Wigan martial arts club's banners stolen

An award-winning martial arts club is being thwarted in its bid to make a difference in the community by vandals who keep stealing its advertising banners.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 9:26 am
Stuart Swalwell, who runs Orrell Ju Jitsu club, is unhappy after promotional banners have been stolen from outside St Annes church, and fears it may be rival clubs

Orrell Ju Jitsu recently launched a new training and self defence group at St Anne’s community centre in Beech Hill last month, with the help of funding from Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles. The club is open to all ages but with a main aim of getting young people off the streets and taking up a new, engaging hobby.

Despite a “phenomenal” start for the new club, Sensei Stuart Swalwell fears that awareness of its existence is at risk, after its advertising signage was stolen twice in quick succession.

The banners were attached to the side of St Anne’s church, along with adverts for other local groups such as Slimming World. But it is only the Ju Jitsu club’s adverts that have been ripped off the fence, with the culprits leaving everything else intact, baffling Sensei Stuart Swalwell who runs the club.

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He said: “We have run our club in Orrell for 14 years, we’re very established. We recently won club of the year at the Believe Sports Awards, and IHL offered us some funding to open up a new club.

“We picked Beech Hill and aimed it at 14-25 year olds, mainly to stop kids hanging out on street corners. We opened in October and had a phenomenal response, far better than we expected, and we got a lot of new students.

“We did a lot of social media, and spoke to the church warden about putting banners on their fence. They were fine with it, so we put up two banners initially. But we were driving past one morning when we noticed they’d disappeared.

“All other banners for things like Slimming World were still there. I thought maybe someone had it in for us!”

To add to the mystery, the warden informed Stuart that this was the first time such an incident had occurred, in all the years of the fence being used for advertising.

“We fixed a new one on, in a more robust way, to make sure it would stay in place,” Stuart said.

“But we got a call that night from the church warden, saying it had been cut off the fence again. We could see it had been slashed off with a knife.”

A frustrated Stuart added: “How are we meant to get the message across that we are here, especially on these dark nights?”

Stuart said the club was in talks with the church about putting a more permanent sign in place.

He said: “It’s just a vinyl banner, but we’ve spent over £100 on banners that are lasting just over a week.

“And when it’s council funding, it seems ridiculous to keep wasting that money.”

Anyone with information on the thefts should contact the police on 101 or, alternatively, the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.