Katie Pickering, a student at Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College currently studying A Levels including English Literature and Media Studies, is one of a number of students doing work experience with Cox Bank Publishing this summer. During her week with us Katie visited Bentilee Volunteers to chat to the community groups there.
It was a fascinating day in Bentilee collecting sporting stories from community groups at Bentilee Volunteers, where there was an instant welcoming atmosphere. Prior to our visit, Janet Mason, a volunteer at the centre, had spoken to the members about what to expect and whether they had any sporting experiences, to help direct us towards some of the individuals with intriguing stories to tell.
Once members were approached and prompted to relate any outstanding memories of sports - that they either participated in or simply enjoyed watching - the stories rapidly appeared. Although not all were relevant to sport - there were very detailed explanations as to why some of the women enjoyed knitting or baking - within the stories there were the obviously cherished and memorable experiences of sport, whether dating back to their childhood years or just the previous week watching Wimbledon or the Euros. It seemed that the people that you would least expect to hold such interesting stories were the ones that delivered the most entertaining tales, and without encouragement to delve back into these memories, they might easily have never been told.
From the individuals who I spoke to, the majority of whom were elderly women, I got the sense that sport did not appear to have a great impact on their lives. The most common response that I was given was that in the days that they were at school, they had never been exposed to sport or given the opportunities that children now are provided with. Many thought that if they had had that same access when they were young, sport may have played a more prominent role in their lives.
Some revealed that they did not have the access to sports equipment and therefore would resort to making their own entertainment such as hopscotch or playing marbles. Others had more personal reasons for not participating in sport, including one woman who said that as a child she had very thin legs and was given the nickname ‘Olive Oil’, so she hated playing sports due to self-consciousness.
Within the group, I managed to find a couple of sports-related interests that they had, from watching ice-skating on TV to having pursued a hobby in cycling, riding from Stoke to Wolverhampton. Another aspect of the day revolved around encouraging those with stories to tell to develop a piece of writing to contribute to Sporting Stories, and advising them on how to write it in order to capture the importance of sport for them.
Moving on from the centre, we then went on to the other volunteer centre and charity shop in the hope of more stories. Although there weren't as many people, every effort was made by Janet to encourage and point people with a history in sport in our direction. In the end, various sporting stories were collected from this outing, ranging from existing pieces of writing, to fantastic quotes pulled from the stories that were told, or a general insight into the impact that sport had on someone's life.