Vintage sports memorabilia from the Barker and Stonehouse Middlesbrough store has been loaned to an innovative local charity – with the aim of encouraging older men to engage in conversation and share their sporting memories.

The collection of items, which includes a well-worn saddle, cricket balls, miniature trophies and an old-style tennis racquet, has been lent to Sporting Chance – a new project run by CSV-RSVP in Middlesbrough.

Bob Cave takes a look at some of the trophies.

When spotted in Barker and Stonehouse by Gill Watson, the project development officer at Sporting Chance, she realised the pieces would be the ideal talking point at her Reminiscence Events.

Gill Watson said: “Our project aims to improve the wellbeing of older men by involving them in sporting and social activities.

“Part of this is running exercise sessions, which is going well, but we’re also launching Reminiscence events where men get together and chat.

“Women tend to do this easily, but for men it helps if they have a focus to get them talking – and vintage sports gear is a fantastic way to get them talking about their memories.”

Gill has been sourcing her own sporting items, but was amazed when she walked into Barker and Stonehouse in Middlesbrough and saw vintage sports gear on sale.

Jack Smith and Gill Watson of Sporting Chance reminisce about football and past sporting events.

The unusual display of one-off items are part of a range by top British designer Timothy Oulton, who creates furnishings and home accessories that often have a sports theme, such as a hide punch bag – also on sale at Barker and Stonehouse. The tennis rackets, cricket bats and balls are on sale as part of his collection, while the horse saddle and trophies are purely decorative.

“The vintage gear was so perfect I wrote to Barker and Stonehouse’s managing director, James Barker, and cheekily asked if I could borrow some of it,” said Gill.

Barker and Stonehouse was more than happy to oblige for such a good cause, and the first two Reminiscences events took place at two sheltered accommodation centres including Pennyman House in North Ormesby.

“These were our pilot events, and they went fantastically well,” said Gill. “We had around 19 men in total, and they loved the sports gear.

“For instance, the saddle got them talking about Redcar races, the former racetrack at Stockton, Red Rum and even Shergar – the conversation ranged really widely.”

Sporting Chance is funded by The National Lottery through The Big Lottery Fund, and its delivery partner is Middlesbrough Sports Development.

The borrowed items are now back on sale at Barker and Stonehouse, and Gill hopes to ask for different items for further sessions later in the year.

James Barker said he was delighted to hear that the sports gear had made such an impact.

“Helping to improve the social lives of older men in the area is a really valuable cause, and I’m pleased that our vintage items are being put to such an unusual use – we’re glad Gill came into our store!”

* If you have any sporting items you would like to loan to Sporting Chance, contact Craig Woodhouse or Gill Watson on 01642 515616, or email