WE'VE BUILT THE STATUE, NOW WE'RE TELLING THE STORY
Jack Leslie Campaign: Black History Month 2023
It is important to acknowledge black history every month but we are always happy to present a range of activities for Black History Month each October, and 2023 was no different!
Last October (2022) was an incredibly busy but amazing month for the campaign which also included the statue unveiling. You can also read about our previous BHM presentations in 2020 here and in 2021 here! We do presentations al year round, and have worked with organisations such as the CPS, the GDC, a trades union, a leading law-firm, the Environment Agency and the University of Plymouth as well as commercial businesses. Commercial sponsors can be credited on our website, social media, and potentially added in perpetuity on the statue plinth. For further details contact Greg or Matt by email
21st October: The Campaign visited West Brom to talk to fans about Jack’s story at the Championship fixture between WBAFC and PAFC (as part of our ongoing series at football clubs -details here ) Thanks to WBA for their engagement and hospitality!
29th October: At the London stadium as guests of West Ham United, talking about the campaign
4 Jack Leslie statue – limited edition framed print!
October saw the launch of a limited edition framed photograph of the Jack Leslie statue, in conjunction with esteemed local photographer Jonathan Ward and Kaya Galleries – more info here. (and as reported in Evening Herald here)
JACK LESLIE’S FAMILY PRESENT HIS HONORARY ENGLAND CAP TO ARGYLE!
One year ago, Jack Leslie’s bronze statue was unveiled at Home Park, and this incredible occasion was marked by a historic pledge. Debbie Hewitt, FA chair, announced that Jack was to be awarded a posthumous honorary cap in recognition of the adversity he faced due to the colour of his skin. Jack was the first black footballer to be selected for England back in 1925, but due to prejudice he then never got the chance to represent his country (read “Jack’s story” here) The honorary cap was presented as promised to Jack’s family in March this year ahead of England’s 2-0 victory over Ukraine (see here)
On the morning of the Swansea City match on 7th October, the anniversary of the unveiling, Jack’s family, the campaign team and Argyle legend, Ronnie Mauge, met at the statue to show off the cap and talk to fans. Appropriately, the game was Argyle’s designated Kick it Out fixture and the charity’s CEO Sanjay Bhandari joined us and the club for the day. The cap was also shown to fans in a packed Green Taverners, before finally being presented to Ronnie (in his role as club ambassador) by Jack’s granddaughters on the pitch at half-time.
The cap means a huge amount to Jack’s family, and they have loved having it. But they too had made a pledge. To bring the cap home… to Home Park. It was here that Jack made his name, was told he’d been picked for England and bounced back after his cruel deselection. He went on to score 137 goals in 400 appearances for Plymouth Argyle between 1921 and 1934 and captained the club to its highest league position, something that has only been equalled once in the decades that followed.
Jack’s granddaughters, Lesley, Lyn and Gill feel this the right place for the cap, ‘The campaign to recognise our grandad has meant so much to the whole family and to have the support of so many people after so long is mind-blowing. When granddad returned to Plymouth Argyle as a guest of honour in 1965, he got a standing ovation from the thousands of fans who remembered and loved him. He welled-up when he shared those special memories. So, the three of us knew that the cap had to come here. Jack Leslie embraced Plymouth just as it embraced him. We are proud to present his cap to be displayed at Home Park where our grandad became a hero.‘
When Jack’s name was in the papers 98 years ago as part of the England team to travel to Ireland there was a huge buzz in Plymouth. ‘Everyone in the town was full of it,’ said Jack. Then everything went quiet, and this young talent was cruelly dropped before the game due to the colour of his skin. He was frequently tipped as an England player in the years that followed but the FA had already made its decision.
Jack Leslie Campaign co-founders Greg Foxsmith and Matt Tiller said, ‘For the FA to accept that Jack was the first black player to be selected for England and to recognise that it was the colour of his skin that put an end to his chances was a massive step. And for Jack’s family who have carried that injustice with them all these years to now bring the cap here to Plymouth is a wonderful gesture. We are proud of them, the club, the Green Army and Jack.‘
The cap is now displayed in the Jack Leslie Boardroom alongside a unique maquette. It can be seen by fans doing one of Argyle’s stadium tours. It has been donated on permanent loan to the club with a view to making it available to fans as much as possible through events and exhibitions.
The Jack Leslie Campaign co-founders Matt Tiller and Greg Foxsmith continue to tell the story in schools and organisations including football clubs. Read more about the campaign at jackleslie.co.uk, and the other presentations and events for October (Black History Month) here.
Matt’s biography of Jack Leslie, The Lion Who Never Roared: The Star Robbed of England Glory is out on 23 October and will be available in the Argyle Store (or pre-order here)
Jack Leslie Inducted into National Football Museum Hall of Fame!
● Jack Leslie was inducted into National Football Museum Hall of Fame pitch side at West Ham United’s London Stadium ahead of their No Room for Racism fixture against Chelsea FC on 11 February 2023.
