Festival of Sport at Holkham Estate ensures ‘no-one’s left on the bench’

Photograph showing rugby player Will Greenwood handing a rugby ball over to a group of young children as they play outside

Rugby great Will Greenwood is behind Festival of Sport, which will take place between 13-15 August 2021 at Holkham Estate, north Norfolk - Credit: Festival of Sport

“Norfolk is perfect for it,” says England rugby great Austin Healey, after I’ve asked why he and fellow rugby legend, Will Greenwood, have chosen Holkham Estate as the location for this year’s Festival of Sport.  

“I don’t think you can get a more picturesque setting,” he explains. “The access to multi-sports, the ropes, everything about the house and the land and the walled garden – I think there’s something for everyone.” 

As we talk it becomes clear that the phrase ‘something for everyone’ - or Will’s catchier suggestion that ‘no-one’s left on the bench’ – underpins the event. Festival of Sport will run for three days, between Friday, August 13 and Sunday, August 15, and will happen, they both assure me, rain or shine. “We’ve never worried that the weather in any way has a negative impact on the enjoyment our families have,” says Will, “just bring extra kit!” 

It is an opportunity for children and young people aged 5-17 to try their hand at a selection of sports under the guidance of expert coaches, including Olympic medallists and international legends from the world of rugby, hockey, rowing, netball, trampolining, tennis, golf and football, to name but a few. Stars Steve Backshall and Jason Fox will also be there, offering a further chance to get out and get active in the woodland at Holkham’s 25,000 acre estate. 

“The plan is to allow children to try lots of different sports and for mums and dads in downtime to have the opportunity to get involved, too,” says Will. “It’s a sort of learn-it-all approach for all the parents and children, and the phrase ‘no-one’s left on the bench’ is just to say that you do not have to be the next Jess Ennis-Hill.  

“We want them to have fun, we want massive beaming smiles, we want every child to be fast asleep by the time they reach the main road off the estate – that is our definition of a cracking weekend.” 

Photograph showing rugby player Austin Healey talking to a group of primary-aged boys outside with sports equipment

Austin Healey, co-founder of Festival of Sport - Credit: Festival of Sport

Will and Austin are both co-founders of the event, and have spent years creating family sporting experiences all over the world, from sport camps and Twickenham training days to inclusive, money-can't-buy experiences. As part of the festival, they have enlisted the help of other international sporting legends, including Mike Tindall, Tamsin Greenway and Helen Glover.  

Most Read

But the pair say it’s not about looking for the next Usain Bolt or Daley Thompson. Instead, it’s to inspire, to forge connections and to create something as family friendly as possible.  

“The reason we’ve chosen the coaches and they keep coming back is that many have families themselves,” says Will. “If you’re coaching 1,000 kids for six hours a day, it’s quite good to have had them yourself, to understand the signals that might be required to just slow the tempo down or to build the pace up. 

“Being an international coach doesn’t necessarily make you a great kids sport coach – being a great parent, being a great teacher, that’s often a much better symbol of intent from us that you’ll deliver a brilliant section when it’s your turn.” 

The event will encourage children and young people to try out eight to nine different sports across the weekend, aimed at every ability and interest.  

Photograph showing large period country estate in the distance with cyclists and bright green lawns

Festival of Sport will run from 13-15 August, 2021, at Holkham Estate in north Norfolk - Credit: Festival of Sport

But, as its name suggests, it’s as much a festival as it is a sporting event. “It’s sort of like a mini Glastonbury,” laughs Will. There will be camping, live music, wellbeing events and even a Taste of Norfolk food village, plus a crèche, activities for younger children and a few competitions for the parents. 

“It’s also fine if the parents would rather do absolutely nothing,” says Austin. “If they want to sit down and have a glass of champagne and some Cromer crab from the Norfolk coast, those sorts of things are very much available. We say ‘no-one sits on the bench’ but if you’re a mum or a dad and you’ve been home-schooling for the past three months, you might want to sit on the bench and just chill out in the sunshine.” 

Will and Austin hope that the event will become a regular fixture on the Norfolk calendar. “We see this as a real partnership,” says Will. “As something that’s a real annual draw that people perhaps base that two-week holiday in Norfolk on, with this as the middle weekend and the jewel in the crown.” 

To find out more about Festival of Sport, and to book tickets, visit www.festivalofsportuk.com