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REVIEW: The Christmas Truce, RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon
A refreshing alternative to pantoland’s slapstick and sentimentality, The Christmas Truce is a heart-stirring tribute to those who fought in World War One and the devoted nurses who cared for them.
Based on the events surrounding the Christmas Truce in 1914, this new play by Phil Porter focuses on members of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment from raw recruits such as sporty Liggins (Oliver Lynes) and perennial moaner Smith (Harry Waller) to old hands Bill (Gerard Horan) and Bert (Roderick Smith).
The first half begins with a scene many of us will recognise – a village fete on a balmy summer’s day with games of cricket and cream teas. Before the play begins, youngsters in the audience were invited to try their luck at the coconut shy which meant my 12-year-old son Nick got the chance to tread the boards on only his first visit to this iconic theatre!
But the smiles soon fade as training begins and the troops are herded onto trains bound for the Western Front. While Old Bill pines for strawberry jam over plum and apple, his young comrades long for letters from loved ones and discuss the prospect of being home by Christmas.
The audience are drawn into their personal stories – we too despair at each fresh casualty and sympathise with reserve nurse Phoebe Bishop (Frances McNamee) during her argument with Matron (Leah Whitaker) over her colleagues’ lovingly created Christmas decorations for the ward.
There’s plenty of humour too, though – not least in the impromptu concert party organised by second lieutenant Bruce Bairnsfather (Joseph Kloska), whose quirky autobiographical drawings and cartoons can currently be viewed at the theatre, and traditional songs and carols to hum along to. And it wouldn’t be a seasonal show without a dusting of snow at the close.
The football match is both chaotic and cheery. There are allegations of cheating and hotly disputed penalties – emphasising that little has changed over the past 100 years!
Aimed at nine-year-olds and above, The Christmas Truce has all the ingredients of a festive treat – an enthusiastic cast, ingenious set design courtesy of Tom Piper and, above all, a cracking story.
The Christmas Truce runs until January 31, 2015. For tickets, call 0844 800 1114 or visit www.rsc.org.uk
Article by Leila Talmadge, Trustee of Daytrippers
“Football is an honest game. It’s true to life. It’s a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life.” –Joe Namath
On the 31st October 2014, the London Soccer Dome, formally known as The David Beckham Academy, closed its doors for the last time to make way for a residential development. This building sat in the heart of London and was the largest indoor football venue in the whole of Europe, and also the home of Daytrippers’ Annual Pan-Disability Football Tournament since 2006.
Daytrippers is a children’s charity striving to enable young disabled people throughout the UK to access as many services and activities as possible, creating an inclusive playing field for all ages and interests. Providing days out has proved fundamental over the years as we learn of more and more cut backs in funding, limiting the possibility of experiences for each child. We believe that every young disabled person has the right to a fun and active childhood, and the chance to develop their full potential in life.
The UK’s Largest Pan-Disability Football Tournament
Our tournament started back in 2006 when Coach Ray Coleman of the South London Feltham Bees approached us. His team sought new experiences as they found that they were playing against the same teams all the time. Ray wanted to introduce his footballers to new teams to increase their experience in the game, and sought funding for them to travel up to Blackpool. This application set our ideas flowing and that is when we combined forces to create the largest Pan-Disability Football Tournament the UK had seen.
Our tournament was open to all abilities, and we welcomed boys & girls from teams all over the UK. The aim was to create an event that would be the highlight of all the players’ football calendars. What made our tournament that little bit special was the team spirit that we encouraged in everyone who attended. Of course there is a competitive spirit when playing any sport, but with the nature of having so many varying abilities in the players, we wanted to encourage a more even playing field, with recognition not only going to the best players, but also players who achieved personal goals.
Flexibility was key. With players split into two age ranges, and within those an additional two skill level based leagues, we tried to ensure that any young disabled person was able to come along and take part. Our referees kept a keen eye on the games progression and if there were one team dominating the leader board it wouldn’t be unheard of for the coaches to encourage their players to give the other teams a chance. This obviously didn’t affect the overall scores, but it did ensure that no one team left feeling totally deflated on the day because they weren’t as strong as their opponents.
