Sports Minister Lights the Spark
Helen Grant, Minister for Sport and Equalities and Maidstone’s local Member of Parliament led proceedings on Saturday 23rd November when she formally turned on the improved pitch lights at Maidstone Hockey Club. The Club was a recipient of £50,000 grant support from Sport England under it’s ‘Inspired Facilities’ programme.
The evening had a wonderful festive feel, as guests, club-members, vice presidents and parents gathered together to enjoy a packed and enjoyable series of events on the Club floodlit all-weather pitch; this lasting all evening.
Other guests included - Hannah Blaydon, Sport England’s Head of Local Relationships for the South East; Sally Munday, Chief Executive of England Hockey; Rich Beer, Development Director at EH; Eric Hotson, Chairman of Kent County Council; John A Wilson, Maidstone Borough Council Cabinet member for Community & Leisure Services; Clive English, Mayor of Maidstone, David Browne, President of Kent Hockey Association – and many more.
To start things, the Club Juniors were taken on a master-class on short corners by GB international, Dan Fox, and by Club head coach Jimmy Christmas. Dan played in last year’s London Olympics, and the Club were privileged to have him attend and address the youngsters with his skills and advice. Dan signed hockey sticks afterwards. The Sports Minister joined in with some of the Juniors, when she demonstrated her ‘silky’ hockey skills. She was presented with a suitably personalized Club ‘hoodie’ by Club Junior, Izzie Ramiro. Given the fresh temperatures, Helen wore it instantly.
Then there were brief formalities. Maidstone Hockey Club Administration Manager, Mike Evans, addressed the crowd with a warm Club welcome and some background to the floodlights project. The Sports Minister congratulated the Club on it’s significant progress & unveiled the Sports England ‘Inspired Facilities’ sign (to a rousing 10, 9, 8, 7, 6……..). At the same time the full strength of the floodlights were switched on, in all their glory.
Hannah Blaydon, from Sport England, spoke passionately about the national ‘Inspired Facilities’ programme (which is still running), set up to ensure that those inspired by the 2012 London Olympics are able to participate in sport using the best facilities possible. She explained that this funding comes from the National Lottery, and urged everyone to keep buying the tickets!
Following further Junior exploits the crowd witnessed a Ladies’ East Region, Premier Division 1 official league match under the improved lights. It was an exciting derby encounter between Maidstone and Canterbury. At the end of a closely fought match Canterbury ran out 2-0 winners.
On retiring to the Clubhouse, the eventful evening concluded with a charity quiz evening hosted by the Club’s own Matt Evans. The Clubhouse was really buzzing.