Raising funds for a statue to honour the footballer denied an England cap in 1925, just because he was black.
Jack Leslie Campaign and Hope FC at the Box-guest blog by Hayley Kemp
The opening of The Box in Plymouth was a much anticipated event for the Jack Leslie team as we were invited to host activities for their Black History Month sessions.
Hayley Kemp, from Plymouth community homes and the JLC team, worked with Beth Hart from The Box to organise the BHM sessions, and describes in this guest blog below how the sessions went:
I was delighted to organise and partake in Jack Leslie themed sessions for BHM at Plymouths fantastic new museum “the Box”. The sessions included partnership work with Plymouth Hope FC, a refugee football team promoting integration through sport, and Rob Bullen, renowned cartoonist (follow Rob on twitter @robbybullen)
The programme we came up with was an exciting, as well as educational one, which involved both indoor and outdoor activities.
The outdoor activities were football skills and tricks with members of Plymouth Hope FC and our very own Jamie Burton from the JL team. Plymouth Hope FC had players of of 11 different nationalities, (including ”Janner!”) Although the footballers couldn’t play outside on the first days session due to the weather, they enjoyed looking around The Box and talking to families about football and Jack. They were approached by a few families. They sat close to the entrance when stopping for a snack, which (With allowances for social distancing) encouraged discussion and interaction with visitors, including discussions around racism in football.
On the second day play was able to commence and as well as teaching the children skills and tricks, Hope also provided entertainment for those outside in the queue waiting to go into The Box. Although one confident 10 year old advised ‘I didn’t learn any new tricks, but I liked showing mine!’
The indoor activity was learning to draw cartoons with cartoonist Rob Bullen. Rob is a massive Argyle fan who has done some great pictures for the Jack Leslie campaign. Rob, Jamie and I also told the story of Jack Leslie in these sessions and showed this amazing feature by Sky Sports about Jack Leslie and the Campaign: https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/jack-leslie-sky-sports-feature/)
The film included some previously unseen photos of Jack discovered in the archive of The Box. We had conversations with the children, making allowance for their age, by used words like “kind, unkind” and “fair, unfair”, (rather than words like discrimination & systematic racism)
The children started by drawing smiley & sad faces and progressed to drawing a picture of Jack Leslie. The sessions were in family groups all socially distanced and the families were also given one of Rob’s JL cartoons to take away as well as JL postcards designed by MayflowerD7 at the end of the sessions. What was really great about these sessions is that the children really grasped the unfairness of JL being dropped to play for England because of the colour of his skin. Also the adults got involved with learning to draw cartoons as much as the children.
In all 41 family groups,( 87 children and 71 adults) took part in the sessions. We had the most amazing feedback from the family groups that attended. Not just the children enjoyed it but also the adults. Many commented that they ‘really enjoyed it all’ and ‘learnt something new’. Including one ‘granny’ who said ‘you’ve unleashed my artistic ability that I didn’t realise I had!’ One of the Dad’s said he was going to straight home to get his pencils out. ‘You’ve inspired me’. He said he’d never drawn before but loved it and realised he could draw!
For some it was the first time they had heard about jack Leslie, ‘It’s so important to know about Jack and Plymouth- thank you.’ The parents really appreciated the message we were getting across through the jl story. One Mum with a mixed heritage family, ‘Thank you so much for doing this for our children. It’s really important that they learn about treating everyone equally and that they don’t treat anyone like us differently. I am so glad that you have put on this session. I know that Plymouth really needs this and I am so happy you’re doing it. Thank you’. And from another parent, ‘So good to learn more about Jack Leslie. I’d already heard a bit about him from the news. The population in Plymouth has changed. There are many more people from different backgrounds now’.
It was also nice to hear that jack was still inspiring the young people. One young girl told us, ‘I want to do better with my football to be like Jack and want to switch from defence to attack when I start again’. We even helped spread the popularity of museums, one 8 year old remarked, ‘I didn’t think museums did things like this, but it’s really good.’
The Hope players and the cartoon workshop were also filmed by the BBC for the Sunday Morning Politics Show.
It was a great piece of partnership work, not only enjoyed by the children and their parents but also by all those facilitating the workshops. JL is a great way to teach children about racism and discrimination. We hope to develop what we did at The Box and roll this out as a schools programme, as well as work more in partnership with The Box, Plymouth Community Homes and Hope FC.
Of course the most heartening thing for us at the JL team is that through raising awareness about discrimination and racism in sport, Jack’s legacy is helping to create a more accepting and cohesive society today.
1 Thanks to Hayley for this blog, and to Hayley, Rob, and Jamie Burton who made this event a success. Read more about them and our amazing team here https://jackleslie.co.uk/the-team/
The England and West Ham star remembers Jack Leslie as a lovely man who quietly got on with the job of looking after his boots.
Jack Leslie was picked to play for England back in 1925, then denied his England cap when the selection committee realised he was black. The Jack Leslie Campaign wants to right this past wrong and build a statue of Jack at the ground where he was a club legend, Home Park in Plymouth.
