For AFC Unity, pre-season training starts at the small park BIG RUN

“I’m honoured to be involved with and coach such a fantastic group of women, who have done so much for the community, and if by taking part in small park BIG RUN they can also help support other women in Palestine then that’s even better!” says Jay Baker, of AFC Unity.

Jay tells us more below about AFC Unity and why they are relishing the challenge of taking part in the small park BIG RUN in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, on 16/17 June.

“AFC Unity is a social enterprise and one of the very few independent women’s football clubs around.  It fields an 11-a-side first team playing in the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League.

“The club runs introductory sessions called Solidarity Soccer created for women wanting to get involved in the sport, and several community campaigns from being one of the very first football clubs to support food banks with matchday donation drives, to offering discounts for trade union members and promoting trade unionism, to maintaining a commitment to only using certified fairtrade footballs in training sessions and home games.

“AFC Unity was  also a key host on the Sheffield stop of last year’s UK tour of the Diyar women’s football team from Bethlehem, with a tournament at the U-Mix Centre which raised awareness of the plight of Palestine not just in Sheffield, but amongst the AFC Unity players themselves, who were moved to try and do more for the Palestinian cause.  [Diyar opened and then participated in small park BIG RUN 2017!, Ed]

“Taking part in small park BIG RUN is just one of the things AFC Unity has chosen to do, with several first team players relishing the challenge of running together in small park BIG RUN at the start of their pre-season schedule!

“AFC Unity co-founders Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson may not be doing much more than walking due to injuries, but are hoping AFC Unity players will continue to set the bar higher for football teams utilising the sport for positive social change.

“‘As a player myself,’ explains Jane, ‘I feel pride in playing for a team that extends its sense of teamwork and collectivism beyond the football pitch, and small park BIG RUN is a worthy and important part of that.’

“Adds Jay: ‘I’m honoured to be involved with and coach such a fantastic group of women, who have done so much for the community, and if by taking part in small park BIG RUN they can also help support other women in Palestine then that’s even better!'”

Thanks so much to AFC Unity for your support! For more information  visit their website.

To sign up to the run yourselves click here.

The big idea! Can you help?

As you will know the really big idea is Justice for Palestinians

The big idea for the small park BIG RUN is about community. How can we best link with the community in Gaza, how can we link with the communities across Sheffield; can we run for 24 hours together – keeping at least two people on the course at all times.

The effect of this for people in Gaza is beyond what we might expect. 

Any caring contact has a dramatic impact on moral and their spirit and their resilience. So, for a single day, one 24 hour period we are holding hands with them and recalling what it is to be in Gaza.

Listed below are when no one is down to run. Can you help?

  • Saturday 12:30
  • Saturday 13:00
  • Saturday 13:30
  • Saturday 14:00
  • Saturday 14:30
  • Saturday 17:30
  • Saturday 18:30
  • Saturday 22:00
  • Saturday 23:00
  • Saturday 23:30
  • Sunday 0:00
  • Sunday 0:30
  • Sunday 1:00
  • Sunday 1:30
  • Sunday 2:00
  • Sunday 2:30
  • Sunday 6:30
  • Sunday 7:30
  • Sunday 9:00
  • Sunday 9:30

Either log back into eventbrite and set your running times or email us, let us know when you would like to run and we will set that up

Gaza tragedy: appeal for urgent assistance

Carrying a body back from the Great March of Return May 15th 2018

We are sure you will have heard about the horrendous, ongoing tragedy in Gaza where to date 61 unarmed protesters have been killed and another 2,771 injured by the hugely disproportionate aggression of the Israeli army – 1,360 of those injuries were from live ammunition.

These events affect those very same people the small park BIG RUN aims to help. No-one will have been left untouched and unharmed physically or mentally by this atrocity. The trauma centre we are supporting will at least provide respite and solace to some of those affected.
As if what happened isn’t bad enough, the resource-starved Palestinian health service is struggling to cope.

But you can help. Medical Aid for Palestine has reported there is an urgent need for blood and medical supplies to help the wounded.  If you wish you can donate, however small an amount, to the emergency appeal here.

Hopefully you will be joining us on June 16/17 to hold hands with and extend love, sympathy and solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Palestine. Last year’s live broadcast link up with the Gazan children’s centres we support was a hugely emotional affair. Following the current events, this link up will be even more poignant this year.
In solidarity and love,
The organisers of small park BIG RUN

Enter a team for small park BIG RUN 2018!

The ;Group Belonging’ Team from 2017

Did you know you can sign up for the small park BIG RUN 2018 as a team?

In last year’s run over fifteen teams took part. Already signed up for 2018 are Sheffield Woodcraft Folk, Couch25K, Steel City StridersSheffield Labour Friends of Palestine, Kihafe and Urban Lycra Collective!

It’s entirely up to you to decide how your team approaches the run. For example:

  • run for the whole 24 hours in shifts or relays
  • altogether in one time slot as a group or,
  • only during the hours of darkness.

It’s up to you! To create a team and invite your friends, colleagues, family etc to join it is straightforward. Click here then select ‘Create a team’ and follow the instructions.

Options You are given a number of options including naming, describing and setting an optional password for your team.  If you haven’t already entered the run you will be offered an option to do so.

You can also manage the team settings and, most importantly, invite people to join your team either via a web link or through an email interface.

More info Should you have any problems or questions about entering your team please contact us.


Our friends, Cafe Des Amis

Local coffee and Palestinian joint, Cafe Des Amis

Cafe Des Amis, a popular Palestinian cafe on Chesterfield Road, just round the corner from the park have said they will donate 10% of all takings over the run weekend to the causes the run is highlighting.

Some of you who have been in the cafe, will have noticed that there is a key hanging on the wall. This is a copy of the key the owner, Lena, still holds; it is for the family home that had to be left during the Nakba, 70 years ago.

So, when you are hungry over the run weekend, get some scram from notre amis  at Cafe des Amis

Regathering the fruit

Regather logo
Regather are providing fruit for all the runners
Thanks Regather!
They will be  supporting every runner who enters the small park big run by donating fresh, Organic fruit from our veg box scheme.
Fran Humphries told us ‘We continue to support the work of small park big run and other fabulous groups in Sheffield who promote our shared values of equality, respect, community and cooperation.
We’re looking forward to joining in the run this year too!
Can you support the run too?

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