First up is Joe Robinson, who is our Further Education, Higher Education and Adult Participation Football Development Officer.
After working closely with Halesowen College, we created the small sided College ESOL League which would see several one-day football festivals and tournaments take place throughout the academic year to allow asylum seekers and refugee learners to get their football fix - something that they might not be able to access outside of their college environment.
The project involved a number of colleges, including Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell, who each affiliated two teams to participate in the festivals.
Due to the ESOL courses having a slightly more flexible timetable, we were able to get all teams together on Thursday afternoons to give them the chance to keep fit, socialise, make new friends and blow off some steam.
Feedback from tutors has been great as it has given them a chance to see their learners both in an academic and non-academic environment. Some have even seen an increase in attendance and effort in class, with the ESOL College League being used as a tool to motivate their learners.
We are looking to grow this over the next academic year, whether that be through having more small sided events and/or a competitive all year round 11-a-side division in the Birmingham County FA U19 Education League.
In April 2019, we hosted our first Dementia Café session at our Ray Hall Lane HQ to enable like-minded people with a passion for the game to have a coffee and discuss their memories and experiences within football, whilst thumbing through memorabilia and watching old match footage to help stimulate their memory.
Our Dementia Café takes place on the last Thursday of each month, with each session lasting for approximately two hours. The chance to talk football provides something different and is something the regular attendees look forward to each month.
Previously, Dennis Mortimer, European Cup winner with Aston Villa, attended a session to share his journey in football, whilst October’s Dementia Café saw historian Jim Cadman celebrate the contribution Duncan Edwards made to the sporting heritage of the Black Country. Our most recent ex-pro who gave us his time was former Chelsea star Dennis Wise.
As part of our work with dementia, and to try and engage a wider audience, we started 2020 by running an online campaign called #MyFootballMemory. The idea was to get people sharing pictures of old football memorabilia or photos of them playing on social media.
This campaign was a great success and had high engagment, with all ages getting invovled by sharing their memories. When it concluded, we collected all the memories and presented them at our Dementia Café where all the participants were overwhelmed by seeing so many memories within the sport they have a great passion for.
It looked like our March ‘Let’s Talk Football’ Dementia Café was going to be cancelled due to the ongoing situation with Coronavirus. However, we were able to get a few of the regular participants set up online via video chat, which was a brand-new experience for most. This allowed the group to get their two-hour football fix with John Homer, who told tales of football in the West Midlands.