Coals to Goals project to bring SAFC history to life

Coals to Goals project to bring SAFC history to life

Foundation of Light has secured funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to deliver a three-year project aimed to capture, educate and celebrate the history of Sunderland AFC and in particular the club’s connection to Wearmouth Colliery.

The charity’s mission is to use the power of football to improve lives, and the project – known as Coals to Goals – will use heritage engagement as a catalyst for supporting improved life outcomes for thousands of people across the region as well as supporting those in some of the most deprived areas of England.

Coals to Goals will work with SAFC, supporters and local community groups to capture living memories about the club and Sunderland. An interactive timeline will be created within Stadium Park for fans to enjoy and a series of educational workshops with Durham Miners’ Association. Inspired by the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, participants will:

  • Connect: Through weekly heritage-based interventions which bring communities together, including older people at risk of loneliness, those living with dementia and those on low incomes.
  • Learn: Inspire children to learn about the history of Sunderland and its relationship with the football club through a contextualised education programme that supports improvements in subject areas such as literacy and numeracy.
  • Take Notice: Install an interactive timeline within the stadium footprint that takes people on a journey through Sunderland AFC’s history.
  • Give: Empowering local people, including those who are unemployed, to lead activities as Heritage Ambassadors.
  • Be Active: Inspire physical activity, from guided heritage walks to progression pathways into other activities offered by Foundation of Light.

Thanks to £250,000 of funding from he National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Coals to Goals project will be brought to life by a steering group comprising of representatives from Sunderland AFC, the Senior Supporters Association and the Sunderland Council Heritage Team and will be managed by Olympic marathon runner, Guinness world record holder and local Sunderland hero, Aly Dixon.

Liz Barton-Jones, Foundation of Light head of sport and wellbeing said “We are delighted to have the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund to bring this project to life and a huge thanks must go to everyone who plays the National Lottery on a weekly basis, who have helped make this dream a reality.

“Coal to Goals gives us a real opportunity to engage thousands across the region through innovative, football-based heritage learning opportunities. We want to work with all cross-sections of the community but we will have a particular focus on those living in areas of high deprivation and those who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This is a really exciting development for the area and I’m looking forward to seeing it come to life.”

Rob Mason, Sunderland AFC’s club historian said “I am delighted to be part of the steering group bringing our rich history and heritage to life. “A crucial part of the ‘Coals to Goals’ project is offering a coordinated route towards collecting the personal memories of older players and fans who witnessed the club’s growth during the 1950s and 1960s.

“These first-hand accounts are at risk of being lost due to people passing away. Collecting these memories and preserving them for use by future generations, will ensure these valuable memories will be available for research and learning purposes long into the future.”

David Renwick, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said “We are thrilled that thanks to National Lottery players we can support the Foundation of Light to delve into the fascinating history of Sunderland AFC and its links to mining heritage that many may overlook. We’re proud to support this project in aiding local people to uncovering the heritage of the club and its place in the history books of one of the UK’s best loved sports. The North of England is home to a wide range of sporting heritage and we know it is a great way of bringing people together and creating a sense of pride of place, that in turn can deliver much wider benefits.”

The Foundation will be creating a series of community engagement activities and programmes and more information on how to get involved will be released to the public in Spring 2022.  

If you would like to get involved register your interest on the Coals to Goals programme page.

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