Cricket Grassroots Sport London

Humans of Grassroots Sport | Jonathan Hardisty

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Jonathan HardistyGraces Cricket Club grandee Jonathan Hardisty joins our Humans of Grassroots Sport series to talk about the first ever LGBT club and how the sport has encouraged inclusion and equality.

Graces Cricket Club is the world’s first LGBT cricket club, where players and supporters are a mixture of nationalities and sexual orientations. We have Aussies, Kiwis and Indians, although strangely no-one from the Windies as yet.

The club is based in London and exists to provide an opportunity for people to watch and play cricket irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. Our vision is to encourage upon the cricketing and wider sporting community an ideal of total equality and inclusion. Sport has a wonderful way of cutting through the noise and setting examples.

Graces Cricket Club Team Players

Graces Cricket Club was founded in April 1996 at Central Station in King’s Cross. It was initially set up as a supporters’ group, but it quickly became apparent that we would have enough players for a team. Graces first game was against Wendover Cricket Club and it saw a six wicket triumph – somewhat surprisingly.

My involvement with Graces all came about when I saw an ad in the Pink Paper, looking for people who love cricket. Our first session had 6 or 7 of us, not bad considering it was out of season. Batting is my strength and the only time I get to bowl is when we’re encouraging the opposition to declare!

At the beginning we had three or four games a season, but that steadily rose to double figures following the first couple of years.

Graces Cricket Club PlayersThe vast majority of our club played cricket at school or at youth clubs and the passion for the sport never left them. Cricket has a certain allure, the whites, its gentlemanly nature and the slightly eccentric rules. There is a super social side to the sport too and that comes on and off the pitch, then onto the pub where we dissect the game. We introduced an MVP award too.

Since playing for Graces there hasn’t been any issues from players or those watching matches. The club has provided a haven where players can be themselves and are encouraged to bring partners along. We have recently signed up a couple of straight players, both just wanted to join a fun club and play cricket.

There was one away game in Brighton which caused a funny moment when the photographer asked us to look a bit camper!

One of our aims for the future is to consistently be able to field a Saturday and Sunday team. For only the second time in our history we managed it a few weekends ago.

A home ground is another issue for Graces. Our dream would be for Elton John to turn up to tell us he’s sorted us a new ground because we’re renting a place at the moment – it would be wonderful to have somewhere we can call our proper home.

Graces Cricket Club PlayersGraces will be moving into some new shared facilities at a school in Greenford. Middlesex CC have laid a wonderful cricket square, with state-of-the-art nets and covers. The school have kindly asked us whether we want to use it as a home ground.

We’d also love to have some female club members. There have been a few enquiries, but no one has signed up. Reasons for that we think is that women’s teams are much more open and inclusive from the off when compared to men’s teams.

A mission of ours is getting as many LGBT cricket teams as possible. We formed a year after Stonewall, who already have six teams – so there is work to be done.

More awareness the better and the professional organisations are starting to drive the cause. Two years ago, the ECB launched Rainbow stumps and they also campaigned with the rainbow laces. It would be wonderful to see a banner at an integral ground like Lord’s or the Oval in time for the Ashes which start in a matter of days.

An LGBT Ashes would also be something to aspire too.

Graces Cricket Club Team Photo