Nick Knowles reveals DIY SOS plan at Grenfell was biggest challenge

Our toughest job yet! Nick Knowles reveals how his DIY SOS team’s plan to build gym and community centre for Grenfell families (with Prince William’s help) was a challenge like no other

  • Knowles persuaded residents of the West London council block to let him help
  • They worked nonstop over nine weeks to get the huge £2million job completed 
  • He was also helped by Prince William as team rebuilt community centre and gym
  • The gym – Dale Youth Boxing Academy – produced two world champion boxers 

DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles has branded a project to build a gym and community centre for Grenfell Tower residents the most ambitious in the show’s history. 

Knowles persuaded residents of the West London council block, where 72 people died in a fire last June, to allow his team to help after the tragedy.  

He worked nonstop over nine weeks to get the £2million job completed – and was even helped by Prince William. 

Knowles persuaded residents of the West London council block, where 72 people died in a fire last June, to allow his team to help after the tragedy

He worked nonstop over nine weeks to get the £2million job completed – and was even helped by Prince William

The catastrophic fire in Kensington resulted in the deaths of 72 people. Knowles admitted he was angry about the tragedy 

Speaking to the Daily Star Sunday, he explained: ‘There used to be a gym on the second floor of the tower which looked after a lot of kids in the area and kept them off the streets and out of trouble.

‘So we decided to build a gym. And we’ve also built a community centre. It’s somewhere the residents can go to get counselling, which is so important.’

He added that he turned to his ‘little black book’ to ask for help from people he knew in the industry. 


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They were only too happy to oblige, Knowles said.

But the team from DIY SOS – a programme that has been on the air since 1999 – first had to win the trust of the horrified residents after appearing on the scene just days after the catastrophe.

‘When we came to the area the people were understandably angry. And they were suspicious of all media and TV,’ he said. ‘But we spent time listening and talking with them and they were just amazing with us.’

Knowles said that he turned to his ‘little black book’ to ask for help from people he knew in the industry. One of those who helped was Prince William (pictured) 

The team from DIY SOS – a programme that has been on the air since 1999 – first had to win the trust of the horrified residents after appearing on the scene just days after the catastrophe

George Groves (left) and James DeGale (right) are among the stars the club has produced over the years

He also explained that he was himself ’emotional and angry’ in the wake of the fatal fire, but added that it wasn’t his job to be concerned with the ‘politics’ of the disaster.   

Knowles said he hopes the new facilities will help thousands of people over the years. 

The second floor of the tower was home to the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club, which had a nationwide reputation for its work with young boxers.

Grenfell boxing academy that produced two world champions 

The Dale Youth Boxing Academy was ruined after the deadly inferno at the North Kensington tower block last June. 

Over the years, it helped produce British boxing talents James DeGale and George Groves before they both became world champions. 

DeGale, the 2008 Olympic gold medallist tweeted after the fire: ‘Shocked at devastation at #GrenfellTower block where my old amateur club Dale Youth is. My thoughts are with everyone affected.’

The Dale Youth Boxing Academy was ruined after the deadly inferno at the North Kensington tower block last June

DeGale, the 2008 Olympic gold medallist tweeted after the fire: ‘Shocked at devastation at #GrenfellTower block where my old amateur club Dale Youth is. My thoughts are with everyone affected’

And Groves, who defeated rival DeGale in a super-middleweight clash in May 2011, also spoke of his sadness.

He said: ‘Prayers are with the residents of Grenfell Towers. Dale Youth ABC has been [there] the past 15 years. So sad.’

For the boxers who trained at Dale Youth, the fire displaced them just six months after the gym was renovated. 

Over the years, it helped produce British boxing talents James DeGale and George Groves (pictured) before they both became world champions

Long-time trainer Mick Delaney, 73, locked up the academy just a few hours before the fire took hold on June 14.

Mr Delaney, who has been with the club for 45 years, said: ‘The boys, the older ones, thought about it a lot more.

‘There was one fella whose funeral I went to, his lads never boxed with me at a senior level but they were in our junior section – hopefully they will come back.’

After the fire, however, it was temporarily based in a car park.

It was recognised as one of the best boxing clubs in the country and was credited with turning around the lives of many young people.

George Groves and James DeGale are among the stars the club has produced over the years.  

The episode is set to air in the autumn.

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