We had teams from all over the UK join us year on year out, with an average of 250 players each year. Players of the tournament would range from a highly talented player, to a player who built up the courage to stand on the pitch for the first time ever. We loved seeing players come back each year with the strong belief that our Football Tournament centered on inclusive fun. One player who came to our very first tournament now even plays for the England CP team, proving that a high level of achievement is always possible.
The changing face of Football
Over all nine tournaments I personally have seen a huge number of changes. After the London Paralympics I was expecting to see a rise in the number of players and teams, when the reality was quite the opposite. As the years have gone on, from our Tournament’s perspective, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of young disabled people taking up football and this has also had an effect on the teams’ structure.
We have noticed some boroughs throughout the UK comment on differing rules, and even the structures of teams have caused discussion. In some parts of the UK girls and boys are not allowed in the same team, then also teams are separated into more refined categories based on the young person’s disability. Although we can understand all of the reasons behind these introductions, especially to make disabled football more in line with the mainstream leagues, unfortunately in our experience it has actually excluded many players.
Daytrippers knows only too well that every young disabled person’s needs are very specific to them, and does not necessarily fit comfortably in any one category. In all our days out we try to create the most inclusive environment possible. Our tournament may not be within the same guidelines as more competitive disabled football, but does every tournament need to be a precursor to professional football? We believe our players are learning something much more valuable by participating in an inclusive team spirit.
There certainly is a place for directing disabled football along the same lines as all other leagues, and the more professional levels. However, where does this leave a young disabled person who may not ever be able to get to that skill level, but simply loves the game? We have seen a drop in numbers from such players – young people who adore the game, but for example are too nervous to kick the ball. I am sure we can all remember what it would have felt like to be the last person picked for a team when younger. Our tournament was there to encourage that very child to come along, take part, and enjoy the experience, regardless of how good they were at the game.
“One point that I particularly enjoyed was during the lunch break when I was having a kick about with my child when a boy from another team asked if he could join in. Soon there were approximately 30 children from different teams all playing together (allowing me to gracefully beat a retreat). It showed the power of sport to unify.” – Parent, 2012 Tournament
Where do we go from here?
As Joe Namath’s quote says, football is a game about sharing. This in itself is a lesson in life. When players are given a platform to play a game that they love, at whatever level they are able, something magical happens. We are surprised that our Tournament is one of the few we have heard of that embodies this ethos, and maybe that is why it is so successful every year. There is a huge level of passion associated with this sport, and that is very evident at our tournaments, even down to seeing the number of volunteer coaches that tirelessly work with the young disabled people at the weekends to give them the opportunity to play in a team. These teams are self funded, and run by individuals volunteering their time and expertise all out of the love of the game.
The closure of The London Soccer Dome has meant the end of a very successful era in accessible football, not only due to the facilities that they provided, but also the environment that enabled us to put on the largest Pan Disability Football Tournament that the UK has ever seen. Although saying that, it certainly will not be the end of this tournament for Daytrippers. Feedback given year on year out has proved to us that there is a growing need for more tournaments like ours, enabling all disabled people to get out and play a game that they love so much.
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For more information, visit www.daytrippers.org.uk
Kent and Flemish Schools remember WW1 Christmas Truces through football.
Students from Pent Valley Technology College in Folkestone and Thamesview School in Gravesend were joined by Middle School and Provincial Technical Institute from Ypres in Belgium, they played football matches to mark the centenary of the games that took place during the World War 1 Christmas Truces – in a project backed by Prince William.
The match was part of the Football Remembers project from the British Council, The FA, the Football League and the Premier League – which will see every level of football mark the anniversary in a week of commemoration.
Over 70 Students from across the four schools participated in a number of learning activities together related to the Christmas Truce before playing a football tournament which commenced after the Last Post which was played by one of the students before kick off. The schools are currently working together in a European Funded Comenius Regio project EASIER – Facing the Great War where the students from the two countries are researching their shared history of the Great War.
At the end of the matches all participants received medals and the students exchanged gifts, in the spirit of the Christmas Truce. Jim Cadman, author of The Black Football Heritage Book, in partnership with The National Children’s Football Alliance, donated a copy of the Heritage Lottery Funded book to each participant. The book features one of Folkestone’s First World War heroes Walter Daniel John Tull who was the first ever black outfield player to play professional league football. During the First World War, he served in the Middlesex Regiment and fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on 30th May, 1917. Tull was commended for his gallantry and coolness whilst fighting in Italy leading 26 men on a raiding party in enemy territory. He was killed in action on 25th March 1918. Each school also received a One World Peace Field Poppy Ball as a memento of the centenary event.
