Saint Lucian born visionary recognised for his work over almost four decades with the Tottenham Black Arrows Badminton Club, which he founded in 1984

BADMINTON PIONEER Henry Terry Palton-Gaspard, 61, has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his work over almost four decades with the Tottenham Black Arrows Badminton Club, which he founded in 1984.

The name Tottenham Black Arrows was chosen because it represented the make-up of the club.  Tottenham, in north London, represented the locality from which most of the players originated.  The Black represented the ethnic origin of the majority of the players.  The Arrows, represented the impact the club was hoping to make on the badminton world!

The London-based badminton player and coach born in Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia,  has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for his services to community sport in London and has received a British Empire Medal in recognition.

Better known simply as Black Arrows, the club was formed to provide the community with the opportunity to play badminton socially and competitively, and now attracts players of all nationalities and cultures.

Henry said it was “very unexpected and very humbling” to be honoured with a BEM.  “When I first received the email, I thought someone was pulling my leg.” he said with a laugh. 

“But when it sunk in, because I had a phone call with the Cabinet Office, it dawned on me that it was real and I just felt very pleased to be recognised and a little bit emotional, to be honest.”

Black Arrows began as a senior competitive badminton club in 1984 but over the past two decades has had a focus on junior development. It currently runs several adult and junior clubs across north and east London and a large development programme delivered in schools, colleges, and universities, as well as other partnerships.

Henry believes that all those associated with the club are be excited about his recognition after a difficult period during the pandemic. 

“One of the problems we have currently is, because of the lockdown situation, a lot of the venues we use for our badminton clubs are still closed because of Covid restrictions,” he said. “A lot of our sessions, we’re not really engaging as yet with members, so I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear the news.” 

Over lockdown, Black Arrows has kept in touch with members via WhatsApp and coaches through Zoom meetings to keep everyone engaged and connected and to check in on their wellbeing. 

“It’s only now, in this current term, that we’ve been able to go back into some of the schools and start delivering again,” Henry added.

On average about 450 people would normally take part in sessions run by Black Arrows each week.

PIONEER: The Black Arrows founder has been a regular award winner

To manage the delivery of its expanding programme, which includes four Black Arrows Junior club, five senior clubs, a club for 50+ aged participants, a disability club, and women’s only club, in addition to a large weekly development programme to over 30 schools, colleges and universities, Black Arrows has invested in encouraging dozens of volunteers to become qualified Level 1 and Level 2 coaches to manage those programmes.

Henry, sponsored by KARAKAL for over two decades has held several badminton roles. From 1989 until 1992, he was Honorary Secretary for NALGO Metropolitan District Council, responsible for badminton development in organising matches and tournaments.  He was also a county selector and team manager for Bedfordshire County Badminton Association between 1990 and 1994, and more recently a committee member of Middlesex County Badminton Association, responsible for junior badminton development.

Black Arrows has recently re-established a club base in Haringey, London returning to the Selby Centre where they were once based and will be running weekly junior sessions on Sundays between 1-3pm starting from July 4.

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