Jack Leslie was a prolific goal scorer who was born in East London and played for Plymouth Argyle from 1921-1934, scoring 137 goals in 401 appearances. He was the only professional black footballer playing in England for much of his career and was a popular figure at Argyle where he helped the team win a championship and promotion, toured South America and became club captain, probably the first black player to do so in the professional game. In his later years he returned to East London and after retiring from his trade as a boilermaker, he was offered a job by West Ham manager Ron Greenwood. He worked in the club’s “boot room” for fifteen years shining the leathers of World Cup winners like Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. And it’s where he met the young Sir Trevor Brooking.
Sir Trevor said, “I remember Jack very well. He was a lovely guy who would do anything for you. In those days we only had two pairs of boots for the whole season, one with long studs and one with rubber studs for hard grounds. Jack looked after all of us brilliantly in a quiet, unassuming manner. The incredible thing though was that none of us – me, Geoff Hurst or Bobby Moore included – knew he was a player! Jack never mentioned it; that was how humble he was. I was amazed when I read about the campaign and heard about Jack’s history in the game. I just wish he’d told us at the time, but that was Jack and I’m only too delighted to support the campaign for a statue to be erected at Home Park in his honour.”
Trevor Brooking played 647 games for The Irons, winning two FA Cups including in 1980 when he scored the only goal. He also won 47 England Caps. Playing alongside him from 1968 to 1976 was Clyde Best, one of the first black footballers of the modern age, who scored 58 goals in 221 outings in a West Ham shirt. Like Sir Trevor, he didn’t know Jack had been a professional player, but remembers him fondly.
Clyde said, “It tells you what he was like. He never boasted or shouted out. He just did what he had to do and he did a great job, not only for myself but all the other guys at West Ham. We would call him Uncle Jack and go and pick up our boots from him when we had away trips or brought him in after a home game and he would look after everything for us. At the time I played it was tough, but finding out what Jack had to go through, I’m sure it was a lot harder. He would have been by himself, just like I was by myself and it makes you a different individual when you have to face that. I’m just glad that people have joined together to get something that he richly deserves, a statue.”
The Jack Leslie Campaign is keen to see Jack recognised in East London as well as in Plymouth and urges West Ham fans to support the campaign. In nearby Essex, Barking FC has committed to raising a significant sum to create a memorial to Jack at the club where he began his career in non-league football as a teenager. Now we hope there could be recognition at West Ham United too.
Campaign Co-Founder Matt Tiller said, ‘We are delighted to see legends of the game support the statue and it’s even more amazing to hear those memories of Jack from the likes of Sir Trevor Brooking and Clyde Best. It just makes it even more meaningful; the fact that he never boasted about his man achievements or showed bitterness at the England rejection. A memorial to Jack at West Ham and Barking as well as Plymouth Argyle, of course, would tell the full story of his life in football.”
Jack’s family are West Ham fans and had a close connection with the club during the time he worked there.
Jack Leslie’s granddaughter Lyn Davies said, “I remember going to Trevor Brooking’s testimonial, he was a real hero of ours and Jack loved working with him too, they got on really well. I can’t believe he didn’t tell him about his football career, but that was granddad. He didn’t make a big thing of his achievements but he clearly made an impression on the people he worked with at West Ham. It’s wonderful to hear such lovely memories from legends like Sir Trevor and Clyde Best.’
Campaign Co-Founder, Greg Foxsmith said, “We hope that Sir Trevor’s support will raise awareness and gain support from West Ham FC and their fans, as well as other Premier League clubs, who should unite to support this campaign and kick out racism.”
If you subscribe to the newsletter you’ll be kept up to date with progress with a regular, but not too frequent, bulletin. Here’s April’s…
Hello and Thank You!
We just wanted to show our gratitude for getting on board early and let you know what we’re doing here at The Jack Leslie Campaign. Here’s the key stuff…
It’s a very difficult time, so we totally understand if you can’t donate right now. But if you can, it will really help us reach our target and get Jack’s statue built…TO DONATE CLICK HERE.
We’ll need to raise at least £100,000. Yes, it’s a big number but we know it is possible as many other statue campaigns show and are confident that with your help we can do it.
Our campaign will be officially launched on Crowdfunder at an appropriate time when football returns.
Please do VISIT THE WEBSITE for updated information on the campaign, the team, key supporters and donation information.
What have we been up to?
Spoken to Jack’s three granddaughters Lyn, Lesley and Gillian who are brilliant and totally behind the effort. They paint a wonderful picture of their granddad who was not only a fantastic footballer but a wonderful man. It has inspired us further to ensure that a fitting memorial is created.
Secured key support from individuals and organisations.
Won a place on Crowdfunder’s Big Impact Programme, which will give us help and support to reach our target.
Met (prior to the lockdown!) and spoken to several politicians who will assist in making this happen.
How else can you help?
We already have an impressive list of high profile supporters but are keen to attract more – do you know anyone that we might approach for potential support? Please put us in touch!
We are keen to expand our network and committee. We need people with time and energy, particularly with skills in marketing, promotion, fundraising, social media campaigns, football, diversity or anti-racism campaign. Interested in helping out? Please let us know!
This weekend members of Jack’s family were due to visit Home Park as VIP guests in the new boardroom. We were planning to attend and launch our plan to raise funds for a statue. Obviously we are all gutted this is not happening now but are proud of Argyle’s efforts to support the community and the NHS during this crisis.
We hope this visit will happen in the autumn and will be our springboard to launch our official Crowdfunder campaign.
We really appreciate your time and support. Please donate if you can and spread the word – ask your friends and family to sign up and join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.