ALL MPs aspire to progress up the Ministerial ranks so imagine my pride when I took a call from the Department of Media, Culture & Sport to ask whether I would step into the shoes of Sports Minister Helen Grant MP and speak at the national Street Games conference.

Now, while not a promotion it was still a real opportunity and one I quickly accepted. After checking the details, the conference was being held at Warwick University in Coventry. Any grand thoughts of being whisked away in a Ministerial car were quickly dashed when presented with train tickets (standard class of course) and an apology that I’d have to cover my taxi fare myself from Coventry station to the event and back.

Once settled on the train I read over the speech prepared by DCMS. It was excellent. However, ultimately flawed in that I wasn’t born in the 1960s, female or a former Judo champion. As I read on it became clear that the entire speech could only be delivered by Helen Grant MP. The remainder of the journey was hurriedly spent penning a speech of my own!

Street Games’ charitable mission is to change lives, change sport and change communities.

It aims to take sport to the doorstep of disadvantaged young people at the right time, in the right style, at the right price and in the right place. Our very own Swindon Street Games team run by the inspiring Doug Imrie offers 17 sessions a week, in 15 locations for young people aged nine to 25.

This is vital work helping:

  • Tackle childhood obesity
  • Build confidence
  • Reduce anti-social behaviour
  • Inspire the next generation of volunteers and coaches

I absolutely support and understand this work. I grew up in a challenging community, with my school bottom of the league tables in Worcestershire.

For my friends and I, sport was crucial. Armed with jumpers for goal posts we imitated our sporting heroes and, frankly, we were simply too tired to cause any trouble. Yet for two of my friends as they got older broke off, distracted by a different path that ultimately led them to prison. I have no doubt if Street Games had existed then, the constructive engagement would have kept them on track – away from the naive and destructive temptations offered to bored teenagers.

As an MP I have championed greater provision of open useable space, better use of existing community facilities, and the importance of sport to engage. Sport can change lives and it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to personally thank the army of Street Games’ staff at the conference for the positive difference they are making. A proud moment in my career.