Halifax Stars - Boxing & Working Class Culture in West Yorkshire

Exterior of original Halifax Star pub on corner of road.

The Star Inn in Halifax around 1982 / Verd de Gris Arts

Halifax, West Yorkshire has a long and proud tradition of boxing clubs and academies. This is a town steeped in tough, working class sporting heritage. A town that produced British, European and Commonwealth Champion Richard Dunn; housed famous Mississippi bluesman and ‘Golden Gloves’ Champion Jack Dupree in the 70s and 80s (Eric Clapton and a host of blues greats came to jam at his council house in Ovenden) and brought Mohammed Ali to the terraced streets of Halifax in the 1970s.

Young man posing in boxing gloves and gym kit. Halifax Star Amateur Boxing Club.

Gordon Jones around 1954 / Verd de Gris Arts

Local boxing clubs like Halifax Star and Stainland Mechanics were rooted in local working class community life. The pastoral care offered by the enigmatic coaches who ran these clubs, Gordon Jones and Roy Rocky Alcott respectively, supported a generation of young men who otherwise might have struggled with life choices during a period of profound social and economic hardship.

A shirtless Richard looks to camera, boxing gloves raised.

Richard Dunn around 1974 / Clarrie Shaw

As the 1980s wore on, these clubs worked with some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged people in the borough. However, as the economic hardship bit deep into Halifax’s working class resolve, many of the old clubs disappeared; the old trainers hung up their gloves and locked the doors on the old mills spaces where they trained countless young fighters.

Mick standing at ringside, wears hooded jacket and shorts. Black and white.

Boxing Coach Mick Rowe in 2023 / Verd de gris Arts

By the early 2000s a new generation of coaches emerged – club owners and trainers steeped in the stories, memories and glories of the amateur and professional boxing scene in Halifax, who recognised the vital role boxing had to play in community life, club owners like Mick Rowe and Cass Varey.

Clubs like Halifax Boxing Sport and Fitness, Hebden Bridge Boxing Academy, and the new Halifax Star, are some of the few places that still offer support and positive relationships for young people suffering adverse circumstances, at risk of crime, alcohol and substance abuse in the area.

Halifax Star team with trainer Bob ‘Tiger’ Ennis (first left) a young Gordon Jones (fifth back row) and wrestling legend and TV celebrity Shirley Crabtree next to Bob Ennis

Halifax Star 1954 / Clarrie Shaw

Towns like Halifax and Hebden Bridge have been hit by acute problems caused by heroin and alcohol addiction and local people like Mick and Cass give these young people a sense of focus, getting them away from drugs, getting them fit and taking care of their mental and physical well-being.

Halifax Stars Film

This film was made as part of the Halifax Stars project – funded by Historic England to celebrate the working class culture of boxing gyms in Halifax and the surrounding towns of West Yorkshire. The project was led by Verd de Gris Arts.

Verd De Gris Arts were delighted to host a special film screening and celebratory event on National Sporting Heritage Day 2023, that brought together generations of boxers/family members, past and present as part of the Halifax Stars project. “We feel that National Sporting Heritage Day gives us the perfect opportunity to celebrate both the legacy of boxing in the town of Halifax, but also to celebrate and champion the work that is done by local clubs working in the area right now.”

For more information on the Halifax Stars project contact jeff@verddegris.org

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