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Your Game unveiled in Banksy lair

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Your Game 2008 launches in hidden Banksy lair

By Alistair Magowan

The Swiss Embassy may have seemed an unlikely venue for the launch of a project which celebrates football, music, dance and street culture.

But the central London location had a previously hidden secret lurking in the depths of its underground car park.

Unbeknown to the wider art world, the space usually reserved for the cars of the Swiss Ambassador and his colleagues, was home to several murals by the renowned graffiti artist Banksy.

And it proved the perfect backdrop for Your Game, the social inclusion initiative aimed at young people, as it boldly strode into its second year.

With his last work fetching over 50,000 for a Mona Lisa stencil, it was little wonder the visitors to the event were amazed at the Banksy showcase which could well have fetched up to 1m.

Philippe Senderos
It's the first time I've been to the Swiss embassy and I'm really impressed by the whole event

Arsenal defender Phillipe Senderos

In 2001 Banksy and his fellow artists got the chance to spray the car park walls in what the Swiss Embassy described as a way of "engaging with the next generation".

And the decision to throw open the doors for Your Game, a joint venture between the BBC and the Football Foundation, seemed another inspired piece of thinking.

In addition to the artwork, the likes of Arsenal defender Phillipe Senderos, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, England's 2018 World Cup ambassador Richard Caborn and Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell were treated to night of freestyle football and dance before the project sets off on a 10-date tour around England.

"It's the first time I've been to the Swiss Embassy and I'm really impressed by the whole event," said Senderos. "Downstairs in the car park was fantastic, it looks really good."

Just as significant as the entertainment, the evening gave those involved in last year's Your Game a chance to talk further about the impact it has made in their communities.

"It was a great chance to speak to the big fish, because last time I was trying to get people to understand what we were doing at grassroots level," said Zaynab Ahmed who works with her football team Liverpool Muslim Ladies.

"This time it wasn't a case of trying to get them to understand me. It was more of a discussion on where we need to go next. There was more nodding of heads, definitely."

Ahmed is now a Progressions Co-ordinator for Your Game and is responsible for ensuring more participants take up community project opportunities on offer across the country.

The 24-year-old is also aiming to keep on at the likes of Burnham, Caborn and London 2012 organiser Sir Keith Mills to ensure the exposure gained by Your Game has a knock-on effect in her native Liverpool.

Zaynab Ahmed and Richard Caborn
It was a great chance to speak to the big fish

Zaynab Ahmed, Your Game Progressions Co-ordinator

Fortunately for Ahmed, Burnham also hails from Merseyside and it seemed the banter over who supports the best team in the city had an effect.

"Your Game brings together everything that my department is responsible for - music, football, youth culture," said Burnham.

"These are things that communicate to young people far more than I can as a politician - even if I spoke for 400 hours.

"From my point of view I've got to get my full weight behind things like this because they are fantastic."

Caborn also said the power of projects like Your Game could be a bargaining chip when it came to lobbying Fifa on bringing the 2018 World Cup to Britain.

"I think we can use schemes like Your Game, not just here but internationally as well," he said.

"You look what happened in Namibia last year (where the likes of Ahmed joined a conference on how to use sport to combat social problems).

"It was a fantastic event and in that sense it shows that we can use football beyond the playing field but right into the heart of the inner cites.

"It's about social inclusion it's about education, it's about health - it's a great delivery mechanism."

Your Game will begin its first of 10 football festivals in London on 12 March before visiting Southampton, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham.

For more details ring the Your Game team on 0208 576 2784 or email the team at yourgame@bbc.co.uk




see also
Your Game is back in 2008
09 Nov 07 |  Your Game
Caborn upbeat over World Cup bid
29 Feb 08 |  Premier League
The 2007 Your Game All-Stars
11 Sep 07 |  Your Game
London teams top of Your Game
16 Jul 07 |  Your Game


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