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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambledon Club

Guest Speaker: Mark Curtin

Updated: Jun 19, 2023


Mark Curtin (right), the Chief Executive Officer at the Lord’s Taverners, has been a senior leader in the charity sector for nearly 20 years, with most of his career spent working in the charity and ‘sport for development' space. Before his appointment as the CEO at the Lord’s Taverners, he was serving as Chief Executive Officer of a food redistribution charity, The Felix Project. He has held senior leadership roles in several other children’s health and well-being and education charities. He also worked as Chief Operating Officer at Greenhouse Sports for seven years.

Mark has spent his life in sports as a club volunteer, a coach, a sports development professional, and a safeguarding lead officer and tutor. He has worked in the USA, the U.K., and briefly in France. Mark describes himself as a passionate “Sports Nut” and attributes almost everything he has achieved in his career to skills and characteristics learned and developed through playing sport.

 

(Minutes to follow)


Mark shared with us how sport – especially cricket and football – had been significant influences on his life and how the Lord’s Taverners seek to do the same for many young people, in particular those who do not always benefit from life’s advantages.


He began by describing his modest but happy upbringing. His father had come to North London from boyhood in a Catholic orphanage in Ireland. He met and married Mark’s mother and the family settled in Kilburn where at the age of seven or eight (mid-1980s) Mark first encountered cricket and was thrilled to follow the news of Gatting’s team as they won the ‘Ashes’ – the last time for some years.


He began playing for a colts team at Hampstead but found the experience somewhat discouraging as even back then the requirement to bring your own kit was prohibitive except for the better-off and Mark concentrated more on football. When he was 12, Mark’s father died and while he struggled somewhat at school, he found refuge and success in sport. The family then moved to Milton Keynes and however difficult things seemed, that would change when he crossed the white line, whether in football or, having gone back to the summer game, the cricket boundary. For Mark it meant friendships, and an absence of judgement and opportunities and those experiences from his early teenage years have continued to inform his view of the world and his endeavours.


In his early post-school years, Mark worked as a ‘soccer’ coach in the USA, particularly in New York where he was involved with young people who were often close to knife crime and gang warfare. From his personal experiences he was now able to observe the benefits of sport for other young people and since he returned to England some 20 years ago he has spent his life enabling that to happen. He has worked variously in the worlds of sports development, involved with different charities and in education.


Mark’s wife is a gymnast who took part in the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and now works as a teacher so they share their experiences of using sport to work with a broad range of young people, including those with ‘special needs’, whether physical or learning difficulties. Mark stressed that for real progress to be possible required a good mix of volunteers and experienced coaches who believe in sport as a tool for personal and social change. He stressed the importance of the coach as a leader, mentor and role model, who are able to make cricket appealing to young people.


Mark then told us something of the history and work of the Lord’s Taverners which had been founded about seventy years ago by a small group of friends watching a game from the old Tavern inside the ground. These men wished to find ways of sharing and extending the pleasure they took from the game with others, especially young people, who might not otherwise encounter cricket in a meaningful way. The Lord’s Taverners was initially a men-only members’ club but from the mid-1960s it became a charity and these days is open to men and women to be involved and contribute however they might, with a policy always stressing inclusivity.


The Lord’s Taverners involves many well-known people from the worlds of sports, cricket and showbiz and they play matches around the country as part of their fund-raising – supported generously by the ECB. This enables them to provide facilities and items such as minibuses, wheelchairs, sensory rooms and coaching programmes of two kinds at various centres around the country – “Wickets” focused in areas of social deprivation including Southampton, St Mary’s, and “Super Ones”, with 39 centres. Their work currently involves some 12,000 young people and one of their most successful projects is ‘Table Cricket’ with regional and national finals.


Mark concluded by presenting the Hambledon Club with a Lord’s Taverners’ plaque which will display at future meetings and the club reciprocated with one of our ties and a cheque towards their fund-raising.


(Dave Allen)

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