Dehenna Davison, MP for Bishop Auckland, lent her support to local entrepreneur Stephen Nicholson as she declared the West Auckland Amateur Boxing Gym open.

Stephen, who is the founder and managing director of bespoke painting and decorating service S Nicholson and Sons, bought the former youth club in West Auckland, Millbank, which had been empty for approximately four years and converted it into a boxing gym during lockdown. He and his team of coaches then set to work to prepare to convert the site for opening.

While unable to visit customers due to the coronavirus, Stephen decided to set up the boxing gym because of his love for the sport and his family history in West Auckland. He was keen to give something back to the town and create a place that would benefit young people and offer an opportunity for those looking to take up a new sport.

Dehenna Davison MP was welcomed to the boxing gym for a tour and officially declared the building open for use following easing of the lockdown restrictions.

While visiting, she noted how encouraging it was to have more facilities available for young people in the town, and how timely the opening was given the government’s recent strategy to tackle obesity.

Stephen and his wife Donna will be joined by coaches John and Tina Jimmson, Ernest Spout and Arron Maguire, who will support the day-to-day running of the gym.

Stephen Nicholson said: “It was fantastic that Dehenna Davison MP was able to come and open the gym officially. She’s an excellent advocate for Bishop Auckland and we’re so pleased to have her backing. She’s always welcome to come and do some sparring if she wants to let off steam.

“I’m delighted that we’re ready to open. I couldn’t have done it without John, Tina and the other coaches. They’ve worked incredibly hard to get us here and visitors are going to love working with them.

“It was important to me to give something back to my local community and I’ve always loved boxing, so when the opportunity came up, I grabbed it with both hands. Donna and I have a great team on board who’ve been involved from day one and it’s my hope that together we’ll help local people, especially kids, to benefit and learn a new skill.

“It’s been a long road through lockdown to get to a point where we can open, and we’re glad to now be able to welcome West Auckland’s amateur boxers through the door.”

Tina Jimminson, co-owner and head coach at West Auckland Amateur Boxing Gym, said: “We brought Dehenna in, showed her around and showed her all of our facilities. She got some gloves on and had a go at the boxing bag. She really enjoyed it.”

Dehenna Davison, MP for Bishop Auckland, said: “It’s going to be incredible for young people here in West Auckland to have somewhere to go, to use as a bit of an outlet, and come and hang around with their mates without being out on the streets.

“The facilities are just remarkable. Tina and John took me round, showed me everything, and even let me have a go on one of the punch bags. I think it’s incredible for our community to have this on our doorstep, especially looking at the new obesity strategy coming out from the government, having somewhere where people can come, get fit and use it as a bit of an outlet.

“I think it’s fantastic and exactly what we need.”