REGIONAL NEWS: Yorkshire organisation set to document and celebrate history of Asians in cricket

from parks to pavillions

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England cricketers Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid owe part of their success to early Asian migrants who played in local parks and set up teams and leagues over four decades ago. Now, a new project, ‘From Parks to Pavilions’ has been awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to document the history of Asian cricket in Yorkshire.

The AYA Foundation, a community organisation specialising in promoting minority heritage, arts and culture, has been awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to work with young people from across West Yorkshire to record interviews and collect memorabilia from the founders of one of the oldest Asian led cricket leagues in Britain, the Bradford based Quaid-e Azam Sunday Cricket League.

Mobeen Butt, Projects Director at the AYA Foundation said: “The Quaid-e Azam League has been running for nearly four decades. Players from these Asian cricket leagues are now being scouted by county cricket clubs and have even gone on to play for England. I believe the way Black and mixed-race players and audiences have changed the face of football, Asian players and supporters could go on to change the face of cricket – and when this happens the material that a project like this collects will be vital to help tell a wider story of cricket in Britain.”

L-R: Nasser Hanif (Project Manager -FP2P), Taj Butt (Development Officer for Yorkshire Cricket Foundation), Mobeen Butt (Project Lead - FP2P) at Park Avenue Cricket Ground in Bradford.  [Image credit: AYA Foundation / Mobeen Butt]

L-R: Nasser Hanif, Taj Butt, Mobeen Butt, at Park Avenue Cricket Ground in Bradford.
[Image credit: AYA Foundation / Mobeen Butt]

Thanks to National Lottery, players the project will work with over twenty young people and include trips to museums and archives, as well as, visits to Headingley and Lords. The project will produce a documentary and exhibit at this summer’s England versus Pakistan one day international at Headingley.

Mr Butt added: “It’s very important that minority ethnic communities start writing their own history. Recording first-hand the voices of the pioneers and collecting primary source material is invaluable. We have already started losing some of our ‘founding-fathers’, those that arrived in the 1960s and 1970s. It is imperative that we empower the second, third and now fourth generations by giving them the resources and skills necessary to capture their own histories; before they are lost forever.

He went on the say: “This project is important on so many levels and without the financial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund a project like this wouldn’t be possible. Young people will be taught how to conduct oral history interviews; how archives and museums work; how to produce documentaries;  how to develop exhibitions; how to conserve fragile objects; and hopefully one day in the not too distance future they will start to develop their own heritage projects.”

Nasser Hanif, a BBC Radio journalist and Project Manager of the From Parks to Pavilions project, commented: “This project has been developed to coincide with this summer’s Pakistan tour of England. Older members of the Quaid-e Azam League say that it was when Pakistan toured England in the 70s that their passion for cricket was ignited and they would grab a bat and ball and start playing in the streets, alley ways and parks.

“Asian men came to England to work in the 60s and 70s. They worked unsociable hours, did the night shifts and many worked six days a week. The only day they had off was Sundays, and as cricket was traditionally played during the week and Saturdays, the Asian cricketers didn’t get a chance to play with the established teams. Asian cricketers ended up playing in the streets, in car parks and play grounds. They started their own teams and competitions, and eventually their own Sunday leagues. The investment the Asian cricketing pioneers put in nearly four decades ago is now reaping rewards as theirs sons, nephews and grandchildren are now starting to break into the highest levels of English cricket.”

Mark Arthur, Chief Executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, noted: “Yorkshire Cricket has a rich history and heritage and Asian cricket plays a major part in this. The Quaid-e Azam League is a very strong and well respected league, not just in Yorkshire, but nationally.  This project will be fantastic in documenting how the clubs and league have developed over the years as well as providing many people with fond memories.”

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Sport and Culture, said: “It’s important to record the rich history of our South Asian communities participating in one of our great national sports. Cricket is still close to the hearts of local people and is a significant factor in community cohesion. We’re pleased to see the Heritage Lottery Fund get behind this as we have an enormous passion for sport across the Yorkshire region and it is a great unifier.”

Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “South Asian communities have contributed to cricket across the UK for many years, and we are delighted to fund this fascinating project looking back at the grassroots origins of so many successful players. We are particularly pleased to see young people getting the opportunity to explore an area of their community’s heritage with particular relevance to them”.

Mr Hanif adds: ‘We are looking for enthusiastic and energetic young people, 14 to 24 year olds, from across West Yorkshire to help with the project. So please do come forward if you are a young person or know a young person that would benefit from taking part.’

Anyone interested in finding out more should email info@asianyouthalliance.co.uk or phone 07764 335 879.

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