Thursday, 27 December 2012

Sporting Memories 2012 - Establishing a social enterprise

The Sporting Memories Network is a social enterprise registered in England, Wales & Scotland, established to promote and develop the use of sporting memories to improve the well-being of older people through conversation and reminiscence.

As 2012 draws to a close, it's only natural to look back at the highs & lows of the last 12 months, these are some of my own reflections on our 1st calendar year of operation.

January starts brightly, March ends with a thud.

Having toasted the successful registration of the Sporting Memories Network Community Interest Company over a dram or two at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh in November 2011, our first year has been absolutely jam packed with all the emotions that come with trying to build a social enterprise and network from nothing.

The year started optimistically. As we embarked on the mammoth task of writing a training manual and establishing and gathering all the resources needed for the network to thrive, we were also being assessed for our suitability for a major national grant that would see us test out sporting reminiscence across 3 regions and several different community settings in England in what would be a flag ship project. Having made it to the final 80 of over 1500 bids that had been submitted to the grant fund, we waited to hear the results of the 4 hour long assessment and interview that was carried out by an external consultancy specialising in measuring the capability, skill set and our capacity to deliver large scale projects.

A copy of the assessment report that would be included in the dossier given to the final funding panel arrived in our inbox. 14 green lights out of 14. The only recommendation from the assessment being we build in some time with our expert advisors during the project to ensure we don’t miss any further opportunities! The most pleasing score in the whole document was being awarded a massive 95% on the project being able to be sustained beyond the lifetime of the initial project. It felt like a real endorsement and reassurance that our vision could be achieved, that the combination of our experience and skills, along with our business model and eye for detail could deliver a meaningful enterprise that was worthwhile and the provided a positive service to communities. Whilst we ploughed on creating the resources required to achieve our vision of embedding the use of sports reminiscence across the UK, we always had an ear out for the phone, waiting to hear of the final decision.

We know the positive impact sports reminiscence has for participants who have dementia, the chance to demonstrate this across communities was an exciting prospect. Talk about waiting for the bell.

Finally the call came through, the judges were impressed with our bid, with the reports on our skills and capacity and……had decided to fund other projects, not the network’s.

Our hearts sank with a very loud thud. What a hammer blow. No matter how much we had steeled ourselves for disappointment, nothing really prepared us for this set back. Sure we had done well as a new social enterprise to get that far against many long established national organisations and the feedback and assessment confirmed our model and plan was a solid and achievable approach, but whichever way we looked at it, this was a major setback on our journey to achieving our vision and goals.


Without any significant start up capital available, achieving our goals for the first year was going to be a tougher challenge than we had already prepared for.

To be continued....

Tony Jameson-Allen 

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Football Memories Game - Raising Awareness of Dementia

15th September 2012  Huddersfield Town v Derby County npower Championship

An exchange on twitter with Sean Jarvis, Commercial Director of newly promoted npower Championship side Huddersfield Town led to an initial meet with the West Yorkshire club to explore how we might join forces to raise awareness of dementia at one of their forthcoming home games.

Having recently launched the Huddersfield Town Foundation, which is aiming to serve up 200,000 meals to local school breakfast clubs, the club looked to support their fans at the other end of the age spectrum and a plan came together.

With a huge amount of time and energy from all at the club, promotion for the football memories game was launched. Former Town players supplied memories for media articles, plans for the match were covered by local and regional newspapers and fans quickly engaged in pre match chatter on Twitter. Along with bringing their favourite football memories along to pin on the Memory Board, fans were asked to come to the game in their all time favourite Huddersfield Town shirt. Many a dilemma was discussed on twitter, leading to a few to discover that through the passage of time, favoured shirts had either been shrunk in the wash or (possibly more likely) waist lines had expanded a touch! 

Fans were also asked ahead of the game to vote on the picture for the front cover of the match-day programme ‘Give us an H’. Town legend Andy Booth was the overwhelming choice and we had the honour of being greeted by the man himself on our arrival at the ground.
A surprise was in store immediately as one of our guests for the day, Roger Jones of Age UK, presented us with a football signed by 3 of England’s World Cup winners of 1966- Nobby Stiles, George Cohen and a player who started his career at Huddersfield Town, Ray Wilson. Wilson was signed by Bill Shankly in the 1950’s when he turned professional and went on to have a tremendous career, as of course did Shankly!

