Siblings Amanda and Rob White love to talk sport.
“I’m kicking off now,” says Amanda White, 55, after making sure that everyone around the table has a good view of the 50 black and white cards designed to trigger childhood memories of street kickabouts, school sports and even winter skating on frozen Whitestone Pond.
For the past year Amanda and her brother Rob, 53, have run sessions for Sporting Memories, an organisation which runs reminiscence events designed to “help people remember their sporting lives and have conversations about sport they used to play, and share stories about their life.” The aim is to trigger memories using photos – their collection includes childhood play, sporting legends, 1966 World Cup, the Commonwealth Games, cricket and rugby legends – as well as match programmes and even old tickets. “Do you have any memories as a crowd or the audience? Or did you play sport? Or do you remember eating peanuts and pies at a game?” she asks. Within seconds there’s a hubbub of competitive chat about the games this group had fun playing back in the day – rollerskating, netball, rounders, tennis, football, running with the harriers and even dressage (equine ballet).
While the ladies share sporty childhood memories, Rob tactfully passes Hugh – the only man in today’s group and clearly more interested in big time football than school leagues – a copy of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly which was huge in the 1950s. Hugh instantly starts reading the page about Rob’s dad, John White who played for Tottenham from 1959-64 and was part of Spurs’ Double winning side (FA Cup and the League) in the 1960/61 season.
It’s clear that this brother and sister team are great at getting conversations going, their next challenge is to get the group out of their chairs playing boccia. Mandy admits that she’s not into competitive sport, but loves to swim and has just finished training as a yoga teacher. While Rob, 53, loves playing football and enjoys the team work in walking football too. “Sport is one of the very few places where men can show emotions,” he says. “It’s a cliché but it’s a universal language men have got, which is why I can sit with Hugh, who is in his 70s, and we can talk sport. And it would be just the same if there was a 15-year-old in here. Even if people pull that face, which says they don’t like sport, then they’ll often say why. It gets them talking.”
Here at Henderson Court sharing photos and sporty anecdotes has turned into a lively hour and a half session which only ends when half the group have a first go at boccia. When the final whistle blows – actually the call for lunch – all agree that talking about sporting memories is a winning formula.
We met up with two Sporting Memories attendees – first timer Roselyn and old hand Hugh – to get a match report.
Why did you want to come to the sporting memories event?
Hugh: I was in a bad place after I had a stroke and want to thank the people who run dementia wellbeing and picked me up. Within a day of getting in touch with Age UK Camden there were people waiting to help me – it was just a case of finding them.
Roselyn: As a child I loved rounders and cricket when I lived in Dominica. But after reaching London, when I was 20, all that finished. I do sometimes sit and enjoy a game on TV.
What was your favourite part?
Hugh:I was football mad and used to play football. At one of the first Sporting Memory events I went to, they had these sporting legends cards and I knew one was of John White who’d played for Scotland and Tottenham. It was only afterwards that Rob told me it was his dad.
Roselyn: It brings you back to the things you used to do and the things we did back home. It was good to tell others how we felt about sport and what we did. I can’t run around now, but I’ve got my memories. I could bat the ball, throw and pass it backwards. I couldn’t join their game [boccia, like indoor bowls with a soft ball] but I do go to chair exercise on a Thursday.
Will you come along again?
Hugh: Yes, and I’m planning a fundraiser walk to raise money for Age UK Camden. I plan to walk 35 miles a day. I’ll walk at a leisurely pace for 12 hours. All the medical things I’ve read say that you can’t keep it up at four or five or even three and a half miles an hour. But three miles an hour is OK – it’s a leisurely pace.
Roselyn: Yes. I come to the Henderson Centre three times a week and I thought we would be colouring in this morning! I was surprised there were so many ladies wanting to talk about sport.