We came to know the word “marathon” as its used today because of the Greek legend in which a messenger ran 22-miles from Marathon (in Greece) to Athens to report news. Richard Kirby will be completing a 12-hour solo darts marathon in May in order to raise money for Grangetown Netball Club and the Jenny Wallwork Foundation. So, I suppose the term doesn’t stretch too far from its origins as Richard will be completing the task in order to spread the news of sporting heroes and to raise money for their causes.
As Richard puts it: ‘yes, the event is me throwing darts on my own for 12-hours (except for a few games against the BDO world number one).’ Let’s be honest, this is no small feat. Any type of marathon is challenging, but one that requires such focus is certainly going to be testing.
I got to know Richard when he interviewed me in my position as a player for the Irish National Netball Squad. Other than being a genuine fan of sports, he’s a truly inspirational person – it only takes a quick glance at his website to see just how selfless he is in the work he’s done for others.
The money raised from the dartathon, which will take place in Middlesbrough on 14th May will be going to Grangetown Netball Club and the Jenny Wallwork Foundation. Grangetown are a Premier Netball Club. For Richard to be raising money for a sport which is not only a passion of mine, but also so close to my heart is certainly very touching - netball can only benefit from more recognition and funding (like women’s sport in general). The donations will also go to the Jenny Wallwork Foundation – Jenny is a former international badminton player who set up a charity to support people by offering them the opportunity to talk freely about mental illness.
Money will be raised through sponsorship and a sporting raffle/auction (my eyes are on the signed photo from England Netball player and defensive legend Eboni Beckford-Chambers) and the funds will be shared evenly between both the two organisations.
Having spoken to Richard, he describes himself as being honoured to be able to support such worthwhile causes. Truly humble; there’s no one more deserving of your support, so please make sure you get behind him by donating to his Just Giving page: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/richardkirby or by attending the dartathon and seeing if you can get your hands on some sporting memorabilia (as well as cheering him on of course!).
It’s going to be tough, but if anyone can do it, Kirby can!
So, in the cold light of day, what had Chris Brunt actually done to deserve being struck in the face by a coin?
If you assumed it must have been something serious, you’d be wrong… it was much worse than that—he’d lost a football match; and as Bill Shankly famously said….
Strictly speaking, Chris Brunt didn’t lose a football match, he was part of a team that lost an FA Cup tie; and for that heinous crime, someone in the crowd took it upon themselves to be judge and jury and project a coin of the realm in the general direction of the nearest player after the final whistle.
Only the throw was a little more “accurate” (if that’s the right word) and struck the West Bromwich Albion defender in the face… an inch or so, I’d say, from his left eye.
I lived just across the river from Newcastle upon Tyne for two decades, so I am well aware of the passion that is engendered by “the beautiful game”, but that’s what it is… a game. Of course results can have financial implications, but in a sense it’s no different than a business competitor performing better than a rival. If (extremely) well-paid employees fail to perform to expected or required standards in whatever their line of work, there are ways and means of addressing the situation—but they absolutely do not include acts of violence perpetrated by a disgruntled individual.
There are situations where things happen in the sporting arena that can be appropriately dealt with by a club or governing body; likewise there are occasions when something happens that crosses the proverbial (or, indeed, legal) line—and this is one such example.
Forget that Chris Brunt and the rest of the West Brom squad on duty at the Madejski Stadium are on the kind of wages that the average person can only imagine—they are not responsible for market forces; they just happen to be better at their chosen profession than the overwhelming majority. The Northern Ireland-born defender, along with his team mates, simply had a bad day. They lost to Reading… a disappointing performance and result, but nothing that would stop the sun from rising the following morning.
Yet Chris Brunt could have woken up on Sunday minus the sight in one eye—permanently blinded because he went to thank those supporters who had spent their time and money in the ultimately unfulfilled hope of seeing their team progress into the quarter-finals. Throwing that coin was an act of cowardice, for which there is no excuse.
Brunt showed remarkable restraint given the initial shock and subsequent anger at what had transpired. Maybe there is a part of him that feels incredibly lucky that he has no more than a cut on his upper cheek… because it could very easily have been so much worse; but in the heat of the moment he showed commendable self-control, a salutary lesson to one particular member of the visiting “support” [a term used here with heavy irony].
He even threw his shirt to a young fan; thereby making some child’s day just moments after the direction of his career… his life could have changed forever.
Obviously I readily accept that the coin did not hit Chris Brunt in the eye and the worst scenario thankfully was not realised, but that is purely down to fate; yet there was another example of coin throwing at Stamford Bridge yesterday—although at least the Chelsea fans deigned to hurl loose change at the opposition players rather than one of their own [heavy irony part 2].
I can’t believe that Brunt’s assailant won’t be found. The simple physical act of throwing can’t fail to have been noticed by other supporters and surely it’s only a matter of time before the net closes and the culprit identified.
When that happens, I hope the club and perhaps more importantly the legal system impose the heaviest possible penalty; not only to recognise the circumstances and severity of the incident, but also to send out a message to any other potential idiot who thinks that they have some right to use a game of football as some sort of justification to break the law.
Yesterday I drove up to Newcastle to take part in the twelfth Mentally Sound Radio Show. Initially, I was only scheduled to do a ten-minute update on my ongoing challenges (most specifically my upcoming darts marathon on behalf of Grangetown Netball Club the Jenny Wallwork Foundation—Jenny having appeared as a guest on Show 11), but as things transpired I was invited to co-host the show for a second time—an offer I was only too happy to accept.