We were also joined at the game by Shaun Campbell, the driving force behind the Arthur Wharton foundation. Arthur was the world’s first black professional footballer and also the first holder of the world record for the 100-yard sprint. Shaun and the foundation have been energetic supporters of the work of the SMN and we share many common aims and goals as organisations.

SMN directors Chris Wilkins and Michael White were then called to the stage in the impressive hospitality suite by former player Trevor Cherry who presented the pair with a HTAFC shirt signed by all the players, whilst I had the chance for chats with the chairman Dean Hoyle, Commercial Director Sean Jarvis, reminisced about Neil Warnock with Town legend Andy Booth and had a lovely chat with Look North presenter and all round sports fan Harry Gration.

The theme of each feature in the match-day programme was football memories. Town manager Simon Grayson and club chairman Dean Hoyle shared their top football moments in their programme notes. New signing James Vaughan was the focus for the in-depth player interview. James shared several standout moments of his career and reminisced about his childhood and youth.

Also contained in the programme were facts and figures about dementia, including practical advice on what to do if fans were concerned about their own memory or that of a loved one, along with signposts to organisations providing help and advice.

Bright sunshine bathed the John Smith’s Stadium and as fans began to arrive, the gusty West Yorkshire wind proved something of a challenge for the club staff and volunteers from the game’s co-sponsors Sporting Memories Network, Meridian Healthcare and BUPA as the Gazebo erected by the ticket office threatened to take off into the bright blue yonder.

Along with a memory board for fans to pin their favourite memories to, there were old games to play such as hopscotch and a very popular old style sweet stall which was doing a roaring trade in supplying fans, all for a donation to Town’s nominated charity.

A lovely touch came from a Derby County fan who arrived at the Gazebo with 5 of his all time favourite football shirts to add to the display, one being his prized Robbie Savage number 8 shirt.
2:50pm and guests and directors from the Sporting Memories Network were invited to join the other sponsors in the semi-circle to welcome the teams out on to the pitch. Within 60 seconds of the kick off, Town scored, the stadium erupted and the seeds of another home win and 3 points had been sown. 

Half-time saw a selection of fans lined up on the centre circle in a bright array of favourite old shirts, whilst guest of honour, current Yorkshire County Cricket captain, Andrew Gale, who is a big Town fan did the honours drawing the lottery numbers. Andy Booth had his memory tested in a Huddersfield Town history quiz too.

90 minutes and Town had secured 3 points. 

Back to the hospitality suite to be regaled with footballing memories by former England striker Frank Worthington. A terrific description of ‘The greatest goal that was ever scored’ was followed by a number of other fond memories of his time at Huddersfield and beyond.

One last surprise was in store as I was invited up on stage to present the Man of the Match champagne to the on loan signing and former Liverpool FC academy player Adam Hammill. Despite being put on the spot with a brief interview, it was easy to answer why the SMN had got involved with Huddersfield Town. 

Huddersfield Town is a club building a great relationship within their local community through the vision and drive of their directors and staff. 

It was an honour to have worked with Town on a game that was dedicated to raising awareness of dementia and to team up with them for the first football memories match in England. 

Thanks to Sue, Robyn, Jamie, Sean and all the team at the John Smith’s stadium.

Tony Jameson-Allen
Founding Director
Sporting Memories Network

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Lest We Forget 3

I spent a very pleasant evening at the Arthaus Gallery in Richmond, North Yorkshire last night.

Attending the launch of artist Mackenzie Thorpe's latest work, Lest We Forget, this  stunning new picture is to tour the country before being auctioned at the Royal British Legion's Poppy Ball on November 9th in London. All proceeds from the auction will go to the legion. There is a limited edition print of the picture too, with just 550 available. Full details are on

The evening was a superb experience, with Mackenzie delivering a passionate, heartfelt and truly moving talk about the background to Lest We Forget. He also gave everyone present an amazing insight into other new pieces and sculptures, describing the materials used and the intricate techniques he employs. If you ever have the chance to hear Mackenzie speak at an event, get yourself along and find out what that goldfish in the jar that appears in many of his pieces of work represents.

