Queen's Birthday Honours: Badminton club founder gets BEM
- Credit: courtesy of Henry Gaspard
A badminton player and coach from Dagenham has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2021 for his services to community sport in London.
Henry Gaspard, 61, has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his work over almost four decades with the Tottenham Black Arrows Badminton Club, which he founded in 1984.
Better known simply as Black Arrows, the club was formed to provide the community with the opportunity to play badminton socially and competitively.
Mr Gaspard, who lives in Lodge Avenue, said it was “very unexpected and very humbling” to be honoured with a BEM.
“When I first received the email, I thought someone was pulling my leg.” he said with a laugh.
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“But when it sunk in, because I had a phone call with the Cabinet Office, it dawned on me that it was real and I just felt very pleased to be recognised and a little bit emotional, to be honest.”
Black Arrows began as a senior competitive badminton club but over the past two decades has had a focus on junior development.
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It currently runs several adult and junior clubs across north and east London and a large development programme delivered in schools, colleges and universities, as well as other partnerships.
Mr Gaspard believes the club would be excited about his recognition after a difficult period during the pandemic.
“One of the problems we have currently is, because of the lockdown situation, a lot of the venues we use for our badminton clubs are still closed because of Covid restrictions,” he said.
“A lot of our sessions, we’re not really engaging as yet with members, so I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear the news.”
Over lockdown, Black Arrows has kept in touch with members via WhatsApp and coaches through Zoom meetings to keep everyone engaged and connected and to check in on their wellbeing.
“It’s only now, in this current term, that we’ve been able to go back into some of the schools and start delivering again,” Mr Gaspard added.
On average about 450 people would normally take part in sessions run by Black Arrows each week.
To manage the delivery of its expanding programme, Black Arrows has also invested in encouraging dozens of volunteers to become qualified Level 1 and Level 2 coaches.