Thursday 03 October 2013
Arsenal celebrated the 100th anniversary of their move to the London borough of Islington during the home match against Stoke City on 22 September and the celebration served also as a reminder of the work the club have done in their local community since they left Woolwich and crossed the Thames.
For the match against Stoke, the Arsenal players wore commemorative shirts which will be auctioned for The Arsenal Foundation to support Islington-based good causes and community projects.
Special guests were also invited to the match including the Mayor of Islington, local MPs and councillors, representatives of St John's College of Divinity, who helped with the original rental of Highbury in 1913, and officials from Leicester City, who received a special presentation from Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick, in recognition of them being the first opponents at Highbury.
"It's a big occasion to respect an area where we feel completely at home," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
"The club has a special link with Islington and is a big part of what we are"
"I was very happy when we discovered it was possible to keep our new stadium in Islington, because that was our desire - and hopefully we will be here for the next 100 years, too. The club has a special link with Islington and it's a big part of what we are."
These activities were a continuation of many contributions that the club have made to the borough over the past 100 years, aside from positive impact that the hosting of matches has had on the local community.
Arsenal moved into the area from Woolwich in 1913 and straight after World War One gave funds to the Islington War Memorial Fund and the Great Northern Hospital on Holloway Road. Over the years which followed, the club have made valuable contributions to life in the community with their actions both on and off the pitch.
In the 1980s the Arsenal in the Community programme was set up in response to social unrest at the time in the capital, providing opportunities for local residents and young people to get involved in a range of different programmes. The department now delivers in excess of 40 different projects at 55 different venues across Islington each week, across areas including sport, education, health and social inclusion.
In the 28 years since the community department was set up, it is estimated that more than six million hours have been delivered by dedicated community staff.
The launch of The Arsenal Foundation, meanwhile, has helped to take the Club’s charitable giving to another level and has now donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to local and global projects since it was set up in 2012.
The area has also benefitted from significant investment from the Highbury section 106 agreement which accompanied the move to Emirates Stadium, and which has helped to develop a number of football pitches on estates and parks throughout the Borough.
"Coming here you realise just what Arsenal means to the people of Islington"
The Emirates Stadium project has also resulted in widespread regeneration and has created more than 2,600 jobs and 2,500 new and refurbished homes while investing in local businesses, public space and infrastructure. The current Queensland Road development, meanwhile, will provide even more affordable homes in the borough.
At the start of last month as part of the centenary celebrations, the club hosted a special event for the local community at Emirates Stadium. As well as showcasing the contribution made by the club, the event also served as a means of thanks to the individuals and groups who have helped the club’s commitment to the local area.
Young people who have been engaged by the work of Arsenal in the Community in Islington told those gathered about the projects that they have been involved with and how Arsenal have helped them to fulfil their potential and go on to bigger and better things.
To highlight Arsenal's support for local community initiatives, The Arsenal Foundation announced a donation to Islington Giving of £50,000 a year for the next three years. These funds will be used across a range of different initiatives, including a youth engagement project delivering football activities on Friday evenings for young people across the borough.
The good relations that the club enjoy with the local council are demonstrated by an exhibition being hosted in Islington Museum to celebrate Arsenal’s centenary. Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby, the club’s former striker Charlie George, the Mayor of Islington and local schoolchildren paid it a visit last week.
"It has been really good to find out more about the club's history and the reasons behind the move to north London 100 years ago," Diaby said. "I've learned a few things that I didn't know before and coming here you realise just what Arsenal means to the people of Islington."
Among the items in the display are a copy of the original indenture for the rental of Highbury, a horseshoe which was found underneath the North Bank terrace and a scale model of the Highbury Square redevelopment.
The exhibition, called 'It's Arsenal round here', is at the Islington Museum until 24 January 2014 and admission is free.