Invictus UK Trials: Everything you need to know as week-long event for wounded veterans gets underway in Sheffield
Sheffield will welcome hundreds of wounded, injured and sick veterans as the first-ever Invictus UK Trials get underway with a star-studded opening ceremony tonight.
The event will take place at venues across the city this week and acts as qualifying trials for next year's Invictus Games, which will be held in The Hague, Nether;ands.
It will start with an opening ceremony at Sheffield Arena tonight featuring perfomances from a star-studded line-up including Alfie Boe, classical artist Laura Wright, singer Heather Small, Suggs from Madness and Game of Thrones actor Charles Dance.
Then, around 475 athletes will compete in nine sports – archery, athletics, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby at four venues across the city.
The show is being produced and presented by Sheffield’s Grammy award-winning songwriter and producer Eliot Kennedy, with designer Emma Willis, founder of the charity Style for Soldiers.
The starry night will also feature military orchestras and choirs, all giving their time to welcome the veterans and service men and women, along with their friends and family.
Hit maker Eliot Kennedy has supported military charities since 2013 after travelling to Camp Bastion with Gary Barlow for an ITV documentary, Journey to Afghanistan. Barlow then performed at Kennedy’s Hidden Wounds concert in 2016 in Doncaster to help raise £60,000 for Help for Heroes’ psychological wellbeing services for veterans.
Eliot said: “This is going to be epic - as fans know, as with all my charity gigs, you never know who could turn up. There’s inevitably a major surprise artist that will make the night even more special. I can’t wait to sing proudly with some of the biggest voices out there for the inspiring Invictus UK Trials.”
He added: “When I went to Afghanistan with Gary, it was an incredibly eye-opening experience. The Armed Forces risked their lives out there on a daily basis and the emotion of that trip stays with me. The Invictus Games show the incredible rehabilitative power of sport.
“I’ve long believed music has a similar power to bring people together, access our common humanity and be an uplifting force for good. The wounded, injured or sick service personnel and veterans inspire us all with their spirit and strength.”
The sporting action will get underway with a multi-sport event at the English Institute of Sport, Atterclife, and atheltics at the City Athletic Stadium, Woodbourn Road, on Tuesday, July 23.
Wednesday will see action continue at the EIS and a city centre cycle race and on Thursday, swimming will be held at Ponds Forge while EIS continues to host a number of sports.
On Friday, an indoor rowing competiton will take place.
Mr Clifton said: “The city has got a proud military history. We’ve already had the Mi Amigo and Lancaster flypasts this year and Armed Forces Day and there's a lot of civic pride in the city for the forces and quite rightly so.
“A lot of people across the city and our partners including Sheffield International Venues, Stagecoach Supertram, Sheffield Hallam University, Cutlers’ Hall and Sheffield BID have all gone out of their way to make the event happen and make it a special week for the athletes.”
But Mr Clifton said it wouldn’t be just the sporting action on offer, with a week of activities planned around the city centre.
A recovery and rehabilitation symposium will bring military injury and recovery experts together to discuss various aspects of the subject, including the long-term needs of those affected by military service, at the University of Sheffield’s Diamond Building on Monday, July 22 and Tuesday, July 23.
There will also be an employment forum at the City Hall on Tuesday, July 23 and Wednesday, July 24 where former service personnel can discuss getting back into work.
And on Thursday, July 25 Devonshire Green will be transformed into a military village with tanks on display and a chance for youngsters to explore what people experience in the forces.
A celebration of how art can aid recovery will see performances of the West End show Soldier On at the Oval Hall, City Hall, from award-winning theatre company The Soldier’s Art Academy CIC on Tuesday, July 23 and Wednesday, July 24.
Continuing the art theme, exhibition Art in the Aftermath will showcase the work of former servicemen suffering from mental and physical health issues, including local artists Dougie Adams and Stewart Hill, hosted by charity Style for Soldiers and with support from its ambassadors, actor Charles Dance and British model David Gandy in the Winter Garden.
International children’s charity Never Such Innocence is running an arts competition combining poetry, art, song and speech to engage competitors’ families and young people from across Sheffield to play a creative part in the trials.
The project is open to all young people aged nine to 18 and winning works will be showcased across the city.
Throughout the week the Royal British Legion will host the Poppy Quest; a family-friendly exploration of Sheffield’s history across the city taking in Weston Park, and Sheffield Cathedral.