By Ella Jerman

HARTLEPOOL youngsters are bonding through a charity cricket programme that delivers on its pledge to use the sport to turn around young lives – and inspire more girls into sport.

Wicketz, a Lord’s Taverners programme using cricket as a tool for change, was rolled out in Hartlepool after launching in London in 2012 and its participants have not looked back since.

Lucy Barnes, 12, and Lacie Cartwright, 10, who both joined the programme three years ago, never imagined that cricket would provide them with the opportunity to make life-long friends.

“I am so happy there are so many other girls for me to play with,” said Lacie. “It’s such a great opportunity to make friends, learn new skills and enjoy playing cricket.

“I didn’t expect it to be so fun. It’s fantastic for everyone, but just for children my age, but for all women.”

“I love the environment of the sport,” added Lucy.

“Everyone is so kind and it’s the perfect way to relax. Wicketz is full of friendly people and I get a lot of exercise.

“Most of my family play cricket and I always wanted to play with them. I am thrilled I can now after learning to play with Wicketz.”

The programme aims to establish community cricket clubs in hard-to-reach, deprived areas where opportunities to play sport are lower than the national average.

This year has seen Wicketz go from strength to strength with programmes launching in Hull, Southampton and South Wales and over 117 workshops delivered nationally.

Across the UK, around 20 per cent of all Wicketz participants are girls who voluntarily attend weekly cricket sessions and benefit from wider opportunities to develop social and personal skills.

In 2018, the Wicketz programme saw a five-fold increase of girls regularly attending cricket sessions run by the Lord’s Taverners.

“Cricket is something many of these girls have never had the opportunity to try,” said Adam Gittins, Wicketz Development Officer for Hartlepool.

“They seem to be learning very quickly and it’s great to see them enjoying themselves.

“Lucy and Lacie have really gelled in this programme. They live in two different areas of Hartlepool but have developed a wonderful friendship through the programme.

“They look like best friends and it’s fantastic to see – that’s what Wicketz is all about.”

Participants from all over the country descended on Derbyshire for the inaugural girls Wicketz Festival last week for three days of celebration, education and of course cricket.

During the residential they had the chance to play numerous cricket-based competitions as well as take part in team building exercises delivered by the Royal Navy.

The girls were treated to a talk by ESPN Cricinfo journalist Melinda Farrell about sports journalism and they also attended workshops educating them on a number of social issues including body confidence, online safety and women conversation leads.

Farrell said: “It’s fantastic to see this residential being done for girls. It’s another sign of how much the sport is growing. The biggest growth area in the sport is with girls and women, it’s a huge part of the future of the sport.

“I feel a bit jealous in a way, I would have loved this when I was a little girl. To be able to see them embracing a sport they love and feel comfortable and accepted in is great. Programmes like this are brilliant in creating memories and allowing the girls to have fun.

“I want girls to see my job and think ‘actually I can do that’, that it’s not only for boys or men anymore. Hopefully, some of these girls will aspire to be a journalist and will chase it.

“It’s all about giving girls the confidence to express their opinion and making themselves feel valued, making them feel that they have just as much right to be fans of cricket and sport and to talk about it as boys.”

Wicketz is a community cricket programme delivered by the Lord’s Taverners, which targets young people primarily between the ages of 8-19 who are living in areas of deprivation with limited access to sporting opportunities and the benefits sport can bring. To find out more, visit