Mackenzie's signature in our guide

Mackenzie and wife Susan are supporters of the Sporting Memories Network and have lent 4 pictures from The Game of Life collection for our football memories work. When Grandad was a Lad is on the first page of our new training guide, which I was astounded to find was out on display in the gallery. Wendy Bowker, manager of the gallery, had not only kindly arranged for Mackenzie to sign the guide but also acted as stand in photographer during an incredibly busy night for all involved, capturing this lovely picture below.

Susan and Mackenzie Thorpe, me, Amanda Jameson-Allen, Shaun and Fiona Campbell

Also in attendance (pictured above) were Shaun and Fiona Campbell, Shaun being another network supporter, who is the energy and inspiration behind the Arthur Wharton Foundation. Arthur was the world's first black professional footballer, the first holder of the world record for the 100 yard sprint, a British cycling champion, professional cricketer and played both codes of rugby. Shaun is determined that this remarkable sportsman is not forgotten and a statue in Arthur's honour is to be unveiled.

Lest We Forget

Friday, 20 July 2012

Twitter proving useful!

Twitter ye not, after years of wondering whether twitter would ever prove to be anything other than an occasionally good source for breaking news, I'm finally getting some return from it

Our work using sporting memories is very much about hard copy, face to face contact with people. The groups use photographs to stimulate conversation and discussion. So where does Twitter fit in?

Well to support the work we have a suite of Replay websites where fans, sports stars, celebrities, writers and journalists can support the project simply by adding a memory. These can then either be used by our group facilitators in the sessions, or they are simply great reading material and encourage others to share their own stories.

Twitter has proven to be great for connecting with stars, fans and organisations that other forms of media just would not have facilitated. This week we have received 8 memories purely through connecting on Twitter. We've teamed up with a Football League club, simply from tweeting a director and another great press article is just being finalised, again through connecting on the social network.

I'll be tweeting this blog in a minute and hopefully it in turn will generate a few more memories of sport. We've almost 400 on the sites now, a fantastic show of support.

Memories can be as brief as you like, if you enjoy reading ones from the likes of Kevin Bridges, Lee McKenzie and Sam Torrance, why not take 5 minutes to add one


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Great day today, met with directors of a brand new care home company who truly strive to achieve excellence.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Lest We Forget 2

Following on from yesterday's piece about the launch of Mackenzie Thorpe's Lest We Forget, I'm really excited at the prospect of working with veterans' care provider Erskine.

They are a Scottish based charity and have a total of 137 beds dedicated to ex-Service personnel with dementia including the Erskine Park Home, a 40 bed specialist dementia home.  Erskine operate five care homes with a mostly male population. We are starting the project with them shortly and final details on the groups and evaluation will be announced soon.

You can sign up for e-newsletters on our website to keep up to date with the very latest developments.

Another Veterans related item to flag up is the Chelsea Auto Legends on Sunday 2nd September

CEO of the event,  Max Wakefield is a supporter of the Sporting Memories Network. Chelsea Auto Legends takes place in the grounds of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea. The event raises funds for its chosen charities, Walking with the Wounded and the Chelsea Pensioners and has an impressive list of supporters from the world of motorsport.

I'm going along to CAL with my fellow founding director Chris Wilkins. During the day we will have roving microphones capturing memories from fans and stars to contribute to Replay Motorsport.

Rumour has it summer is finally on its way, so hopefully see you there!

Full details and advance tickets

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Lest We Forget

Yesterday I went to the Arthaus Gallery in Richmond, North Yorkshire

The gallery houses the works of the renowned international artist Mackenzie Thorpe, who is a supporter of our work with people with dementia. In 2003, Middlesbrough born Mackenzie produced a collection around football and the community called 'The Game of Life'. Introducing the collection, Mackenzie wrote: "Whatever your age, whatever your background, the magic of football goes far beyond the pitch. I invite you to remember the moments when the game has had a lasting effect on your life, of how it has brought friends together, united whole communities, even countries.
Grandad as a lad

Mackenzie's support and our work on football memories was a headline of the Northern Echo during Dementia Awareness week in June, the headline banner of the front page read "Stirring Memories; Mackenzie Thorpe backs dementia project" with a piece by health correspondent Barry Nelson titled Drawing on football memories to help dementia sufferers

Mackenzie has loaned four pictures to be used in the football reminiscence work. The original of When Grandad was a Lad (opposite) was purchased by UEFA to mark their 50th anniversary and a copy was presented to every club to have won a European trophy since 1954. 

