This week we created not one, but two gardens for Marcellus Baz, the founder of Nottingham School of Boxing and Switch Up, an organisation focused on mentoring young people out of a life of criminality and providing them with the life skills to be a positive member of society.
Marcellus, or Baz as he is known, was born into a large family and grew up in a deprived part of Nottingham. At just eight years old, he was influenced by negative role models which set him on a path that would lead him into life of crime. By the time he was a teenager, Baz was part of gang well known to the police for criminal behaviour.
Baz got into a bit of trouble with the police, with minor offences like criminal damage and possession of cannabis – but he spent those convictions over 20 years ago. As an older teenager, Baz found discipline and focus in his life through boxing. He spent so much time training he became good enough to enter as a professional fighter.
However, one fateful night at the age of 23, Baz was returning home from a friends birthday party. He had only recently lost his father to a stroke and the one thing left to him was his father’s watch. As he was walking home, he was confronted by three rival gang members who tried to take his father’s watch from him. Things quickly escalated and as Baz was defending himself, he was sliced across both hands, causing serious injuries. After barely escaping the incident with his life, the injuries Baz sustained meant he could no longer make fists with his hands. His professional boxing days were over before they even started. This sent him on a downward spiral of depression. At the lowest point in his life, he knew he had to make some positive changes.
After much rehabilitation and advice from friends and support workers, Baz found the courage to find some positivity in his life. After attending college and gaining qualifications, he quickly rose through the ranks at a local gym. Feeling unfulfilled in his work at the gym, Baz set up his own boxing school for kids aged 10-24 in the community, supporting them through difficult times in their lives acting not only as a coach, but also as a mentor. The Nottingham School of Boxing has been running since 2013, and in those four years Baz has helped countless numbers of of young people get their lives back on track, steering them away from a life of crime.
He often makes the comparison to what he does day to day with kids coming off the streets, to the satisfaction of planting a garden. You have to plant the seed, give it lots of time, patience and energy and eventually you will see those seeds grow and blossom into something special.
In 2016 Baz won the BBC Unsung Heroes award for services to his community and was given a British Empire Medal in the Queens new year’s honours list. But despite a long list of accolades, Baz has spent most of his life quite literally, rolling with the punches.
Alan decided that he wanted a) a small vegetable plot at Baz’s boxing gym, and b) a North African inspired chill out retreat at his home for him and his partner Omaarah and his 5 children. No biggie then Alan!
And yes you guessed it, I got lumbered with the pigeon infested back street at the gym – which at first was dreadfully grim and smelly, however it’s amazing what you can get done when you don’t have the likes of Mr. T and David Domoney interfering all the time!
Here are some pictures from the final Love Your Garden of this series. Thanks for joining us this time around! What a whirlwind! We hope you’ve had as much fun watching as we have had creating.