YMCA’s 175th anniversary roadshow, which launched earlier this year at the Houses of Parliament in June and was a key exhibition at YMCA175, is travelling the UK.

The roadshow has been co-produced and delivered by young people working jointly with 10 local YMCAs and esteemed partner, Birmingham University, and made possible by a grant received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project has unearthed new materials relating to YMCA as well as developed skills and enhanced the wellbeing of the young people involved.

Telling the story

The history of YMCA will be told in three ways: through storyboards, four interactive installations and storytelling points. Detailed storyboards will highlight key events and people who were involved with YMCA over the years, such as our work with the Olympics, the UN, and the opening up of Eastern Europe.

Interactive installations

You will be inspired by the stories of the endeavours: from the birth of basketball at Springfield College in Massachusetts; George Williams’ drive to have YMCA recognised as an international movement; YMCA’s unrelenting role in wartime; and the art that has been created, often in the face of adversity.

YMCA175 Heritage Project is supported by
The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Unmissable stories

George Williams

George Williams

YMCA was founded by Sir George Williams – a worker in the drapery trade in London. Concerned about the welfare of his fellow workers, he started a prayer and bible study group.

The George Williams installation at the exhibition is a replica of his office, featuring a beautiful Victorian desk, his portrait and a cabinet filled with memorabilia and artefacts, such as George’s sword and medals.

You can step into history and sit at the desk and sign the visitors’ book.

tea van ww1 l

Wartime work

The wartime installation will transport you to the time of the Second World War with a full-size tea car called Bertha (supplied by English Heritage) which was used on the front to supply weary soldiers with much-needed refreshment.

During WW1 YMCA played an integral part in meeting the needs of the armed forces, working closely with hospitals and convalescent camps. During WW2, the role of YMCA grew as it worked closely with prisoners of war and refugees, running education programmes.

James Naismith holds basket while a woman gets ready to throw a ball into it

How Basketball began

You can explore the fascinating history of basketball, from how it all started in 1891 at Springfield College in Massachusetts. James Naismith was a teacher at the college and was looking to create a physical activity that would interest his students.

Basketball was a success and became popular very quickly. You can take a look at a copy of the 13 original rules and photos of the first team to play. There will be an interactive game to try too.