The reason for this blog is to try and give some indication as to just how far the show has progressed since my first involvement back in August last year—some things haven’t changed though... viz. the two microphone set-up which can make things awkward for presenters and guests alike, but this is radio; and so long as what goes out on air sounds good, I suppose it hardly matters what is happening behind the scenes....
Anyway, my “debut” show (it was Show 6) included quite a few pre-recorded segments, one or two of which lasted in excess of fifteen minutes each. Nothing inherently wrong with that (taking the quality and relevance of the content as a given), but what struck me was that the “real” interaction was happening off air, particularly the discussions I was having with Steve (the show’s host) and Wayne.
A massive amount of planning goes into each show and I absolutely accept that radio demands the preparation of and adherence to a strict schedule, but responding to a pre-record bears little comparison with that instant reaction you get to live conversation. True it makes it harder for the host to manage the running order, but the flip side (in my opinion... for what it’s worth) is a product that really engages with the listeners.
Yesterday’s instalment included three or four songs (I really should be able to count by now...), and a two-minute recorded introduction to Lexie’s fascinating piece on anorexia nervosa—but the rest of the show was built around live conversation with the guests (and a bit of what I believe is called “banter” between host and co-host).
Yesterday’s guests were brilliant. As well as Lexie, there was Colin (with whom I’d had a lengthy chat prior to the show) who’d travelled over from Liverpool to talk about his work based around football therapy for people experiencing mental health problems. Colin’s own life experiences as well as the remarkable work he does made for genuinely compelling listening.
In fairness you could have built a two-hour show entirely around the links between mental health (or mental strength) and sport—but as the show progressed, it became clear that the same could also be said about some of the other subjects that were covered.
Those topics comprised intriguing research into the possible causes of schizophrenia, the superb work being undertaken to support local carers, information about dementia (this segment included a truly captivating and moving story—please do have a listen to the podcast when it becomes available). Ricky popped in for his regular news update and picked what I thought were particularly interesting stories; and finally there was some information about a role-playing game that thankfully resonated with Steve... because I didn’t understand it at all!
For a time, it felt like the guests were coming in and out on a conveyor belt—thankfully Victoria had everything under control—but much as the high proportion of live content put a bit of added pressure on Steve, he made everyone feel comfortable; and the obvious interest he had in the various subjects afforded a really natural flow to the conversations that hopefully came across to those listening.
In short, I thought yesterday’s show was excellent (despite my participation), and those whose involvement has spanned the past twelve months deserve a huge amount of credit not only for the way the show has developed, but for the very real difference Mentally Sound now has the potential to make.
It was a pleasure to be involved.
As the late Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate once (almost) sang... “It started with a Tweet; never thought it would come to... er... this....”
It’s more than two years now since former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm sent me a “good luck” message as I embarked on a series of challenges on behalf of the mental health charity Mind; and I am still going—note how I neglected to add the word “strong”!
Since last summer, I have been working with Time to Change, a project which is tackling the stigma surrounding mental illness and attempting to reassure people that it is fine to talk; and fine to ask for help.
After two years, and 54 “challenges”, I thought it was time to bring down the proverbial curtain. I’d done two stand-up comedy gigs, climbed into the ring and been punched in the face by a professional boxer, taken on one of the country’s finest badminton players, got up on stage and played darts against some of the best in the world; and so many other things—some big, some small, some relatively easy, others incredibly physically and/or mentally demanding.
I’d driven in the region of 4,000 miles to fulfil some of the tasks, but I’d met some wonderful people and had some unforgettable experiences—all with the sole purpose of supporting mental health awareness...
However by the end of December it was clear that there was still a desire... a determination... a need even, to carry on; so I added another sixteen tasks to the list and immediately went on the wagon for “Dry January” (which, trust me, is far easier than “Chocolate-free Monday”).
Time to Change does not accept donations so I have tried to raise awareness of mental health in general, and my own specific condition (dysthymia) through blogs, through talking openly on live radio and at work... but one of this year’s tasks is also going to double as a fundraiser.
The event in question is a 12 hour solo darts marathon, which will take place on Saturday 14 May. Any money raised as a result of sponsorship, and the planned sporting raffle/auction will be shared evenly between the Jenny Wallwork Foundation and Grangetown Netball Club.
Jenny is a former badminton international who won (alongside Nathan Robertson) a Commonwealth silver medal in 2010. Jenny subsequently revealed that she had suffered with bulimia during her career and, as a result of her own experiences, she set up her Foundation in 2015 to offer the opportunity to talk freely, and provide specialist support to those affected by mental illness. Jenny is an inspiring young woman and it is a genuine privilege to be able in some small way to support her work.
Back in 2014, Grangetown Netball Club helped me to complete the challenge of playing my first game of netball Such was the welcome I received that I not only remained in touch with the club, but I actually now compile match reports for the Premier League squad. The club is run by remarkably dedicated volunteers and offers so many opportunities to players of all ages and abilities to enjoy the physical and social benefits of competitive sport. Doing this marathon is the least I can do to thank them....
I think it’s fair to say I’m not a “natural” fundraiser. I know I’m not great at selling myself, but I hope I’ve shown enough over these past two-and-a-bit years to hopefully persuade a few of you to make a donation via the event’s JustGiving Crowdfunding page, the link to which is here...
I realise there are so many fantastic people out there, raising money for wonderful causes. I certainly don’t come under the heading of “fantastic”—I’m a very ordinary bloke just trying to make a small difference—but in their own individual ways, the Jenny Wallwork Foundation and Grangetown Netball Club are both wonderful organisations.
It will mean a lot to complete this challenge; it will mean even more to complete it with your support.