‘Teach a man to fish…’ The Oxford Angling Club

By Ben Teuten
Oxford Angling Club Coordinator
Oxford Big Issue Out-Reach Worker and Voluntee

They say meditation soothes the soul. That said, the chance to stare out onto a river and watch the ripples roll by is as therapeutic as any yoga reverie. Homelessness in contrast, walks hand in hand with the perils of chaos; as questions are left unanswered, decisions are left uncertain and fear and worry create insomnia at night.

The Oxford Angling Club is the medium between these two contrasting bearings. The opportunity to spend an afternoon (or morning) staring out onto the river, patiently playing the sport installs a sense of serenity into the lifestyles of those unfortunate enough to have fallen into this destructive cycle, as Phil Fletcher (a familiar face in Botley) elaborates, “Just sitting there waiting for the fish to bite, gives you time to think about things and put stuff in perspective.”

First coined on an out-reach programme with Sports Revolution Chairman Jon Regler, the Oxford Angling Club was the result of asking the Oxford vendors what hobbies they like to do when time and money permits them. The overwhelming outcome was in support of fishing and when questioned further was due to its nonjudgmental tranquillity, the opportunity to kick-back and relax for a few hours and let the worries and woes float on by. However due to the precariousness of their housing situation, many either could not afford to purchase the angling equipment necessary, or alternatively, had had theirs stolen, broken or lost when on the move in their day-to-day lives.

Thus, the Oxford Angling Club aimed to counter these problems by initiating a rent-free scheme allowing the vendors to sign out the equipment when needed and return it when finished, eliminating the problems experienced when not in use. As well as this, the Big Issue Foundation has authorised the Vendor Support Fund to aid the vendors wanting to participate with their Fishing License, allowing them to purchase an annual permit at minimal price.

“Fishing has always been a hobby and now I don’t have to worry about breaking or losing the equipment as I can borrow it from the Oxford office,” says Lordache Nicolae, an Oxford vendor.

Therefore, all in all, the OAC gives Big Issue vendors free equipment (donated by Fishing Tackle Direct, please see below) to fish when they please, with the only expense being the discounted fishing license courtesy of the Foundation. This will give those who desire the chance to pick up/ resume the sport the opportunity to do so and install the sense of freedom renowned with angling in their lives.

“I love fishing and with the help of the Big Issue Oxford Angling Club I can now do it whenever I like,” said Kevin Hegarty, an Oxford Big Issue vendor and fishing enthusiast.

However, it is important to note that none of this would have been possible without the generosity of Chris at the Fishing Tackle Direct in Headington (Picture: Phil Fletcher an Oxford Big Issue vendor and Chris from FTD) who donated two full sets of equipment to this cause as well as a net and the accessories needed for pro-anglers. They have provided the foundations for this project, allowing those wishing to continue with the sport as well as those interested in picking it up the chance to do so, and so all of us at the Big Issue, both vendors and staff are extremely grateful.

Although relatively young, the Oxford Angling Club has the potential to expand massively, with further talks with Sports Revolution occurring to establish a tournament as well as the possibility to accumulate more fishing sets if numbers participating continue to increase. Therefore, we look to the future with great excitement as fishing can be seen to be the catalyst in rehabilitation due to the time spent self-analyzing with the rod, the river and the ripples.

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