Lift the Lid: 23 Voices was a 10-week podcasting and journalism course co-hosted by LEEDS 2023 and Creative Lives, providing participants with the skills and confidence to create their own media about the culture that matters to them. In this article, Maisie Dennison shares her experience at Unsung Sports.

Unsung Sports is a freelance project created by Peter Spafford, a writer, musician, broadcaster and writing organiser who is based in Leeds. The idea of it is to put the spotlight on sports that typically don’t get the platform that a sport like football gets. Ultimately, Peter just wants to encourage people to play these unheard-of sports.

Alongside Unsung Sports, Peter also works at a local radio station called Chapel FM where his role is described as the ‘Director Of Words’. This is also where he runs writing groups and a writing podcast that is a platform for local writers in Leeds. His main two projects at the moment are Unsung Sports and Writing On Air, a yearly writing and spoken word festival that he is in charge of organising.

Individually, he writes poetry for his own collection that he publishes. He also writes plays, that are performed all over the country. Often writing about people or things, one of his first being about the Humberside police. Although Peter spoke about having various projects on the cards for the next year, he plans to keep these to himself for now. I’m excited to see what he comes up with and I'm sure many others are as well!

Supposedly one of the biggest struggles of the project was just picking which sports that were going to be focused on. However in the end it was personal connection that really helped him pick. This year he picked Aikido, Pétanque, and women’s Basketball, following a club in Leeds for each one. But he also thought it was very important to get diversity and a good range of people, which he did with this selection. For example, Pétanque is commonly played by older people, Aikido is played by a very diverse variety of ages and demographics and finally showcasing women’s sport too.

On 25th October (at Leeds Irish Centre) and 26th October (at Leeds City Museum), Unsung Sports presented a gig where we heard all the songs. There was two songs about each sport, all performed by Chapel FM Jazz Collective. As well as this, there was a short film about each sport being played, a gallery of photographs of players from all sports and poetry written about the sports by players. A number of podcasts will be made for Chapel FM art centre too.

Peter is working with three other artists that have contributed to the events: Lizzie Coombes (photographer), Emilie Flower (filmmaker) and Dave Evans (band leader of CJC). Peter was also keen to mention the slight political dimension for the project which is about the lack of available spaces for sports. He stated that it was almost a message to Leeds City Council to say that if Leeds is keen on the promotion of smaller sports, then we need to give people spaces to practise their sport.

Another big part of the project is the emphasis on mental health and wellbeing and how impactful sport can be on people, a message that is carried through the whole event. Peter told me how he spent the first three months of the project hanging out at training sessions and finding out why people play those sports and are so passionate about them.

He spoke about how, one of the Aikido players said about their teammates, “I’d walk through walls for these people.” For me, this sums up this project really well, showcasing how powerful sport can be for people and the deeper effects of it on the players.

I’m Maisie, a student currently in college with a passion for multimedia journalism, which I'm hoping to pursue at university and as a career in the future. I'm a huge fan of anything music, concerts, and festivals. In my spare time, I also enjoy getting out and about in nature doing anything from surfing to cycling. Staying active is a fundamental part of my life, so day-to-day you can probably find me at the gym or going for a jog on the local trails. In my downtime, I would say I am an avid film lover. Maisie Dennison, Lift the Lid: 23 Voices participant