The long-awaited return of the British Open to Birmingham is something that has excited the squash community in the city and far beyond.
With the world’s best players heading to a majestic theatre setting to put on a show, for squash fans at the venue and watching on SQUASHTV and via other broadcasters, the 2023 British Open will no doubt be one to remember.
However, the impact of the Platinum event will go much further than the thrilling on-court action at the Birmingham Rep and the Edgbaston Priory Club. Following the success of a number of projects held before, during and after the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, there will be a number of major programmes running during the British Open, including an activation event held in Centenary Square throughout the week.
At the Centenary Square activation, local youth groups will be given a practical introduction to squash.
The PSA Foundation and England Squash, with support from Birmingham City Council, will work with local youth and health groups, as well as the Birmingham Holiday Activities and Food programme – a government sponsored programme that provides fun, free activities for children and young people aged five and upwards during the school holidays – to teach participants the basics of the game as part of a healthy lifestyle by using mini-squash courts and rebound nets in a fun, easy-to-pick-up introduction.
Supporting the activities at Centenary Square will be Dunlop and StreetGames, a sport for development charity that harnesses the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of young people living in underserved communities.
The mini-squash courts, which have been used at a number of activation events including at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and roadshows, have proved to be an extremely popular pathway into the sport for children and adults alike, who have benefitted from surprise appearances from some of the game’s best-loved figures, including the legendary Jahangir Khan and England No.1 and former World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy.
To see the skills they learn being put into practice, the groups will then be taken to the Birmingham Rep to watch some of the world’s best players on the spectacular all glass court.
Those who fall in love with the game will then be directed to local clubs and other venues where the participants can join a recurring junior programme.
Adriana Olaya, Head of the PSA Foundation said: “One of the core missions of the PSA Foundation is to ensure that the World Tour leaves a positive and lasting legacy in the locations it visits and connects with the local community.
“We’ve been so lucky to enjoy brilliant support from Birmingham City Council, England Squash and our other partners in developing the Centenary Square activations. In the buildup to the Commonwealth Games last year, I saw first hand how much passion for squash there is in Birmingham and the Midlands at our activations and at the all-glass court in Birmingham New Street Station, and I’m delighted that we’re returning.
“The Centenary Square activations will be a great introduction to squash as part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone who attends and I’m sure they’ll all have a great time.
“Coupled with the brilliant and longstanding work that our partners are doing, we’re sure that the British Open’s return to Birmingham will be as successful off court as on it!”
Joanna Rowbottom, Head of Partnerships and Communities at England Squash, added: “We’ve been building on the momentum of Birmingham 2022 by taking squash into new and more diverse communities. It’s great to be able to bring the young people from those communities to the British Open to take part in the activation zone and experience squash on the big stage – it’s a sport many of them didn’t know existed 12 months ago!”
Meanwhile, members of the Squash United team who delivered on a number of major Birmingham 2022 legacy projects, will be running inter-club open sessions and competitions to show off the healthy and social benefits of squash.
This year, at Solihull Arden Squash Club, a charity tournament is being played to raise money to build a playground court at Sharmans Cross Junior School, with plans to expand this ‘Festival of Squash’ at future editions of the British Open to multiple clubs.
To find out more about some of the programmes taking place at the British Open, head to the PSA Foundation website at psafoundation.com
If you, your family or friends are interested in taking part in the activation activities, simply head to Centenary Square (Centenary Sq, Birmingham B1 2ND) between 10:00-18:00 from the 11th-16th April (no equipment needed).