IWD2018: Unsung Heroines: Vicki Carter

To mark International Women’s Day, LEAD is running a special feature showcasing women who go above and beyond the call of duty – those who deserve a little recognition and thanks. We were delighted to be inundated with nominations and after much inspiring reading present your LEAD Unsung Heroines.

Vicki Carter, Chair, Out for Sport

In 2016, a report by Pride Sports for Sport England found that there were significant barriers to participation in sport for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Cited among the many reasons were homophobic ‘banter’ from other players and team members, fear of not being welcomed and limited provision of LGBT sports groups.

Out for Sport is a network of London’s LGBT sports clubs that exist to help address some of these issues and to increase participation in LGBT sport. It is chaired by Vicki Carter, who was nominated by her colleague Alex, for being “fantastic”.

Vicki has provided “a strong, brave female voice in a network of predominantly male-led organisations”, and as a result has increased female participation in network activities significantly.

Among her long list of achievements is leading on the creation of a new network campaign to increase participation in club sports by people aged over 50, and working with London Sport and Women in Sport to deliver a workshop for London’s LGBT clubs around how to be more appealing to and inclusive of women.

“Vicki’s leadership has led to a boom in network membership, not least because of her ability to bring people together, support them to share ideas and develop clear plans to improve inclusion of women of all ages and backgrounds in community activities”, wrote her colleague, Alex Davis.

We asked Vicki to give us some insight into her world. Here’s what she had to say…

“I started out in theatre working as a stage manager. Then after university I got a job at the BBC World Service as a Studio Manager, putting programmes to air. I worked on various radio projects around the world, including setting up a broadcasting office in Cairo, and running a radio station in the refugee camps in Darfur.

I took redundancy from the BBC and ended up working as a swimming teacher, which is one of my passions, winning the Amateur Swimming Association’s Swimming Teacher of the Year award in 2010. I was also caring for my parents at this time.

These days I am retired, but even though I don’t have a paid job, I am busier than ever, doing various things on a voluntary basis – including being Co-Chair of a small voluntary organisation called Out for Sport.

Out for Sport is an umbrella organisation whose role is to link LGBT+ sports clubs across London and the South East. My overall objective and vision with Out for Sport is to create an inclusive community where LGBT sport flourishes. We run various events, some of which are training-focused, others of which are social.

It is always under-represented groups who need a bit of extra support to help them flourish

We are also currently running a campaign called Out & Active to encourage LGBT+ people who are over 50 to take up sport, which launched recently at the Age UK headquarters. We have also been interviewing Sports Champions to encourage older people to take part in sport through reading inspiring stories. We’ve also done a few photo shoots which were good fun. I spend quite a lot of time on WhatsApp communicating with team members, especially when we have an event coming up.

And as 2018 is Gay Games year, an event which runs every four years, we are making sure club athletes are aware of the Games, and we are helping to organise kit, transport and accommodation.

The main challenge with running an umbrella organisation which links small voluntary clubs is that the people who run the clubs are very busy, and often don’t have the time to engage with us. My challenge is to make it really easy for them to engage, and I try to organise things that make running their clubs easier, or take some of the leg-work out of their day-to-day role.

All this means that my weeks are very varied. For myself I try to exercise every day; I am part of a swimming team and train in the evenings, and I am working towards my goal to swim the channel solo in 2019. For Out for Sport I work to drive my projects forward, which involves lots of organising, cajoling and begging emails, and coordinating and delivering events.

Throughout my life, I have always been someone who gets involved in things I believe in.

When I came out as a lesbian in my early 20s, I volunteered for Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. I really enjoyed helping other people, and it was a great way to meet people and be involved.  I also got involved in organising Switchboard, and recruiting other people to work on it.

I was involved in campaigns around Clause 28, and AIDS activism. I joined Out to Swim, a gay and lesbian swimming club, in the early 90s, and this was a great way to keep fit, meet friends and be involved in my community. Out to Swim brings together my activism and sporting interests which are the main threads throughout my life. It is always under-represented groups who need a bit of extra support to help them flourish, so I always go the extra mile to add the personal touch when working with them.

It is always interesting to get involved in community groups, and you often pick up skills and confidence which feeds back into your other work. You get to meet other people who get things done, who are usually really interesting people, you become part of a creative network. Also when your passion turns into work that can be very rewarding.”