Freedom thru football

In early June 2017, the Diyar women’s football team from Bethlehem is coming to the UK – they will visit and play matches in Bristol, Bath, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and London on theirtour.

They visit Sheffield on the same weekend as the small park BIG RUN – June 10/11. We are very honoured that Diyar will be opening our run on Saturday at noon and participating in a fun penalty shootout competition on Sunday morning. From 1pm on Saturday they will participate in a tournament at UMIX  (details below).

Diyar Bethlehem was founded by players at Bethlehem University in 2008. It is one of the West Bank’s leading teams and many of their players are in the Palestine national women’s team.

Honey Thaljieh is co-founder of Diyar and first captain of the Palestinian women’s football team. She explains:

“Football is more than a game. It’s about social inclusion, identity and pride for one’s country. It’s about putting Palestine on the world map.” Her advice to other women players is “believe in your talent and be determined—with support you can achieve”.

In 2014, two women’s football teams, Easton Cowgirls from Bristol and Republica Internationale from Leeds, toured the West Bank area of Palestine to play against Diyar and other women’s teams.

They saw what life was like in towns and villages under Israel’s military occupation. In particular they found out some of the issues facing women wanting to play football in Palestine.

On their return, they made a film Balls, Barriers and Bulldozers about their experience. It shows how joyful but also how challenging, thought-provoking and at times sad their experience was.

Balls Barriers and Bulldozers Trailer from Harriet on Vimeo.

Inspired by that film, Liverpool Friends of Palestine took on the daunting task of organising and fundraising for this brave and groundbreaking tour.

The Diyar team will visit and play matches in Bristol, Bath, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and London on the tour.

You can support their tour by contributing to the Crowdfunding effort.

On the road – tennis for the people

[Sarah Peck will be conducting an open session of Road Tennis at the small park BIG RUN on Saturday 10 June between 2.00 and 3.30pm. Below Sarah gives us a truly fascinating insight into this community sport]

Road Tennis is a cross between lawn tennis and table tennis. Indigenous to the Caribbean island of Barbados, we are now playing it right here in Meersbrook.

Legend has it that Road Tennis was invented in Barbados in the 1930s as the ordinary person’s version of lawn tennis. Still under oppressive colonial rule and with significant racial and social inequality, road tennis grew within Barbados’ impoverished black communities, who were not able to access exclusive lawn tennis clubs. Out of this came something fantastic!

Necessity meant that the equipment used had to be cheap and easy to get hold of. Bats and nets were simple pieces of wood, and balls made from disused tennis balls with the outer fur removed. Courts were marked out on public roads, often in the middle of clusters of houses, providing entertainment and audience participation. The game has continued to develop, and whilst there is now a professional element to road tennis in Barbados with big-money prizes available, much of the play remains in community spaces and embedded within community life.

“As a beginner you can just pick up a bat and play, there aren’t any particular skills you have to learn, you can just have a go.”

I played road tennis regularly whilst I was living in Barbados. It’s addictive and a really fun game to play. I also feel that it embodies how sport should be.

The equipment needed is pretty minimal and can be made at home; no special shoes or expensive rackets means that it’s accessible to everyone.

I also like the way the game is played. As a beginner you can just pick up a bat and play, there aren’t any particular skills you have to learn, you can just have a go. Part of the fun is developing your own techniques as you go along.

Unorthodoxy, often stifled in many sports, is king here. My husband has recently developed what he calls ‘the super serve’, an almost un-returnable serve that skids just over the net. I have no idea how he does it! And that’s part of the fun – trying out trick shots and different spins and slices. This is a game of craft and cunning, not about fitness, gender, age or agility. In fact, rumour has it that road tennis players peak once they’re over 40 – there aren’t too many sports you can say that about!

I also like the community spirit that drives road tennis, and this is something we’re trying to recreate here in Sheffield. Traditionally the courts are in a public space, with a net left at the side of the court, so anyone can come along and play. The sessions we’re running in Meersbrook Park work on a similar principle, trying to make the most out of our great community spaces, and as a way of meeting new people.

Finally road tennis is just really fun! You can have crazy rallies that seem to go on forever and silly shots that come out of nowhere. We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know new friends, from lots of different walks of life. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much playing sport before and that’s what sport should be about.

We’ll be supporting the Small Park Big Run event and will be there from 2-3.30 on Saturday 10th of June. Do come along and have a go!

We’re also at Meersbrook Park multi-sports area 6.30-8pm every Tuesday night, come and join us! Everyone is welcome (and it’s free)!

For more information, updates and great videos go to:


Champion from Champion!

Sarah Champion, Labour candidate for Rotherham and member of the shadow cabinet,  has written to us, offering a heartfelt message of support. Please see this below.

Sarah has also written a very moving article about observing a military court trial of children in Palestine

Thanks Sarah:

“I urge you to join in the small park BIG RUN event. Firstly, because it will be  great fun but secondly because it is for a wonderful cause.

I’ve been to Palestine twice now. The differences between reading about Palestine and visiting it are stark – more so than any other country I’ve experienced.

The reality of the occupation to the Palestinian people is chilling. The wall frequently cuts through the centre of villages, separating families from each other, children from their schools and farmers from their land. It can take hours to make the convoluted trek to the nearest security barrier to queue up (often getting rejected) to then go about your daily business. On my last visit in January, it felt like Palestine has become an open prison and I can’t imagine what that must do to you psychologically.

I haven’t visited Gaza as MPs are not allowed to enter, therefore I don’t feel able to reliably comment on the rights and wrongs of the complex relationships between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. However, there is no doubt that the residents of Gaza are trying to survive in the midst of a massive humanitarian crisis.

I am therefore very grateful that women and children from Gaza will benefit from the kindness of people from South Yorkshire. There is no debate that everyone deserves the right to reach their potential and the causes being supported will help that to happen.”

Sarah Champion

Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Rotherham & member of the Labour Shadow Cabinet

Freedom of movement – a human right worth running for!

This year we celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. In 1932, tired of the denial of access to the uplands of the area now known as the Peak District, upwards of 400 activists from Manchester and Sheffield walked from Hayfield to Kinder Scout – in effect a mass illegal trespass of the countryside.  The ringleaders were arrested and imprisoned. But their efforts weren’t in vain – and are said to have been one of the major catalysts in securing free countryside access for the general public and to the creation of the national parks.

Some of us were fortunate to attend an anniversary walk, organised by Manchester Greenpeace Network, that traced the same route as those brave and determined people.

It served as a double reminder that, firstly, our own freedom to roam was only quite recently won and, secondly, for many people around the world this still isn’t the situation.

One of the main reasons we decided to organise the small park BIG RUN was to draw attention to the truly shocking restrictions placed on Palestinians’ rights to free movement.

Arbitrary imprisonment, enclosure, the illegal separation wall, checkpoints, roadblocks, border closure, blockade, Israeli only roads, travel and visa restrictions are examples of the many frustrations to free movement  Palestinians experience.

Over the years these restrictions on free movement have increased causing considerable suffering and hardship. They have led to severe limitations of the everyday life activities we take for granted such as travel, trade, access to work, social interaction, education and healthcare – and even to dignity.

Accounts of women being forced to give birth at checkpoints are truly shocking: “Between the years 2000 and 2006, more than 68 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, according to statistics from the Palestinian health ministry. Of these, 35 women miscarried, and five died in childbirth.” [Source: Wikipedia]

The right to freedom of movement is enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The small park BIG RUN seeks to draw attention to this inequality, this outrage. But furthermore we seek to celebrate the rights we do have. Every time you run it is an expression and celebration of that joyous and universal freedom to move.

Join us at the small park BIG RUN on 11 and 10 June 2017 where you can celebrate with us!

Water water everywhere …and not a drop to drink!


Public supply of water is often unclean and presents dangers of disease

While we have been very lucky to get water for the run sponsored by local co-op stores, and mostly we have easy access to tap water in our homes, we should not forget that water is a terrifyingly precious resource in Gaza.

Gaza has long suffered severe water problems with its aquifer contaminated by sewage, chemicals and seawater and the territory’s three desalination plants unable to meet demand. To drink, most citizens depend on imported, bottled water. And some travel many miles to fill cans.

UP to 28% Gaza’s water is lost due to poor infrastructure

The source of the problems are varied but centre on the blockade of Gaza by Israel and destruction of key infrastructure for the safe supply of water and treatment of sewage. Desalination plants are poorly maintained because of difficulties in obtaining spare parts. These factors exacerbate behaviours that will tend to deplete the aquifer that sits under the Gaza and forms the basis of its water supply.

As the aquifer drains, salty sea water seeps in and with it sewage and chemical pollution further degrading the supply.

Collecting water is a daily activity for most people

Meanwhile in the West Bank, in the occupied territories, there are inequalities of water supply that reflect the aggressive approach taken by Israeli colonial settlers and the army that protects them,  to dismantling Palestinian civil life.

Water use by colonial settlers is 4 times that of Palestinians in the occupied land reflects the relative poverty of Palestinian people.

Since 1967, Israel has prevented access to the Jordan River supply by Palestinians and supply of water to Palestinians by the Israeli water company, is subject to strict control.

Generally, settlements are built on high land, water is gathered and prevented from reaching into the lower reaches of hills and supplying Palestinian villages. Waste water from settlements is regularly pumped into an already depleted Palestinian supply.

So thank you to the Co-op for supplying our water; and, when we are drinking our water on the way round the park, let’s spare a thought for the difficulties  Palestinians have in obtaining it.

More information

Water Situation Alarming in Gaza, World Bank Report, November 22, 2016

Water supply and sanitation in the Palestinian territories, Wikipedia

And sign up to the run!