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.