Updated: Jun 26
Author: Joe Choudhury
It was the 27th July 2019, a South East London Saturday which true to form started off as a very overcast, painfully damp although thankfully mild day. This was to be my second mental health awareness walk and irrespective of the darn weather, I was really looking forward to it!
I had undertaken one previous 'Walk and Talk', three months prior..pacing in the April glorious sunshine from South to North London...and in all honestly I'd truely 'gotten the buzz'. The whole thing had been 'spot on' in every respect. Credit, amongst others, to the organisers.
It's hard to explain, nor can it be quantified, but there are so many positives that conjoin, making these 'Walk and Talk MMH' events such truly special occasions.
Without doubt it's the participants and camaraderie, the build up to the match, the football itself, the fitness aspects associated to the walk..certainly it's a win win..
..but above all and most importantly, whilst raising the profile of key issues, specifically male suicide and mental health..'Walk and Talk' provides a real opportunity for all groups to engage with males facing challenges.
Worryingly, these vulnerable people are very likely to be living in silence. The negative statistics in terms of male suicide, unfortunately speak for themselves..however 'walk and talk' is a vehicle that can help positively address and tackle these stats.
This specific event in July focused upon walking the five miles or so, from Selhurst Park to Champion Hill. A scenic route via the magnificent setting of Upper Norwood, Gipsy Hill and the grand village of Dulwich (with a pit stop at the superb Paxton Public House en route). All prior to Dulwich Hamlet Football Club playing a Crystal Palace Under 23 team.
Logistics from start to finish were meticulously planned, managed and organised with military precision by my friend James (*twitter handle @sitdownjim), a keen supporter of both football clubs.
The marketing and promotion of this event and raising much needed awareness of the issues and causes, had been quite significant from the outset.
A whirlwind of communications across various forms of media were cascaded (including numerous Flyers, Tweets) via key individuals and organisations, such as Dulwich Hamlet Football Club itself, Charities, event participants and supporters in general.
Building on the momentum of the previous event, I'd invited a couple of friends, a brother and a couple of second cousins who happened to be visiting the UK from Canada and the USA. They jumped at the chance to attend! Many have seen friends and family touched by mental health, so this was quite rightly viewed as a priority.
It was great to see approximately 50 persons at the meeting point at Selhurst Park. This figure would impressively grow during the walk itself, with many others joining up at the pit stop. It was reassuring to see that the poor weather hadn't impacted either the attendance or proceedings.
It was so refreshing to witness the wide range of diverse groups physically supporting the event too (across Age, Disability, Faith, Gender, LGBT, Race)!
Attendees also included current footballers from the Dulwich Hamlet Ladies Football team, the very much revered ex-manager of Dulwich Hamlet and Crystal Palace football clubs 'Alan Smith', there was also a chap dressed as an Eagle assisting fundraising whilst another very kind gentleman was giving out free Toffee Vodka for medicinal purposes!
It was delightful to see a 96 year old wheel-chair bound Millwall supporter and his grandson participating in the event! So pleasing to see various supporters from numerous football clubs together in unison.
The pre-match excursions were very well natured, enjoyable and meaningful. The football club itself made a real fuss of us, reinforcing and disseminating the important messages of 'Walk and Talk'. They also gave a special 'shout out' to my cousins, which made them feel a million dollars.
As for the football...a large crowd witnessed the a game of two halves...Dulwich were by far the better side in the first half and can consider themselves unlucky not to have been more than two up at half time. Whilst in the second half, a much improved Palace, scored four. It was a good spectacle, with some cracking goals.
Dulwich Hamlet have a quality set up and I thoroughly recommend anyone to attend Champion Hill either specifically for football or non football related entertainment purposes. The club bar and food throughout the ground are very worthy of special mention.
Mental health and football were real winners this day. Real credit should be given to my friend James for his valiant efforts, a friend that I would not have made, had it not been for Walk and Talk!
Joe, Season Ticket Holder CPFC
Watch the video here