August 2, 2018 by Mike Madden
This article first appeared in the High Peak Review.
All action girl Lydia Slack has a passion for many things, including cricket and public speaking, but this summer, when most teenagers are looking forward to long, hot, lazy days in the sun, Lydia will embark on a twelve month sabbatical in Swaziland where she will be teaching maths and English to local schoolchildren.
Her passion for cricket began at an early age. With two cricket mad brothers this was perhaps inevitable, particularly as her dad installed a practice net in the grounds of their farm in Taxal. However, her fledgling career was almost curtailed by older brother Matthew, who refused to allow her to join the Whaley Bridge under 11s team whilst he was still playing in it, as having his younger sister in the team would cause him too much embarrassment. Undeterred, Lydia eventually got her chance, and like most things she grabbed it with both hands. She progressed to playing for Hayfield girls team, and aged 14 she appeared for the under 15s, a team that she captained twelve months later. It was at this time that she also started playing for the senior side, and she was spotted by Derbyshire who were keen to get her on board. Playing for Derbyshire was a great honour, but it was hardly local cricket as the venues were as far afield as Devon and Scotland. She was scouted for England but unfortunately damaged ligaments and had to miss the trial, though she is still hopeful of representing her country one day.
Alongside her cricketing career she entered a competition for public speaking organised by the Young Farmers Club. Her dad was already an accomplished public speaker, and it was no surprise when she won the competition and was asked to fulfil a number of subsequent engagements. She delivers her speeches with poise, composure, and a good deal of humour, regaling the audience with tales that highlight the difference between being a farmer’s daughter and a “normal” teenage girl. Her dad kindly volunteered her for an engagement that he could not fulfil, and since then her career has grown. She has already spoken at three Civic dinners, including the Staffordshire Moorlands Conservative Party where the newly elected MP was among the audience. She was also asked to stand in for television chef Clarissa Dickson Wright at the Cheshire Hunt Supporters event, where she faced her biggest audience outside the Young Farmers Club.
All of her public speaking engagements have added to the confidence that has seen her volunteer for her visit to Swaziland. This started when a gap year student came to Stockport Grammar school and told of her experiences on a similar expedition, and from then on Lydia was hooked. She travelled to the Hebridean Isle of Coll in Scotland for the selection process organised by Project Trust, and after an eight hour train journey followed by a ferry across to the island she was in competition with several other hopefuls. She gave a presentation on the differences between farming on the island and farming in the High Peak, and this was followed by various activities including mountaineering and hill walks, so at least this part she was very familiar with. She was awarded the place with Project Trust and was asked to nominate three destinations. Her first choice was Guyana because of its cricketing links, however she was offered Swaziland as being a more suitable destination for her talents. The project she is about to embark on is to teach in a street boys orphanage, and throughout her time there she will be staying with a local family. She sees her biggest challenge as being the food, followed by the change in culture, and she admits with a sense of regret that in Swaziland football is more popular than cricket. To fulfil her dream she has had to raise almost £5,000, and her fundraising efforts are almost complete as she nears her target. If you would like to contribute to her fund, and assist in the very worthy Project Trust cause, you can do so at www.justgiving.com/lydia-slack. For more information on Project Trust please visit www.projecttrust.org.uk.