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/