Brighton Table Tennis Club founder Tim Holtam praised “an amazing group of people” at the club after he won a prestigious National Lottery Award.

Tim won the sports category in the awards, earning a £5,000 cash prize for the club as well as a personal trophy, which was presented by local football legend Bobby Zamora. (Above photo: Caleb Yule Photography).

The National Lottery Awards are the annual celebration of the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding. A judging panel whittled down 3,780 incredible nominees to just seven winners, of which Tim was the Sports category winner.

Tim set up the club in 2007, originally to give working-class kids from deprived suburbs something to do, but it has grown into something much bigger, engaging 1,500 people from all backgrounds and ages in 70 weekly sessions – from beginners all the way up to 2016 Paralympic champion Will Bayley.

Tim said: “I firmly believe that sport can be used as a powerful tool to engage people from all ages and transform lives if you give them the opportunity.

“You’ve got someone who is in their 80s, someone who is 10, you’ve got the national Down’s syndrome champion, or you’ve got someone from Sudan or Syria. It’s just people playing table tennis. It’s not about their label.

“I’m absolutely delighted to have won this award and really want to emphasise that Brighton Table Tennis Club is very much a team effort. We have collectively built such an amazing group of people all working together to install a lifelong of table tennis and a positive sense of community in all of our players.

“It is a great feeling to still look at what’s coming up next and sense that we are only just getting started. I am convinced that what grassroots sport needs is more community activists motivated by social value.”

Bobby Zamora, who made his name at Brighton & Hove Albion and went on to play for Tottenham and West Ham and to win two England caps, presented the award at the club.

He said: “What Tim has created here through Brighton Table Tennis Club is just fantastic. It’s amazing to see people of all ages and abilities standing round a table and playing together, it really does feel like an extended family.

“Tim’s project provides a sense of belonging and purpose for children in care, asylum seekers and all members of society. It really demonstrates the power of sport. It’s magic.

“I am delighted to present Tim with this award and I’m very excited to see what he will do next. National Lottery players should be proud to have supported such a wonderful project.”

The citation on the National Lottery website says: “Thanks to Tim’s determination to transform lives and create opportunities for all, the club provides people with positive role models and a place to train, but also with an identity, a sense of belonging and purpose.

“While they have helped develop a Paralympic gold medallist and national champions; it’s their outreach work in schools, youth centres, prisons and with asylum seekers that has really made a difference. Today the training programme includes those with Down’s Syndrome, ex-prisoners, and people living with long-term health conditions, as well as high performance players.

“In 2016 it became the UK’s first Club of Sanctuary, recognising its work with refugees and asylum seekers, providing table tennis lessons to 80 unaccompanied refugee children from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Algeria and Vietnam. Hoang Nguyen, a teenage refugee from Vietnam, went on to become the first of many qualified table tennis coaches.

“Last year, as one of three partners, they opened a new community food hub, which includes a new café serving food on a donation basis.”