Rochdale News | Sports News | Rochdale Hornets Sporting Foundation receives lottery funding for project in Fiji

Date published: August 04, 2022

The Rochdale Hornets Sporting Foundation has received a £61,400 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to celebrate Rochdale’s unique and special relationship with Fiji.

Bula Rochdale! The project will focus on discovering and celebrating the fantastic Fijian heritage that lives and breathes in and around Rochdale. Rochdale has a long-standing connection to the island nation dating back to the 1960s when several top Fijians signed for the Rochdale Hornets.

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project will include a series of events, activities and educational programs designed to involve a wider section of the community. In short, it will be:

  • A primary school program to educate young people about Rochdale’s ties to Fiji
  • An exhibition at the Touchstones Museum and heritage evenings led by a historian
  • Engage members of the Fijian community and record oral histories, using them with interviews and historical footage to create a heritage film
  • An art project in partnership with Redwood Art Club, creating artwork celebrating and illustrating the friendship between Rochdale and Fiji
  • A primary school rugby festival where schools will compete for the Mike Ratu Cup, in honor of Mike Ratu, one of the first Fijians who signed for Rochdale Hornets in the 1960s
  • A collaboration with Rochdale Music Service to engage with local school choirs and learn traditional Fijian hymns

In October, the Rochdale Hornets host Fiji before playing their Rugby World Cup warm-up match against England at the AJ Bell Stadium, Salford on October 7. This luminaire will showcase many of the project’s activities.

Commenting on the award, Chris Tomlinson, Business Development Manager of the Rochdale Hornets Sporting Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have received this support. Thanks to National Lottery players, we can tell this remarkable story to a wider audience. It was a fascinating and significant time in history – for Rochdale, for Fiji and for rugby league in general. It is important that we collect and record memories of this time.

“From a personal perspective, I lived in Fiji for several years before joining the Hornets Foundation. I visited the villages where the first pioneers came from and saw how popular Rochdale is in Fiji. Rochdale is said to have the largest population of Fijians outside of London and I am delighted that support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will enable so many people in Rochdale to learn more about their town’s unique history and heritage. “.

Chris is interested to hear from anyone with memories of the early Fijian pioneers who arrived in Rochdale in the 1960s. Please contact us via email or call 01706 648004.

Ruth J. Leeds