Christopher Tidmarsh QC with UK fencing No. 1 Paul Sanchez-Lethem and Dmitry Leus of Imperium Investments
The Brixton Recreational Centre might initially seem an unlikely place to be producing fencing stars. It’s a sport that is sometimes labeled as elitist, which is unfair. However, since the Brixton Fencing Club was founded in 2003 by Marek Stepien, an Olympic fencer, the neighbourhood has established quite a track record in the sport.
The club started out as one for juniors only, but when the first wave of fencers became 18 years old, the club grew naturally into a mixed junior and adult club with great success at both levels. It has produced more than its fair share of British champions at under-12, 14, 16 and 18. We have won the British team championships on several occasions and have and have had in the past the British senior number one ranked fencer. Several of our fencers have competed at the Cadet and Junior European and World Championships. One of our young stars is Tariq Roach, a talented cadet fencer who recently competed at the World Cadet Championships. Another great talent is Laura Sheffield who won a bronze medal at the individual epee at the European Cadet Championships in 2017 and silver in the team event. Paul Sanchez Letham is the current British senior number one and is based at the Brixton Fencing Club. Paul joined the club when he was 10 and we’re proud to follow his career and have him train with us.
We are fortunate to have a talented team of coaches. Kamil Golisz took over as head coach in 2006 and the team now includes Pavel Rynes, Oana Lavinia and Natalia Krolak Johansen. Much of our success is down to this talented and dedicated coaching team. The fact that we have talented fencers training at the club is a real pull and draws in yet more to join us, building our success. We encourage non-members to train with us and we are happy to support them in this way and continue to open the sport up.
Recently we teamed up with Dmitry Leus, the founder of the Imperium Academy, to support British Fencing by giving children access to the sport. Dmitry has been very supportive. He has been a European Champion and his enthusiasm is infectious. His ambition is to help Britain become truly competitive in epee fencing. In order to do that he is supporting fencers at all levels but has also started at the most junior end and is sponsoring the Club to provide starter lessons for local state school children free of charge. Once the children have finished the starter lessons, they will be invited to join the regular club sessions again free of charge. The Imperium Academy is a truly exciting opportunity and offers a real chance of increasing the numbers and social reach of fencing. Dmitry and I are convinced that it will produce results. With our combined efforts, enthusiasm and support, we hope that we can transform British fencing.
Our passion for the sport has never been more important. As Georgina Usher, the chief executive officer of British Fencing, pointed out in a letter to The Guardian this month (14 June 2018), athletes in sports such as fencing, baseball, volleyball and archery have been cast aside by UK Sport’s current investment policy as UK Sport looks ahead to Paris 2024. Here in Brixton we are doing our part to boost and build our future fencing champions.
Christopher Tidmarsh QC is Committee Chairman at the Brixton Fencing Club.