Special match remembering Black football legend to kick off Preston's 2024 Windrush Festival

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Preston is to host a special exhibition football match to celebrate National Windrush Day next Saturday (22nd June).

The inaugural Arthur Wharton Cup football tournament is being held in honour of the world’s first black professional footballer who joined Preston North End as an amateur in 1886. Originally from Ghana, he played for the Invincibles from 1886 – 1888.  It will kick off at the University of Central Lancashire’s Sports Arena on Tom Benson Way at 11am when a team from Lancashire Fire and Rescue will battle it out for the trophy against Windrush FC. 

Britain's first black footballer played for Preston North EndBritain's first black footballer played for Preston North End
Britain's first black footballer played for Preston North End | unknown, via PCC

The match will form part of the city's two-day Windrush Festival for 2024, celebrating and recognising the contribution of those who came to Lancashire from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s to help rebuild Britain after World War II.

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The main event takes place on Avenham Park on Sunday 23rd June where there will be an eight-hour extravaganza of good vibes and soulful sounds, celebrating the city’s African-Caribbean and mixed-race community.  

Throughout the day visitors will enjoy live music and DJ sets, dancing, a wide selection of international cuisines - including tastes of the Caribbean - a live cricket match, a selection of non-food stalls, children’s play area and also a live demonstration from Christine Cherry, a finalist on Channel 4’s hit TV show The Great Pottery Throwdown.  

The exhibition game, supported by GRACE – the Global Race Centre for Equality Research at the University of Central Lancashire - will reflect on Arthur Wharton’s pivotal role in British black footballing history.

Preston's Windrush Festival has become a popular annual eventPreston's Windrush Festival has become a popular annual event
Preston's Windrush Festival has become a popular annual event | Paul Yates

After leaving Preston North End, he moved to Rotherham Town, signing a contract to play in the English Football League. In 1886, he also took the title of National 100 yards Champion in a race run by the Amateur Athletics Association - and a year later, he set a record time for cycling between Preston and Blackburn.

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Arthur Wharton retired from football in 1902 and died in 1930.  There is a blue plaque in his honour at PNE’s Deepdale Football stadium. 

Adrian Murrell, Director and Co-Founder of Windrush Initiatives CIC said: “We wanted to celebrate National Windrush Day in a special way this year, honouring a black sports legend, famous to Preston, whilst also encouraging exercise for all, whatever energy level, age and ability.  

“We host and signpost lots of different activities from our community hub, from ladies walking groups, to walking football and men’s health groups. We encourage people to get in touch to find out what activities are available and to get involved. Exercise doesn’t have to be high energy, just meeting up, having a laugh with like-minded people and getting some fresh air is always good for the body and soul.”  

Dr John Wainwright, GRACE Co-Director added: ““Through co-working with Windrush and Black footballers to come together to play this match we are acknowledging the invaluable and admirable contribution that Arthur Wharton and all Black footballers have made toward racial equality not only in football, but in communities and society more generally.”    

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The event will celebrates Black, mixed race and African Caribbean sporting achievements and special guests from the world of sport will be in attendance, including Oshor Williams, Preston North End’s first black captain, Howard Gayle the first black footballer to play for Liverpool and Blackburn, Ken Monkou, Dutch former footballer and TV pundit, and Shaun Campbell, founder of the Arthur Wharton Foundation. Music on the day will be provided by DJ Toro, who is a regular feature at Trinidad’s carnival and the Windrush Festival. 

Shaun Campbell has granted permission to hold the competition, which is intended to become an annual event. Undefeated Windrush United (formed in 2009) will be playing against Lancashire Fire and Rescue in their new bespoke football kit that was sponsored by Smile it’s Free Productions and The Arthur Wharton Foundation. 

Lancashire Fire and Rescue are actively recruiting from the African / Caribbean community and have been working closely with Windrush Initiatives CIC for the past two years. 

Speaking about the wider festival, Adrian added: “[It] has a real community vibe about it - and when I say community vibe, I mean Preston’s multi-cultural, multi-racial community and it’s an amazing event to be part of.”  The Windrush Festival was established in 2013 as a family-orientated, multi-generational, cross-cultural event  The festival reaffirms Caribbean identity, history, and culture for the descendants of the Windrush generation and the wider community. This year's Windrush 76 Festival will act as a meeting space for friends, families, and communities to come together, share stories and remember the past. 

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Sarah Threlfall, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Community and Wellbeing at Preston City Council said: “As we commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Empire Windrush’s arrival on UK soil, the Windrush Festival serves as a powerful tribute to the legacy of the Windrush generation. This festival not only highlights their invaluable contributions to our society but also fosters a spirit of unity and cultural appreciation among our diverse communities. We are proud to support this event and look forward to its continued growth and success in years to come." 

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