Martin Fullard talks events giving back

The events industry, by definition, is all about creating experiences for people. It’s a jolly successful commercial industry, and that’s why a lot of us are in it. But where the industry really does win is when it gives something back.

Children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust in June launched a new project in partnership with Team England to encourage social integration among young people across Birmingham. The project, called Birmingham Connect, will use sport to build connections between young people from diverse and segregated communities in the UK’s second-largest city. It’s fitting, as Birmingham is hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The programme will see young people aged 11-13 paired with students from the other 20 schools across the city to help them connect through sport.

The year-long programme aims to improve social mixing and build young people’s understanding of different communities. It will particularly focus on tackling segregation of young people of different ethnicities, who come from areas of deprivation or who have a disability.

The project is being run by the Youth Sport Trust in partnership with the English Commonwealth Games team, Team England. Birmingham Connect has received funding from Sport England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as part of the Integrated Communities Innovation Fund (ICIF). It is being delivered with support from Inspire Activity Ltd, Culture Central and Birmingham Education Partnership.

The scheme is yet another example of how sport and events can come together for the greater good, and to provide an inclusive arena for children from different backgrounds is something all of us can get behind.

Indeed, Commonwealth Games England have put their weight behind it, with chief executive Paul Blanchard saying: “We hope Birmingham Connect will leave a lasting legacy beyond the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to promote social integration among young people across the city and enable them to become better connected. We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on the schools, children and communities involved.”

Over the next year, pairs of schools will work together to give students the opportunity to mix with young people from different backgrounds. Schools chosen to take part have been identified as being highly segregated, either through ethnicity, deprivation or disability.

100 young people recruited across the 20 schools will be trained as Connectors to lead the project for their school, with support from teachers.

Every school will receive inspirational assemblies and training and will then plan and organise four sporting events with their partner schools.

The project will culminate in a large-scale sporting festival in summer 2020 which will bring together all of the schools involved as well as friends and family.

There is hope for the UK yet.