IT WAS Richard McShane’s late mother Bridget who first sowed the seed for a meeting place the whole community could enjoy in Easterhouse.

“There was no community centre here, but my mum used to go to a wee local pensioners’ club, which had shut down,” he explains.

“I was round for my Sunday dinner, and all through my starter, she was saying – och, I miss my club. All through the main course, the same. I thought – I’m not going to get a pudding if I don’t do something about this….”

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Almost 40 people turned up to the lunch club Richard set up (under the watchful eye of his mum) and Easterhouse Phoenix Development was born.

Now, sadly Bridget is no longer with us, but the Phoenix has become a much-loved neighbourhood resource, with boxing, cycling, table tennis and badminton clubs, yoga classes, knitting groups, training courses – you name it, it’s probably going on at the Phoenix. Around 600 people take part every week, and it is all run by volunteers.

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Above all, it takes care of its community, as Richard explains. “We have great people here – Asher Tufail, who helps to run training schemes for those who have left school with no qualifications –vital for our young people: Matt and John, who plan to start a football programme; Eric Sproul, who overcame his own health challenges to complete a cycle leader course, now part of our Cycling Club…” he rhymes off.

The story which began over Sunday lunch at Bridget McShane’s house has evolved into something much bigger and bolder, a hub for essential services helping to improve prospects and change lives.

In 2012, Channel 5 makeover show Operation Homefront helped Richard and the community transform an old library on Shandwick Street into their dream hub.

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“I remember getting the keys to the building and thinking – what a mess,” recalls Richard.

“It was full of pigeons. But getting on to that show helped us on our way.”

Around £100,000 of investment and four years later, and the centre was properly up and running.

“Our community struggles with deprivation, social isolation and mental health problems – according to recent research, 65 per cent of people who use our local health centre live with at least one of those challenges,” says Richard.

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“We wanted to create a place where people can come and get active, try new things, meet new people. We work closely with the local health centre.”

Olivier Kasusula, 20, is a talented boxer who joined the Phoenix club around a year ago.

He moved to Scotland with his mum and dad Bebi and John-Paul from the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he was seven.

“It was strange at first, living in a tower block without any of my brothers, and having to go to school and learn the language,” says Olivier, who is studying law at the University of the West of Scotland. “But everyone was friendly and I think because I can be quite funny, I made friends easily.”

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Olivier’s brothers – Jerome, 23; Elie, 21 and John-Claude, 16, joined the family in Glasgow later on, and he now has two more – Obama, 12 and three-year-old Benjamin.

He adds: “I went to the boxing club after trying taekwondo and kickboxing for a while, and I seem to be quite good at it.

“Richard has been a real encouragement, and everyone is supportive and helps motivate me. Easterhouse has been good to us. Richard is always kidding me on about being my manager and coming with me to Vegas when I’m world champion.”

He pauses. “I am going to be world champion, by the way.”

Richard believes at the heart of the Phoenix lies a desire to give people like Olivier the space and opportunity to develop their skills and talents.

“There are huge pools of talent in places like Easterhouse, Drumchapel, Castlemilk – but they don’t get a chance,” he explains. “Kids grow up and then at 30, think – I could have done that.”

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Before lockdown, says Richard, the centre was “on a roll’, with busy classes and courses drawing in people of all ages from all over the community.

Now, like every grass-roots group and charity, times have become tougher. The team at the Phoenix are far from deterred, however.

“We have plans to get our open days up and running again, we want to keep developing the clubs we have and introducing new ones, and we are proud to be a flagship community sports hub in Glasgow,” says Richard.

“Life is always busy at the ­Phoenix.”