In the middle of January, I received word from that well-known rascal, Walter Otton, that he’d be having a launch for his collection of short stories, appropriately enough called “Shorts”, together with a fundraiser for the Regenerate charity which is increasingly becoming part of the fabric of the SW6 family. He promised music, light entertainment, a presentation, plus a raffle. I promised I’d be there.
Having interviewed Walter last year when his brilliant first novel, “The Red Hand Gang”, was published, this year I decided I’d take the opportunity to find out more about the work that Regenerate do, both in the UK and abroad.
A balmy early March evening saw me set out for the venue in Putney most unsuitably dressed (long sleeved mini-dress, fishnet tights, ballerina shoes – I’d regret it on the way home) and on arrival found the bar filling up nicely, including notables such as Gate17 publisher Mark Worrall, Chelsea Supporters Trust chairman Tim Rolls, and musician Graham Bush (hopefully soon to be the subject of a “Natters With TheChels”). A suitably Chelsea-esque soundtrack came courtesy of Tim Scaping, aka “Tape Mix Tim.
Whilst Regenerate’s founder, Andy Smith (aka Smiffy) was making the presentation, Walter talked to TheChels.Net about the wonderful work the charity does.
TheChels: For the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with the charity, what are Regenerate’s aims?
Walter Otton: The first aim is to work on the Alton estate in Roehampton and they provide activities for the young people on the estate to basically be positive role models and offer an alternative to some of the issues they might get dragged into – you know, truancy from school, theft, crime, drugs and gangs, and that kind of thing, so the diversionary activities will include football teams, dance clubs, homework clubs, trips out in the minibus, that kind of stuff. But they have a focus on a project in Nakuru in Kenya, where they run an orphanage called “Sure24” which basically means the community will know that they can be sure 24/7 that there’s someone there for them. They took 12 street kids in, in 2008 – there’s now 220 street kids that are part of the orphanage. And then the third aim is to support a project in the village of Soard in Romania where there’s a village that needs a lot of support, including a feeding programme for the children who have only just had access to clean water in their village in the last 12 months. There’s not a school near them or like that. So they’re starting to try and feed and educate those guys so they’ve got a better chance in life.
TC: And how have Chelsea FC and the wider Chelsea community helped you over the last couple of years?
WO: Me and Andy are both Chelsea fans – Andy runs Regenerate and throughout the years I’ve written a lot about my experiences and so people have picked up on that in the cfcuk fanzine and some of the other stuff I’ve written; The Red Hand Gang, which is a book, and Shorts, which is a collection of short stories. There’s also #Roe2Ro, which is just a raw blog about a trip to Soard in Romania last September and so a lot of the wider Chelsea community have kind of been influenced by that. So the Chelsea Supporters Group, the Chelsea Supporters Trust, the Cobham Supporters Tournament last July, they’ve donated hundreds of pounds, and the profile of Regenerate has increased, and there’s a whole load of guys who want to come out on trips as well to see for themselves and positively impact what they’ve heard and read about.
TC: How did Andy’s recent trip to Kenya go, and what were the aims of that trip?
WO: The aim of the trip was basically to take a new team of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 from the Alton estate in Roehampton to give them a different experience, so they can go and give hands on help in the school, help in the orphanage, help in the mechanic’s garage that’s been built from funds which have been generated. So it was really to do some “hands on” work in the community and get a taste of what the world is like outside of South West London.
TC: So what’s the long-term vision of Regenerate?
WO: The long-term vision of Regenerate is to create stability for the core costs. There’s a CEO, there’s a youth work team, there’s a whole bank of volunteers, there’s an administrator, there’s a fundraiser, so the core costs for those guys to keep running means everything flows out of that. If you don’t have an administrator, then no paperwork gets done. If you don’t have a fundraiser, then there’s little hope of maintaining the projects that already run. So basically to maintain the core costs for the team so they can continue the work they do and then branch out. Andy’s a dreamer, he’s a visionary. When he has great ideas, they need back up. So the team are there to support him, tell him if the idea’s a rubbish one and to forget about it, or to tell him when the dream’s a great one and to build on it.
TC: And is there anything that Chelsea supporters can do to help?
WO: Yeah, absolutely. The main one that springs to mind is a Chelsea fan called Daniel Middleton. His Twitter name is @cfcprop. On 4th April he’s going to go with the Guinness World Record holder to try and do every tube stop in London in under 20 hours. He’s got a JustGiving page and just giving him a fiver will help him reach his target. His target is to raise £500, which would feed all the orphans in Sure24 a hot meal every night for five months.
TC: Turning to matters on the pitch, how does it feel to have written the hit song (“He Hates Tottenham”) of the season?
WO: A lot of people don’t like it anymore! It’s absolutely hilarious. We were driving to Prague [for the Super Cup] with Big Chris and Smithy and we came up with the song just for a bit of a laugh and everyone was singing it in Prague and it caught on with the fans. By the time this goes to print we’ll have played Tottenham, but I’ve got some money on Willian as anytime, first and last scorer! It’s just a laugh really, how that’s taken off. It’s funny!
TC: And were you surprised how people have taken it to their hearts?
WO: Yeah, it’s a bit of a mickey take really about how it happened with Tottenham flying him over. I read a tweet yesterday saying he probably doesn’t hate Tottenham cos his mates are Paulinho and Sandro. And he seems like a really nice bloke. But it’s funny, isn’t it?
TC: And how do you think the rest of the season’s going to pan out for Chelsea?
WO: The best news we could have ever had was Jose coming back. I was driving to Portsmouth Harbour to get a ferry over to France on holiday with the kids when the news broke, and straight away I whacked a bit of money on us to win the league. I think there are ten games left and I can see us winning every game. I know that sounds a bit arrogant but we’ve got Jose, the team’s firing, and yeah – I think we can do it!
TC: Thanks very much Walter
WO: Thank you, God bless and see you soon!
Back in the warmth of the pub, the raffle was about to begin. Last year, in an echo of the season’s most popular song, unlucky ticketholders ticket holders ended up singing “We don’t care about raffles/They don’t care about us/All we care about/Is winning prizes!” This year, one happy punter was so successful that he ended up being the jovial butt of a chorus of “You’re only here for the raffle!” Unlike last year, I was successful and am now the lucky (and temporary) owner of a bottle of Matthew Harding Celebration Ale.
The music and dancing went on late into the evening, and it was a highly successful and worthwhile party. Thanks very much to Walter and Andy for their kind invitation. You can find out more about the amazing work that Regenerate do at http://www.regenerateuk.co.uk.
Please get behind Daniel Middleton’s tube challenge – even a pound can help bump up the total, but feel free to be as generous as you can! http://www.justgiving.com/Dan-Middleton1
And you can stock up on Walter Otton’s literary output at http://www.gate17.co.uk/shop.html
News Around SW6
Tickets are now available for the Chelsea Supporters Trust end of season party – An Audience With Mickey Thomas & Joey Jones, which is being held at The Black Bull on Friday 9th May. It’s going to be a fantastic evening, with a buffet, raffle (one of the prizes will be a bottle of Matthew Harding Celebration Ale) and live music from The Beautiful Game. Tickets are available exclusively to full voting members of CST till the end of March at the discounted rate of £20, and you can pick one up on match days from the cfcuk stall. From 1st April tickets will be available to non-voting members of the Trust and the general public, price £25. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details or visit the CST website.
TheChels.net were saddened to learn of the untimely death of Darren Alexander, Joint Chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust on Friday. Having been moribund for a number of years, the THST had taken on a new lease of life under a new board over the past 18 months, and Darren was a key figure in this. We at TheChels would like to take this opportunity to pass on our sincere condolences to THST.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.