We recently announced the network is commencing a new project in Scotland with care homes for veterans run by Erskine. On a similar theme, Mackenzie will this weekend be unveiling his latest work 'Lest We Forget'   the original of which, will be auctioned at The Royal British Legion Annual Poppy Ball in November with a percentage of sales of the limited edition print also going to the charity.

I'll be attending the launch and look forward to reporting back on the event.

Meanwhile the number of football memories and sports reminiscence groups operating in Scotland continues to grow, with 16 now established.

Lest We Forget. Copyright Mackenzie Thorpe



Monday, 16 July 2012

Sporting Memories - Rolling Out Reminiscence

Well it has been way too long since my last blog entry, so much has happened, the most significant development being the founding of Sporting Memories Network CIC

After a positive conversation which confirmed we shared a number of common values and aims, The Sporting Memories Network CIC was founded over a wee dram or two at the Scottish Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh

Bill's Story

The group of men were sitting waiting for me. A man was coming to talk about football. They gathered round the table and quickly started examining the old photos I had brought. Names of players were enthusiastically shouted out and soon the stories about games, players, goals and incidents were told with great fondness. The recall was impressive, by any standards. All of these men had dementia.

One well-dressed man sat contentedly reading his paper. "Come on, Bill" said one of the helpers, "you like football, don't you?" Somewhat reluctantly, Bill joined the group. I hadn't seen anything yet. Bill took me back to the 1930s and 1940s as if it was yesterday. Along with his boyhood pal, Jimmy, they rattled off scores, line-ups and goals and spoke of legendary figures. All I had to do was produce the images. As the session was ending, Jimmy leaned across to me and whispered,"Bill was a grand player, I saw him play for Celtic." 

Michael and Bill
Armed with this information, I looked up my books to see if this modest old man was in fact a former professional player. I discovered that Bill was in fact William Corbett, formerly of Celtic, Preston, Leicester, Dunfermline and Scotland. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to build up a picture of the man and his career. And what a career.

October 1942. England 0 Scotland 0, at Wembley. The match reports all said that Bill was the man of the match. "I have never seen a Scottish centre-half play [Tommy] Lawton as well as young Corbett did this afternoon" said one. All of them sang the praises of the young 20-year-old and predicted a bright future for him in the navy blue of Scotland. 
By a sheer fluke, I was able to bid for a programme of the match which became available on e-Bay and I looked at the line-ups. I looked and I looked. This young man had faced the might of English football: Hapgood, Britton, Cullis, Mercer, Matthews, Lawton and Compton, all in their prime. A crowd of 75,000 had seen a tremendous struggle and young Corbett was the star man.
Bill and ShanklyBill was ever so proud when I showed him the programme. Pointing to the Scotland line-up, he showed me the names: Shankly, Corbett and Busby. "Not a bad half-back line, eh son?" I had to smile.
He became an amazing source of stories about war-time football, when he played for various clubs as a guest. He had a twinkle in his eye when he recounted arriving at Upton Park. "My brother Norman played for West Ham. Their manager was a right Cockney and he told me anytime I was near London, just come along and I'll get you a game."
By then Bill was in the Navy and he never knew where his travels would take him. I had a mental picture of some poor guy stripped ready to play, when a bright young naval man would come in and take his place. When I asked Bill how he thought the West Ham player would have felt, he answered with a lovely smile: "Ah suppose he wisnae best pleased".

Bill came along to the Football Reminiscence sessions, even after he went to a care home, and he loved the talk about the old days, "when we were young," as he would say. He was an absolute joy to be with and I learned more from him than in any football history book.

I last saw Bill alive three weeks before he passed away. We had a great session, laughing and joking and recalling the great players he had played with and against. As his carer wheeled him out of the room to the waiting transport, he turned to me and said, "Son, that was the best day of my life". I struggled to keep my emotions in check as he went away. Little did I realise that we would never meet again.

Whenever anyone asks me if Football Reminiscence is effective, I think of Bill's comment to a university researcher who was assessing the effectiveness of the programme. "See this," he said, pointing to his handkerchief, "it's soaking wet with tears. Tears of joy." Bill said it all.
His journey to the end of his illness was difficult, but for these few hours, Bill was back at his brilliant best. He loved football and he loved reminiscing. And we all loved Bill.