● This induction continues the great work of the Jack Leslie Campaign, which has shone light on a true pioneer for ethnic minorities in football, with Jack now cast in bronze outside Home Park, and with confirmation of an Honorary England cap from the FA.
The Jack Leslie story
Born in Canning Town in 1901 to a Jamaican father and English mother, Leslie started his career playing for non-league Barking Town winning the London League title, before going on to become a goalscoring great and captain during 14 seasons at Plymouth Argyle between 1921-35.
Thanks to the Campaign, his story is now better known – and you can read more here.
The Jack Leslie Campaign was founded in 2020 by Plymouth fans Matt Tiller and Greg Foxsmith to celebrate, shine a light, and serve justice to his career and legacy. The pair contacted Leslie’s three granddaughters, Plymouth Argyle, Barking FC and West Ham United and, with the club’s support, Leslie has been eternalised in a bronze statue at Argyle’s Home Park stadium (unveiling story here)
Induction into the Football Museum Hall of Fame
Jack Leslie was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame in a pitch side ceremony at London Stadium on 11/02/23, where CEO Tim Desmond (pictured below) presented the award to Jack’s three granddaughters, alongside West Ham legends and the Campaign team.
Celebrating the news, Greg Foxsmith said on behalf of the Campaign: “We are delighted that fans from across the football community have responded positively to Jack’s story, and his induction into the NFM Hall of Fame is a great honour, welcomed by the Campaign and Jack’s family.”
Presentation of maquette to West Ham
West Ham United, who are proud to recognise Leslie as an important part of their Club’s history, commissioned a bronze maquette of the statue created by sculptor Andy Edwards, which was presented by Argyle legend and club ambassador Ronnie Mauge to Sir Trevor Brooking (representing West Ham)
National Football Museum
The National Football Museum Hall of Fame aims to celebrate and highlight the achievements of those who have made an outstanding contribution to football. Judges voted unanimously to induct Leslie in recognition of his stellar career and important story, laying foundations for the ethnically diverse sporting community of the future.
The Hall of Fame, supported by the Professional Footballers’ Association, celebrates the achievements of those who have made an outstanding contribution to the game, either on or off the pitch.
Linda Gilroy’s Photo of Michael Foot has been auctioned for the Jack Leslie Campaign!
This photograph is of Michael Foot, former leader of the Labour Party, sitting for a portrait for renowned artist Robert Lenkiewicz. The photo was taken circa 2001 by Labour MP, Linda Gilroy who served as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton from 1997 to 2010.
It is one of only 2 prints of the photograph currently in existence, of which no more than a maximum of 20 copies will ever be reproduced.
The photograph, kindly given to the campaign by Linda Gilmore, was auctioned on eBay ( here) and raised over £250 for the Campaign!
The painting, unfinished at the time of the artist’s death, was acquired by the House of Commons Art Commission and displayed in Portcullis House London (detail here)
The original photograph itself was exhibited in 2001 as part of an exhibition of photographs taken by MPs, originally in Westminster & later touring the country.
The image captures Michael Foot sporting the green and black scarf of his beloved home-town team Plymouth Argyle. It shows him sitting in Robert Lenkiewicz’s atmospheric studio in the historic Barbican area of Plymouth, amongst the artist’s other works. It also captures the canvass that Lekiewicz was working on. A piece of art in it’s own right, it captures the artist’s process as well as the effervescent nature of the late great Michael Foot.
The rear of the frame is signed by Linda Gilroy, to whom the Campaign expresses it’s grateful thanks.
ALL PROCEEDS FROM THE AUCTION WENT TO THE JACK LESLIE STATUE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN.
If you have something you wish to donate for the Campaign to raise funds, please get in touch via the website. Follow @JackLeslieCamp and @LeslieRaffle on twitter for details of future sales.
CURRENT RAFFLE – England top signed by Ian Wright-tickets £2- draw on 1st August- detail here
At this extraordinary, and sometimes polarising, time in our history with such a focus on monuments, it is great to be campaigning to build something positive with an anti-racist message at its heart.
We not only want to build a statue as a memorial to Jack Leslie, but also use his story to celebrate diversity and combat racism. We’ve updated our home page with our Aims & Objectives to say just that.
We’ve also just published some FAQs in case you have any… and do get in touch if you have any other questions, suggestions or offers of help.
And, of course, we welcome donations and we’ve had a flurry in the last few days. We are still very mindful of the current situation and won’t be launching in earnest until football returns to normal. But to all those who have so far, thank you. It really is appreciated and will help us get off to a flyer when the Crowdfunder finally goes live.
TO DONATE CLICK HERE – We need to raise at least £100,000. Sounds daunting, but we know we can do it with your help.
Please do VISIT THE WEBSITE for updated information on the campaign, the team and see our growing list of key supporters. What else have we been up to?
