After the tragedy of losing Ben in 2002, Surrey CCC vowed to ensure his name lived on at The Oval.
It was decided, after speaking to the Hollioake family, that a suitable tribute would be for the Club to establish a community classroom at the ground bearing his name.
This summer, The Ben Hollioake Learning Centre will have been open for sixteen years, allowing over 8,000 local children the chance to play cricket and experience The Oval, a world class sports ground right in the heart of their community.
This was designed to allow young people from Kennington, Vauxhall and the wider Lambeth area to come to the ground as part of their schooling, with the sessions combining an introduction to cricket with computing lessons on a suite of high spec Apple computers.
Here Steve Wilson, who has managed the Ben Hollioake Learning Centre since its opening, reflects on Ben’s incredible off the field legacy.
The Ben Hollioake Learning Centre has been open since 2006.
Initially, it was part of the national Playing for Success scheme, a government run enterprise for schools that saw classrooms embedded into professional sports clubs across the country. At the height of its success, over 160 Education Centres – from a wide diversity of sports – were open, including football, both codes of rugby, tennis, motor racing and even ice hockey.
The Hollioake family opens the Ben Hollioake Learning Centre alongside former Surrey Chief Executive, Paul Sheldon
After 2010, central funding for these Centres was removed and this resulted in most of them closing. However, Surrey CCC, in tandem with a range of partners, including the Wyvern federation of primary schools, the Walcot Foundation, the Oval Learning Cluster and Club sponsor English Tea Shop decided that they would combine to cover the loss of government funding.
The group wanted to protect Ben’s legacy at the ground and safeguard its future, ensuring it continued to provide a close and vital link with the local Oval community and that it remained operational ever since.
The Centre currently runs two separate schemes. Close partnerships have been forged with local Primary schools and dual lessons of computing and cricket coaching are delivered both during and after the school day.
During lesson time, ten different classes from seven different schools participate every week, with pupils spending half their session learning key cricketing skills in the spacious Jardine Suite in the JM Finn Stand and then also receiving lessons in various IT activities, including coding, touch typing, podcasting and film trailer making, using iPads.
The centre’s after-school programme provides similar activities but in a more relaxed environment than school – and also offers an awards ceremony with Surrey CCC players giving out prizes and certificates. The BHLC itself has a network of over 25 Apple Macs that work perfectly for the activities provided.
When children from local schools attend the Ben Hollioake Learning Centre for the first time, they normally have had little or no experience of playing cricket. An opportunity is provided for them to learn the game with our expert coaches and build upon their skills week on week.
Staff from our client schools often remark that their pupils come back to school asking to play cricket during playtimes and lunchtimes, which is hopefully a clear sign of the effect we are having in both promoting the game of cricket and developing future cricketers.
In the current school year over 600 young people are taking part in our schemes and in the sixteen years since opening we estimate that over 8,000 young people from the local and wider Lambeth area have now benefitted from the courses delivered here. Currently, there are at least two employees working at the Club who attended courses at the BHLC whilst they were at school and there are now adults in their late twenties who attended those initial sessions in 2006.
We are proud to be named in Ben’s memory and the children that attend always ask questions about who he was, and then remark wistfully about the pictures in the Centre of the striking looking young man.