On the Day

Who can forget the championship parade? It has featured at every edition of the Championships, unlike community singing, which made a brief, never to be repeated, appearance in 1927. The parade of teams marching behind their county’s flag deliberately evokes the opening ceremony of the Olympic games. It was probably proposed by Brigadier General Kentish, one of the founders of the ESAA and of the National Playing Fields Association, who had marched in the 1920 Olympic parade in Antwerp as chef d’équipe of the British team.

Image credit: Eric Fleet

Local newspapers quickly picked up on the symbolism of the parade. The Liverpool Echo stated that the 1934 Blackpool parade ‘possessed all the pageantry of a medieval tournament in a modern setting’ and the Leicester Daily Mercury highlighted the potential of competitors by comparing them to the distance-running star of the 1930s as ‘the Woodersons of the future’.

Image credit: Mark Shearman MBE – Athletics Images

As well as members of the royal family and numerous politicians, former competitors have been welcomed back to address the parade including John and Sheila Sherwood (Parkin), Steve Cram and Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Image credit: ESAA archive and Mark Shearman MBE – Athletics Images

The English Schools’ was probably the single most relevant competition I undertook in my developing years. It was a brilliant rehearsal for my future career. Learning to cope with new environments, unfamiliar but challenging competitors, the nerves of a major event and handling my own expectations, were all crucial experiences.

Steve Cram
Olympic silver medallist
World champion and record-holder