The schools marked the occasion by tweeting a photo of the two teams standing together with the hashtag #FootballRemembers and the name and location of the school. Their image will be featured on a special website – www.footballremembers.com – where it will sit alongside photos from teams across the country, including some of football’s biggest names. The website will be a permanent tribute to the soldiers who laid down their arms on Christmas Day 1914.
The students have been learning about the Christmas Truce with the help of a Football Remembers education pack, which more than 30,000 schools across the UK received in May. It includes resources to help children learn about the Truce – including eye-witness accounts, photos, drawings and letters from soldiers some of which have never been published before.
HRH The Duke of Cambridge – President of The FA – said: “We all grew up with the story of soldiers from both sides putting down their arms on Christmas Day, and it remains wholly relevant today as a message of hope over adversity, even in the bleakest of times.”
Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council, said: “The impromptu games of football that happened along the Western Front 100 years ago are an incredible example of how people-to-people connections can triumph in the midst of a global conflict. It’s a powerful lesson for all our children.”
The NCFA recently spoke with Coach Dave Williams of Premier Skills Academy in Hatfield about a timely initiative to support children in developing a love for the game. A seasoned coach of over 20 years Dave has found himself on the cusp of the emerging trend of independent leagues that are developing outside of the current formal league structures provided by the custodians of the game. This trend it seems has some real momentum when speaking to Dave who is in the partnering stages of the initiative.
Dave has made great progress over the past year in developing some key allies in the approach of bringing large established academies into the fold who are prepared to have the open mind required to break down the illusory borders of “your academy and my academy” style of coming together to play. With Dream FC and Ministry of football to name but a few coming to the battle cry of “lets just bring the kids together an play” Dave Williams may soon find himself surrounded by something that is much needed in this day and age – kids falling in love with football.
“Lets just throw a ball out their and see what happens” says Dave. In a recently organised game bringing kids together with a colleague , a 2hour 20v20 game of football was initiated with the tried and tested magic trick of just throwing the ball amongst children and standing back. “This isn’t rocket science” says Dave, He goes on to say “ why can’t coaches, teams and academies come together under one simple ethos of safe organised football events that allow the kids to simply play”. Dave told the NCFA that throughout the networking process and during his day to day coaching commitments the general consensus is one of complete agreement and understanding of not only the issues of hyper regulation from above but the solutions provided by large scale in house independent leagues.
Dave experienced the iconic sensation experienced by many coaches of his generation, growing up on the receiving end of good old fashioned 25 – nillers week in week out. Despite this, it was this kind of experience that drew his friendships within the team closer in that to this day many of his old team mates are still playing into their 40’s. It seems these unfortunate right of passage experiences are now bearing fruit in the shape of like minded people who have developed a love of the game and know how to create places where you play for the sake of playing. Dave says, “Some kids are competitive, if they lose they have a grumble then get over it” however it was a game with his young team in which he found his team up 13-0 at half time that common sense and the need for reform emerged. “My team where up 13-0 at half time, the coach of the opposition was great, I proposed that my team just take the points and we call the game at that point and just play the rest as a mixed friendly in the spirit of the game and let the kids play, the opposition coach agreed.” The proposal had to be sanctioned by the referee and it was here the ability apply common sense was taken away. This is not the fault of the referee by any stretch of the imagination, simply the unfortunate reality in children’s football that if this situation was a boxing match then the referee would have the power step in and stop it.
Independent leagues without a doubt have the power to change the game for the benefit of the children placing the children before the game. Dave Williams has this in his sights and will I am sure, have great support in his aim to develop a thriving independent league drawing in like minded people who are ready to embrace new ways of delivering football to kids.
Dave intends to organise a festival during the summer and is interested in hearing from interested parties from teams and academies who are interested in coming together and discussing growth of the ideas he is proposing.
To learn more and to contact Dave Williams direct please email him on firstname.lastname@example.org