Leaside’s centre is on a non-tidal navigation stretch of the River Lea opposite the Walthamstow Marshes. This stretch of the river is safe and ideal for teaching purposes.
Watersports activities and instruction have been available at the Leaside site for over 30 years. In 1963, the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), in conjunction with a special charitable fund and the Central Council for Physical Recreation, established a youth centre on the site with a remit to focus on boating, including canoeing.
In 1970, ILEA introduced a pilot scheme to offer canoeing and rowing to local schools with permanent staffing. Only three sites in north-east and north-west London were selected for development, of which Leaside was one. The Leaside programme was incorporated into the 1971 Water and Recreation Strategy and by the end of the 1980’s, the Centre had 15 full-time and part-time staff. Leaside became a London-wide centre for a wide range of outdoor activities in an educational framework.
The Leaside Trust
After the ILEA was abolished in 1990, Leaside became the financial responsibility of the London Borough of Hackney, falling under the already-stretched budgets of both schools and youth services. At the time, Hackney’s policy was to close centres such as Leaside, notwithstanding their contribution to the local community. The Spring Hill Rowing Centre and the East Marsh Sports Centre were both closed.
In response to the threat of closure, Mickey Gordon, an experienced instructor and teacher, convinced of the value of Leaside, decided to fight the decision. He set up a working party to find a way of securing Leaside’s future. Mickey put in a lot of time and energy to pull together a group of committed people from Leaside, the London Borough of Hackney, British Waterways Board, East London Partnership (now ELBA) and the Sports Council (now Sport England). During this interim period Hackney agreed to continue its existing financial support to fund the daytime programme, whilst volunteer staff maintained the evening and weekend activities and trips away from the Centre. We still rely on our many volunteer staff to help deliver these
As a result of the efforts of Mickey and the working party, The Leaside Trust was established in March 1994. With the formation of the Trust, he became the Chief Executive, and with a satisfactory financial structure in place, continued fundraising to run the club, to refurbish the changing block and completely rebuild the clubhouse.
Upon Mickeys retirement as Chief Executive in 2010 he was awarded an MBE in 2016 for his services to education and young people.