The National Lottery’s ‘Big Surprise’ – which honours the individuals who have made a real difference with the help of National Lottery funding – delivered a heart-warming surprise for Gemma Price, founder of Cardiff-based ‘Boxing Pretty’, Llanrumney Phoenix Amateur Boxing Club’s ladies’ and kids’ classes.
The ‘Big Surprise’ is a 90-second weekly slot during the ad break of Saturday night primetime ITV and STV shows – meaning local hero, Gemma, is set to get national recognition with around 5 million people expected to tune in across the ITV and STV network this Saturday (14 September.)
Gemma, 37, started her first class in 2013 after a 10-year abusive relationship ended, and she has since provided such inspiration and strength to her many members that they wanted to thank her.
With Llanrumney Phoenix Boxing Club being through to the final of The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards – the annual search to find the UK’s favourite lottery-funded projects and people – Gemma wasn’t too surprised when one of her groups was asked to have their photos taken. But the ‘Big Surprise’ for Gemma, which took her breath away, was seeing where the photos were on display.
Gemma arrived at class to find a group of her members and a giant screen above the boxing ring which revealed, one-by-one, huge stylised portraits of the women at iconic Cardiff landmarks including Queen Street, Cardiff Castle and Cardiff Bay.
The full-time third year Sport Management student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: “I can’t believe our photos were used like this. No-one had given anything away about it.”
Gemma, whose classes began with six women and have now grown to five classes and over thirty women training as well as girls from age ten to 16, continued: “I’ve never wanted the classes to be about me. It’s really been a team effort with a great bunch of supportive women, who all come along for different reasons, and get different things out of it.
“Starting the group really has saved my life and these guys have been a massive part of me fixing myself, so thank you to all of them too, really. They have all done so amazingly with their fitness since joining as well.”
Gemma, who has two daughters aged 16 and 13, first became involved with the club through founder Tony Richards, who was caretaker at the school where Gemma was Family Engagement Officer.
She said: “He knew how bad things were and gave me the keys to the boxing club. After years of being physically and emotionally abused and controlled, I needed an output to get rid of the anger I was feeling. Even standing in a queue in the supermarket I would get angry at anyone who looked at me and my daughters.”
She let herself into the club one Friday evening and was soon hooked on boxing at the amateur club which has produced four Welsh Champions; an Elite Senior Champion, Schoolboy Champions and Schoolgirl Champion since opening its doors in 2010.
Gemma said: “For that first hour, I punched, cried, screamed and laughed but mostly felt the weight I’d been carrying lift. When I left the gym I realised if I felt like that, there must be other women feeling the same – it turns out there are a lot.
“Domestic Violence and abuse are still pretty taboo subjects and are not spoken about as much as they should be. I started Boxing Pretty classes to provide a safe place for women to train, release and feel empowered.”
In 2017, with the help of National Lottery funding, the club that punches well above its weight moved to a bigger facility to accommodate its growing membership.
Gemma said: “Women are encouraged to bring their children with them so childcare isn’t a barrier to them being able to be physically active.
“Boxing Clubs are not just boxing clubs anymore. Coaches are parent figures, youth workers, social workers, family engagement officers – we know our kids and we know our families.
“There are high levels of anti-social behaviour, drug use, knife crime and even murder in our area, so we will use role models, who have perhaps been in trouble with the police in the past, to show others that there are better paths to take.”
Gemma’s ‘Big Surprise’ will air on ITV and STV during the ad break in Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions on Saturday 14 September, and the all-important Saturday night Lotto results will also be revealed.
Llanrumney Phoenix Amateur Boxing Club has been awarded £17,946 of National Lottery funding which has gone towards launching and running more inclusive classes.
In Cardiff, where Gemma runs her boxing sessions, around 6,100 projects have been funded by The National Lottery, amounting to around £433M in grants. Incredibly, a total of around 50,000 National Lottery grants have been awarded in Wales as a whole.
Players raise on average over £30M for National Lottery-funded projects every week across the arts, sports, heritage, health, education, environment, charity and voluntary sectors.