was known to pupils but that they had no regular contact with it. However, on two memorable days, a group of Sixth Formers did spend a weekend at a large country house with boys from the Club. For many of the College boys that was a first opportunity to spend time with youngsters from a very different social background: they played games together, had discussions and, most memorably, sought out a local pub and experienced how the hospitality industry can collapse social boundaries. Nick recalls it was “an intellectual and emotional expanding experience” and is committed to supporting the Club; he has defined the following aims:

  • provide young people with a safe place from gangs, crime and harm
  • teach youngsters teamwork through sports such as five-a-side football and basketball
  • promote physical health by providing a gym area with equipment, taekwondo, boxing and badminton
  • support mental health through individual and group mentoring
  • offer education support by providing a place for study after school
  • teach life skills and assist personal development by introducing young people to good role models and offering things like outward bound away-days
  • highlight career opportunities by providing information on future pathways and offering advice on application and interview techniques
  • encourage community integration through socialising and doing things together
  • Another hope is that the Club might provide an alternative provision for youngsters who are struggling in mainstream school

Today there are about 350 youth members of which about 50 boys and 30 girls are regular users. The aim is to increase the membership and the regular users by 25% during 2024. There is no charge for membership or use of the Club.

Currently, it has several operational partners that include: Southwark Council (and its agencies such as Community Southwark); Millwall Football Club which has an impressive outreach programme coaching football and providing free meals; Princes’ Trust; London Youth; Boxing Futures which works to improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of disadvantaged young people.

The Club costs £135,000 a year to run, which seemed a relatively small sum to spend in pursuit of the benefits that were made apparent in my conversations with Club members. However, the money must be raised year on year. The Club must seek funding from donations and by hiring its sports hall; it seeks further money through applications to donor organisations.

There are many ways for readers to get involved with the life-changing work of The Bradfield Club. Daniel and the trustees are keen to talk to people ready to volunteer or make a gift and The Bradfield Club website is worth visiting. The Club is also looking for new trustees and if this is something that would be of interest email