Breaking down barriers

A snooker club in Walthamstow is making a big difference to people’s lives

Snooker for Health and Friendship

Snooker for Health and Friendship runs every Wednesday at YMCA Walthamstow

A new sports club in Walthamstow has proved so popular that young people are travelling from ten miles away to take part.

Snooker for Health and Friendship is an all-inclusive club for people of any ability that is helping many people with physical or learning disabilities get into the sport.

It was set up by Thessa Mac, whose son David is one of the country’s top snooker players with a disability. The club runs every Wednesday afternoon at YMCA Walthamstow, using three tables that were donated by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. Start-up funding was provided by disability charity WheelPower.

Obstacles to playing snooker can include holding a steady cue or making a ‘bridge’ with your hand to aim, so one of the small things that Thessa has done to help is make a custom spider rest that does not need to be gripped.

“It means you can play snooker even if you only have use of one arm,” Thessa told the Echo. “Next year we are going to organise a disability snooker tournament for anyone in London.

“All the other snooker clubs in London have stairs, so they can’t provide disabled access. It was why I decided to open this club and give everyone a chance to play.

“I have been surprised at how well it has done. Most of the people here had never even played before. It is fantastic for them, you can see how much it does for their confidence, even helping with their social skills.

“I think snooker is a sort of therapy.”

Players at the club have conditions including cerebral palsy, deafness, epilepsy, autism, Asperger’s, and Down’s Syndrome.

One of the regulars is Jacob Gherson, aged 16, who travels all the way from Brent Cross to play in Walthamstow. His mother Lynn said: “It has made such a difference. Jacob has autism but he has made friends here. Playing snooker is one of the only times he talks to people.”

Fourteen-year-old John Fowerlane, from Chingford, is another regular. He said: “The club has helped me meet new people.”

Snooker for Health and Friendship runs from 4.30pm until 6.30pm every Wednesday at YMCA Walthamstow, 642 Forest Rd, Walthamstow E17 3EF. If you would like to find out more: