A powerful county-wide project to tackle racism and unite communities through the power of football and the arts has been launched.

It’s Not As Simple As Black and White – launched by New Vic Borderlines, Port Vale FC Foundation Trust, Sporting Communities CIC and Mackman Group – will work with groups of young people across Stoke-on Trent and Staffordshire, to engage participants in workshops and events designed to spark meaningful conversations that challenge prejudice and hate, and promote shared values helping to unite communities.

More than 700 people, to date, from over 55 groups have taken part in the project and a short film inspired by discussions so far will be released on Saturday 20 March, ahead of the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Sunday 21 March.

The £220,000 project funded by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s  Faith, Race and Hate Crime Grants Scheme, will combine the power of sport and theatre to bring communities together to explore common values and build understanding, working to tackle and prevent discrimination and prejudice.

New Vic Borderlines Director Susan Moffat said: “We are thrilled to be a part of the Faith, Race and Hate Crime grant scheme, and recognise it as an important opportunity to make a real difference. The arts and sport have a unique part to play in bringing communities together and exploring issues in ways that people may not have encountered before. Our communities need to reconnect, rebuild trust and understanding, and work to create a future which celebrates both our similarities and differences. The project uses a football analogy to look at what skills and tactics we can use to challenge racism and counter negative narratives. We have had a fantastic response to the project so far, with over 700 people taking part in workshops and activities. We have seen positive engagement by schools, teachers and young people, and this is something we hope to build on.”

Will Turner, Port Vale FC Foundation Trust Community Manager said: “Port Vale FC is a community club and we have the power to reach people in an innovative way. This project is designed to enable people to have difficult conversations in a safe and supportive environment. This will give us a platform to educate people and support them to make their communities safer, more cohesive places to live and work. Partnerships like this are vital to us executing our work effectively as a Foundation. Without this valued collaboration we wouldn’t be able to maximise our impact on the people and community we serve.”

Ross Podyma, Sporting Communities Director of Social Change said: “Our history in the location and connectivity to local partners such as Asha, the largest refugee charity in Stoke, have allowed us to dive into different communities, providing wonderful insight and we have found that people understand racism, but are deeply rooted and connected to this country and where they live. The humanity that has been expressed across all of the interviews has been truly astonishing and we have been humbled by the honesty, integrity and passion that has been expressed. Sporting Communities are delighted to have been part of the Unite: It’s Not As Simple As Black and White project. We have delivered consultation, training, community interviews and activities that celebrate culture despite the circumstances that we have found ourselves. We have collated a range of information, which has been enlightening as the voices of people of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire Moorlands and Newcastle-under-Lyme have been truly heard.”

Minister for Faith and Communities Lord Greenhalgh said: “I’m really pleased to be supporting It’s Not As Simple As Black and White with over £220,000 from our Faith, Race and Hate Crime Grant Scheme, as we mark the UN Day of Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This innovative project combines the arts and sport to unite communities across the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire region, working together to stamp out prejudice and tackle discrimination.”

The It’s Not As Simple As Black and White short film will be available on the New Vic Theatre and Port Vale Foundation YouTube channels from 12pm on Saturday 20 March 2021.

(Main image by Andrew Billington.)

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