Junior fencing began again at the Brixton Fencing Club on 21 April after sporting lessons had to pause during the pandemic. The Imperium Sessions, which are free lessons offered to local school children, also restarted on 23 April.
The Imperium Sessions are designed to encourage participation by children from the who might not otherwise have access to a sport like fencing. These sessions are funded by the Leus Family Foundation, founded by Dmitry Leus, former European fencing champion.
Some flexibility has been needed to get the children back into their sport as the lockdown has eased. Brixton Fencing Club’s usual venue in the Recreation Centre is still being used as a food bank and so the fencing lessons have been moved to 5-a-side football pitch.
The Fencing Club say that this temporary venue has been a good enough substitute with the lower numbers that lessons may accommodate at this stage in the UK’s lifting of the lockdown.
Chris Tidmarsh QC, Committee Chair of the Brixton Fencing Club, explained:
“Before 21 April we ran online exercise classes which worked well, but the juniors are clearly delighted to be back in person to renew their techniques and their friendships.
We still have to observe many requirements such as social distancing, risk checks and attendance of COVID officer at every session, but the children’s enthusiasm makes it all worthwhile.”
Dmitry Leus, who is also Honorary President and Patron of the Brixton Fencing Club, commented on his foundation’s support for the drive to get local school children back to their free sessions:
“The pandemic has been especially hard on the youngest members of our society, especially with months of in-person schooling missed. We know the lockdown hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
For our Foundation to help in any small way to get kids exercising, building confidence and learning the skills and discipline that we gain from sport – for me that is incredibly meaningful.
Fencing transformed my own life as a child and I love to see the same impact taking place with children in London.”
Chris Tidmarsh QC added:
“None of this would be possible without the sterling support of Dmitry and the staff at the Brixton Recreation Centre. Dmitry’s sponsorship of the Imperium Sessions allows us to offer free fencing lessons to local school children.
Also, when our Fencing Club faced difficulties during the pandemic, as our expenses exceeded our income, Dmitry’s Foundation stood firmly by our side offering financial support to keep our community sporting association going.”
Dmitry Leus, of the Leus Family Foundation, is working hard to combat the aftermath of the lockdown.
As the UK’s impressive vaccination rate continues and the roadmap towards the country opening up again is visible, if not entirely fixed, the aftermath of this locked down year is already on the mind of Dmitry Leus.
The London-based entrepreneur and former European fencing champion heads the Leus Family Foundation, which was recently awarded official charitable status by the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and the welfare of young people and their families is at the heart of the foundation’s mission.
The Leus Family Foundation was founded long before COVID-19 hit and the focus has always been on young people. But the intense impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing of young people has added urgency to the Foundation’s work.
Experts have made very clear the impact of the pandemic on the young. Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, recently told The Times that although children may not have fallen ill in large numbers from Coronavirus, they have “paid a huge price for the measures we’ve had to take to contain it”.
In the same Times report, Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of Sage, warned of the potentially catastrophic “collateral damage” to children.
“There’s a real question about how much of that is a wound that heals and how much of it will lead to long-term scarring,” he explained.
“We can talk about what we think the loss of education will do; we can say what we think the harms are around mental health. But it’s also the more subtle stuff. Have we shifted a whole generation towards anxiety and being more risk-averse? Have we shifted a whole generation away from physical contact, and all the things that come with human contact that bring benefits to us? Those are all the things we don’t know.”
The toll that the pandemic has taken on the younger generation is worrying to Dmitry Leus.
He said: “This has been a tough year for everyone. But I think our young people might be the ones suffering the longest lasting impact of this unusual year. They are still developing and their characters are still forming.
What we know for sure is that we have babies who were born into a lockdown situation, toddlers who have never seen anyone outside their home without a mask, teens who have had their wings clipped just as they should be socialising independently and university students listening to lectures on Zoom in their childhood bedrooms.
We do not yet know the full impact that this isolated year will have had on them. We will still be trying to understand that in years to come. What we do know is that this generation will need our support.”
The practical challenges that the young generation faces are a priority for him: “Imagine being 18-years-old right now. Or 21. Finishing school or university. It must feel a little bleak. How has this crazy year affected your university chances? Will you be able to get a job when you graduate, given the post-pandemic economic difficulties we are likely to endure for years to come?”
However, it seems his approach is one of solutions and finding answers: “Our Foundation’s response to this problem will be to continue to target where we see the most need. Our sporting programme, helping disadvantaged children in South London to experience fencing and all the confidence-building and discipline that sporting life can deliver is one example. This is the kind of area where we can give the young a real boost.
“We know that the pandemic conditions have been extra tough for families with children with chronic illness, so supporting causes like St George’s Hospital Charity will remain a priority.”
At the height of the pandemic, the Leus Family Foundation responded to urgent appeals from charities for the Royal Free Hospital, Princess Royal University Hospital and St George’s Hospital to support doctors and nurses on the frontline through care packages, mental health provision and the creation of respite spaces for staff. It also donated to Runnymede Food Bank.
Dmitry said: “Those collaborations will continue to be important for us, as sadly there will still be hungry families as we climb out of this pandemic situation and we want to help where we can, especially to improve the life opportunities for children.
“We know that we’re all in for some challenging times ahead. The most important thing we can do is to stay positive and always look for ways in which we can make a difference. For our Foundation, that means targeting young people and their families to ensure that we build for the future by creating better chances for the next generation”.
He concludes on a characteristically positive note: “We do know that resilience is one of the most important qualities that we can have in this modern world and I have no doubt that this young generation has been building their resilience throughout the pandemic.
“But they need a helping hand now and we owe it to them. Essentially, they sacrificed a lot to help protect the old and the vulnerable and now we need to repair any damage and help this young generation.”
Imperium Investments has donated equipment to Brixton Fencing Club for senior fencers including one electric wireless set for recording hits while fencing and four ordinary spool systems.
The donation is part of Imperium Investments’ sustained initiative to assist the club to allow children from across Lambeth to experience fencing through lessons and access to the club’s facilities.
The company’s managing director Dmitry Leus, a former European fencing champion, said: “Sport can play a transformative role in a person’s life. It is not only about excelling at the sport itself.
“There are also tremendous life skills to be gained from dedicated training and the experience of competition.
“We are delighted to play a role in bringing the sport of fencing to local children and to work in close cooperation with the Brixton Fencing Club.”
Chris Tidmarsh QC, chairman of the club’s committee. welcomed the donation, saying: “Brixton Fencing Club was founded in 2004 and has always aimed to make the sport of fencing more accessible to local children. The equipment will help us enormously with that aim for many years to come.”
Chris Tidmarsh, Paul Sanchez Lethem and Dmitry Leus at Brixton Rec
By Brixton Blog
Imperium Investments and the Brixton Fencing Club have joined forces in a campaign to allow children across Lambeth to experience fencing.
The initiative, called the Imperium Academy, is designed to make the sport more accessible to local youngsters. The academy will contact children via schools and offer free and subsidised training. It will also donate new equipment to the Brixton Fencing Club to enhance the experience of children having their first taste of the sport at Brixton Rec.
Imperium Investment’s managing director and founder, Dmitry Leus, is a patron of the sport and was once a European champion. “Fencing is a fantastic sport, one that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy,” he said.
The Rec was a perfect partner for the academy, given its history of hosting the Brixton Fencing Club, one of the most successful clubs in the country, he said. Chris Tidmarsh, chairman of the club’s committee, said it was delighted to play a role at the new academy.
“It is so important that this great sport be open and accessible to all,” he said. “Yes, we’d love to be giving some future champions their first start, but we are also passionate about exposing as many kids as possible to the life skills and commitment that come from getting involved in fencing.
“We are sometimes unfairly viewed as an elitist sport and we want to be sure our doors are open.” Paul Sanchez, the UK’s top ranked male fencer, trains at the Rec and is fully behind the project. “This is a great initiative to get kids of all backgrounds trying out the sport,” he said. “Maybe one of them could soon be after my ranking!”
First junior Imperium Fencing Trophy for London Cup held at Whitgift
Over 180 London school children from more than 10 fencing clubs across London gathered for the inaugural city stage of the Imperium Fencing Trophy for juniors on Sunday 28 April.
The event is thought to be the largest and most inclusive fencing tournament in London for young fencers and was organised by Brixton Fencing Club together with Imperium Investments, a long term supporter of British junior fencing.
The competition took place at Whitgift, the most respected school for sports in South London and the place which has generated British Olympic champions and successful athletes in sports including football, cricket and swimming.
The Imperium Fencing Trophy (IFT) is a junior British-European epee fencing competition. The competition has 3 stages: City of London Cup, National British Cup and European Cup.
The Trophy was founded by Imperium Investments and its CEO Dmitry Leus, a former European fencing champion and a patron of Brixton Fencing Club. The mission of the project is to popularise and develop fencing in Great Britain among young people and to make it more attractive and accessible for children.
The children competed in the age categories U9, U11, U13 and U15 in the city stage of the Imperium Fencing Trophy. Those competing came from clubs such as Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Central London Fencing Club. The level of competition was high, involving fencers who represent the English and Wales national teams. This added to the positive, passionate and competitive atmosphere of the day.
Speaking at the event, Dmitry Leus said: “We believe that sport can play a transformative role in a person’s life. It is not only about excelling at the sport itself. There are also tremendous life skills to be gained from dedicated training and the experience of competition. We are delighted to play a role in bringing the sport to local children and give them more opportunities for personal development in professional sport or just for fun.”
Mr Leus has been engaged in fencing since the age of 12 and he went on to be European champion at the age of 17. He is passionate about passing the same opportunities on to the younger generations.
He explains: “I have a strong belief in the role sport can play in a young person’s life. The development of children’s sports is an important contribution to the future for all of us and this is why we at Imperium Investments focus some of our charitable efforts in this direction.”
After a long day of robust single combats, the main prizes were gained by the junior fencers of Leon Paul, Chelsea and Knightsbridge (U9 and U13).
The next stage of the tournament will be the National British stage of IFT. It will take place in September and will involve the representatives of British fencing clubs from Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and other British cities.
The European Cup of ITF will finish the season in November and will determine the best junior fencers among British and European fencing clubs.