Had very fruitful discussions with the team at Plymouth Argyle who are supportive and will be crucial in helping us fundraise.
Welcomed Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters Association on to our committee. The FSA will help us get our message out there and may also provide additional funding to help us spread Jack’s story.
We are always keen to add to our list of high profile supporters so if you know of anyone who might be interested then put us in touch!
If you know any businesses who may want to help and get involved in some way then do put them in touch.
We are keen to expand our network. We need people with time and energy, particularly with skills in marketing, promotion, fundraising and social media campaigns. Do get in touch if you are interested.
If you are a Plymouth Argyle fan (as many of you are!) then you will be celebrating promotion! It’s been a very odd time in football and commiserations if it hasn’t worked out for your team. We’ve been enjoying Rob Bullen’s Argyle ‘Fat Lady Sings’ cartoon updates through the EFL decision making process and Rob has also drawn these brilliant pictures of Jack. Find him @robbybullen on Twitter.
So, as we continue to prepare the ground for our launch, we wanted to thank you for getting on board and following our progress. Do encourage others to sign up, donate if you can and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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.
Spring 2019 and the thirtieth birthday of someone my wife worked with a bit. Joe’s a nice guy so we bobbed along to a trendy bar in the kind of hip area of London I’d rarely be seen to toast his significant life achievement. When we got there he was very excited to introduce me to his dad. Now, people don’t often get excited at paternal introductions, but this was different. When someone outside Britain’s Ocean City learns that two people are Plymouth Argyle fans, it seems to generate some kind of hysteria. They are desperate to light the touch paper and watch the sparks(y) fly.
Joe’s dad, Tony Fitz-Gerald is an ebullient character and he immediately launched into the story of Jack Leslie. He was passionate about sharing this piece of history and as soon as he began, I could tell why. Frankly, I was stunned and ashamed that I’d never heard of Jack and his achievements. And the more I listened, the more intrigued I became.
I grew up in the Tommy Tynan era, my interest beginning around the time of Plymouth’s 1984 FA Cup run when they reached the semi-final, a match I desperately wanted to attend but was denied by the cruel, uncaring parents I never forgave… until they bought me a season ticket the next year. My parents are not from Plymouth and not football fans and I think they feared I would be swept up in a tide of violence and be recruited by The Central Element (Plymouth’s hooligan crew who emerged in the mid-eighties). Thankfully, I lack a penchant for thuggery and racism.
These were exciting years at the club with a promotion following soon after the FA Cup glory and as a young fan the focus was on the here and now. I knew the odd bit of history — that England striker Paul Mariner had played for us early in his career and that Pele had visited Home Park with his club side Santos and got beat. Take that, you Brazilian show off. You’re no Mickey Evans. But, like most fans it seems, I didn’t delve further back into the archive and the club didn’t showcase it’s rich history.
That party chat over a beer with Tony continued and he told me about Jack’s England call up and we both wondered whether or not it was an apocryphal tale. Did Jack travel to London only to be turned back when they saw the colour of his skin? Of course, it may not have happened exactly like that but we do know that Jack Leslie was named in the England team but that his name then swiftly disappeared and he never won his cap. Jack himself recalled how the Argyle manager, Bob Jack, told him of his selection and how FA officials then came to have a look at him, ‘not at me football but at me face.’
Tony is a great character and has been full of enthusiasm since we met, sending me links and offering help which has been encouraging and invaluable. Soon after the party I wrote a song about the story – I am a very semi-professional songwriter whose work is mostly comedic (or at least it tries to be) but this serious song seems to sit well. I’ve played it live a few times and audiences are intrigued by the story. One of my biggest (only) fans is Greg Foxsmith, someone I’ve known since childhood and who now chairs PASALB (Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association London Branch). On hearing the story and the song (which will be released to support the campaign, of course), Greg immediately suggested a campaign to build a statue.
And that’s how it all began.
Since then we have talked to the club and been hugely encouraged by chairman, Simon Hallett, who is as keen to further recognise Jack Leslie’s achievements as we are. We’ve been busy talking to local politicians, key groups such as the PFA, Kick It Out and, most importantly, have now been in touch with Jack’s family. Yesterday I spoke to one of his granddaughters, Lyn, who has already given me a fascinating insight into a man who was, without a doubt, one of the finest players to grace Home Park and an inspiring, charismatic character to grow up with.
Argyle had planned to host Jack’s family in April and Greg and I were to attend. That is obviously on hold until later in the year. But in the meantime we are working hard to ensure that, when we do launch, our campaign to raise the funds needed for a statue of Jack Leslie is a success. I hope you will join us along the way. Please do let us know if you have any suggestions. We are working through a list of people we know we need to talk to, so if we haven’t got to you yet then do email us.
Thanks Tony. And, most importantly, thanks Jack. I’m sorry this took so long. The recognition you deserve should have happened during your lifetime.