2016 is ‘European City of Sport’ year for Stoke on Trent. The award, announced last summer, is a real coup for the City and reflects the strength of sport at many levels across the six towns – and demonstrates a real desire to build on what is already a solid foundation.
Stoke on Trent is the first UK city in several years to have been honoured with the award and it is great to see the ECoS16 team building a fabulous year of sport for the twelve months ahead. Perhaps more importantly, the team has placed a real priority on ECoS16 making a lasting change to sport (and physical activity) across Stoke on Trent: so 2016 is intended to catalyse an ongoing legacy for years to come.
Cox Bank Publishing will be doing some exciting things in support of ECoS16. We were already planning a book on sport across Staffordshire for 2016 and because of the energy and enthusiasm created by ECoS status, we are now committed to developing a series of books over 2016, 2017 and 2018 to celebrate sport in the City. Our main project, Sporting Stories, will cover the full gamut of sport and be published towards the end of this year, with follow-on and single sport-specific books to follow in subsequent years, depending on the volume and quality of writing that we discover or catalyse.
With the assistance of the ECoS16 team, we’re busy contacting local amateur sports stars, sports clubs, community organisations, and local writing groups to collect people’s personal stories of sport in Stoke – across all ages and across all sports. We’re hoping to engage with schools as well on a related sports-writing and physical literacy initiative that we’re currently working on.
Given all that is happening in sport locally, and the nature of Cox Bank Publishing’s business, sport had to feature in my (extensive) list of New Year resolutions! My plan is to do, or watch, a different sport every week of the year – 52 sporting experiences across as many different disciplines as possible. I’ve already ticked off premiership rugby (Sale Sharks dogged victory over Wasps on 2nd January) and open-water swimming (a very chilly and very short 5°C dip with the Chester Frosties gang at Hatchmere on 10th January) and I am now eyeing up a 5k running event for next weekend. I’ll be ticking off a range of running distances over the year, to which end I’ve already registered on a local 5-miler, a half marathon and (gulp) a full marathon. Plus a nearby fell race for good measure.
As well as the running, and decent mix of cycling events, I’m looking forward to watching Stoke City, Port Vale, Hanley Town and other local teams on the football front, and seeing a wide range of other Stoke-on-Trent sport from cricket, athletics, gymnastics, martial arts, archery to wheelchair basketball and – with a thriving Special Olympics locally – plenty of other disabled sport.
At a personal level, it is immensely rewarding to see people enjoying sport and hearing tales of epic races and competitions. And to get to speak to some of our local sporting greats – Gordon Banks of 1966 world cup fame; Angela Smith, our former squash world champion; Emma Jackson, an outstanding local athlete who has represented England at every age group and was in 2007 the world’s fastest junior 800m runner. All inspirational individuals for our local amateur sports people – of any age and of any ability. I can’t wait to meet more of them as I tackle sporting challenges and sporting fixtures around the City.