Sunday, 8 March 2015

What do we want now?

This week I was reminded of a lecture I'd delivered earlier in the summer that maybe could help shape the thinking of a highly influential group of people who could go on to make a real difference across the globe. The journey Sporting Memories Network is taking me on has led to some amazing encounters and opportunities to shine a positive light on generations in the UK and to hopefully challenge some stereotypical assumptions that are commonly made, along the way.

As part of the the celebrations of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the network had the wonderful experience of teaching primary school children how to interview each other and then take those new skills to speak with older people in their own communities.
                                                  Pupils practice interviewing each other
Similar chances to work across generations have led to work with National Citizen Service students at some of our Memories Games. The NCS is excellent scheme that allows young adults to spend a couple of weeks away from home to learn and develop many skills, culminating in social action that can include many different actions that can benefit their own communities. See what some of the NCS folk got up to on #NCSActionDay here

NCS Students get ready to help out at a Memories Game TM

Every project we now establish embraces the opportunity to work across generations in whichever community these are based in or whichever sport it may embrace. We recently had a wonderful time working with RFU National Youth Council who acted as Memory Makers at England v Italy at Twickenham. Sam talks about the experience of interviewing fans in the video below.

Perhaps the most remarkable opportunity though, came in September 2014. According to the FIFA website "Every year the FIFA Master programme takes its graduates on a unique journey through three different European countries to study sport. Three distinguished universities in England, Italy and Switzerland, which are among Europe’s most sports-oriented countries, have come together to provide a ten-month programme that combines top-class academic teaching and practical case studies supplemented by guest speakers and field visits. The course focuses on three key and inter-related aspects of sport: humanities, management and law."

I was fortunate to be invited by the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University to deliver a 90 minute sporting memories lecture on sport, corporate social responsibility, older people and dementia to the World FIFA Masters Students this summer. The chance to speak to 32 students from 28 different countries, one of whom, sat on the front row in the lecture theatre had just won gold at the World Rowing Championships. 

                                         FIFA Master Students from 28 countries

In the lecture I was able to set out a case for sport to continue its course of inspiring a (young) generation, as outlined indeed by London 2012 and to promoting excellence, activity and promoting the sense of community. But I was also given the chance to challenge why sport should also celebrate its history, its heritage and use that to also support the generations who made sport what it is today. The older generation who now face other challenges in their lives, that of being able to continue to age well. To continue to have networks of friends, to continue to experience mental and physical heath, to avoid developing cognitive or memory problems. The generation that now sees up to 35 million people across the World living with dementia, millions living lonely lives and experiencing poor mental health. The response from those in the room was truly uplifting (and reassuring for one whose middle age is passing by all too quickly)

The first question to come from the floor was to enquire how much financial backing or development assistance the British Government had put into the network and what plans were there to expand its reach and influence. I was able to confirm our plans to broaden our reach and to hopefully work with many of the brilliant influencers in the room during their careers.

It was with a heavy heart I had to confess to these global ambassadors that to date no financial or development assistance was yet to appear.

I however continue to work with colleagues to try to crack that particular nut and so it will be with optimism that I prepare our lecture for the 2015/16 FIFA Masters Programme having received the thrilling news this week we've been asked to deliver a similar lecture on CSR, Sport and Older People to the programme

The network is also heading back to Twickenham this weekend to engage with fans across generations at the England v Scotland Six Nations game, Swing Low and Carry Them Home!!


In May 2014 Sporting Memories Network was voted Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative. The network chairs the task and finish group on the role of sport and dementia in creating dementia friendly communities for the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia