Shildon AFC: becoming a true community football club

When David Dent, current chair of Shildon AFC, returned to the town where he grew up, he wanted to “do something” for the local football club, the children and community.

Fast forward several years and the club has converted a piece of waste ground and opened its first-ever community garden – with the help of a £25,000 product bursary won in 2021’s Buildbase Community Club Award plus funding from the Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership.

In just 12 months since winning the award, the club has worked with Buildbase Gateshead and contractors, Westholme Construction, to install the all-year-round community facility, officially opened by Shildon AFC captain, Ben Trotter.

David said: “The club will be eternally grateful to Buildbase as we couldn’t have done this without a headstart from the Community Club Award. The local Buildbase branch has made things happen on the ground, which has been a great experience, and the contractor Westholme Construction has pulled it all together.”

Buildbase Gateshead, led by branch manager Beverley Williams, has supplied artificial grass, pergolas, picnic tables, paving slabs and fencing, while Hirebase has provided machinery for the construction work.

Local children have already had the benefit of the community garden during Easter holidays, including sporting activities and healthy breakfasts and lunches – as well as Easter eggs, of course, and medals.

The original inspiration for the renovations came from David’s work with footballers in the town where he witnessed the  “power of football to connect with local communities”.

David said: “I get a buzz out of winning football matches, but I also want to see a link with the community and to create opportunities for people to be the best they can be.

“When I came back to Shildon, the gap had got wider between the haves and have-nots

so I wanted to redress the balance and give local kids an opportunity.” The community garden has created a greater connection with the wider community and has shown, David said, that “the club’s doors are open” to everyone.

The club has also set up a Community Interest Company (CIC) – including a community development worker – to be responsible for the community garden and other initiatives separate from the running of the football club.

Buildbase Gateshead branch manager, Beverley Williams, said: “I was delighted to attend the opening ceremony at Shildon AFC, as I have loved being part of the renovation project. Seeing the kids playing on the new, huge 25m x 16m grass area was brilliant. I will certainly be visiting the club again in the future!”

Pictured in the main photo above are, left to right, David Dent, Beverley Williams and Ray Glasper of Westholme Construction.

Buildbase has been giving away building materials to help renovate non-league football clubs since it became the title sponsor of the FA Trophy and Vase in 2016.