Colors: Yellow Color

International para skier Mackenzie Griffith is going from strength to strength after completing a film and TV skills bootcamp that has opened up the option of an alternative, but still exciting, career behind the camera.

Mackenzie, who identifies as non-binary, joined the GB para team after being talent spotted at the age of 15 and is now hoping to make the GB elite team by the end of this season and the national team for the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina. The 23-year-old from Moseley, Birmingham, decided to undergo the Host Broadcast Training Scheme (HBTI) bootcamp in 2021, so they had something to fall back on if their Olympics dream failed to come true.

The bootcamp is run by Create Central, a trade body set up to turbo-charge the region’s film, TV and games industries and a partner of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) which also funds the skills courses. Mackenzie’s skiing career is an inspiring one, marked by dogged determination and natural ability while having cerebral palsy with hemiplegia on their right side.

This has affected muscle tone and strength from head to toe, weakening their right side including their torso, chest, leg and arm. Mackenzie said: “I was born at just 23 weeks and the doctors told my parents I had a 6% chance of survival. After heart and eye surgery, and a lengthy stay in the neonatal unit, I am most definitely a survivor!

“I learnt to walk aged two and to ski at three. My disability has fuelled, not hindered my determination in life. I am physically impaired, and therefore my official international skiing classification is LW 9.1, the more severe classification of someone with both a leg, and arm impairment.

“These challenges have fuelled my determination and desire to go for anything I want, even if one involves throwing myself down a hill at speed. What I most enjoy about being active is that skiing is exhilarating and has given me a sense of freedom, helped me enormously with my self-esteem, and allowed me to develop my independence.”

Funded by the WMCA, Create Central works to encourage the region’s screen industry to discover new talent, or to encourage people from other careers to diversify into the TV industry*. Talking about their decision to enrol, Mackenzie said: “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t limiting myself to sport.

“Being involved in the bootcamps offered by Create Central has meant I have developed the skills I need to get involved in the TV industry. I love being in front of a screen as an athlete but also enjoy getting behind the scenes to find out about how it all comes together. Thanks to Caroline Officer my tutor and to Emma Riley from Shine TV for supporting me through this training.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “A key part of our regional agenda is to ensure local people right across our region have the skills they need to succeed. 

“That’s why it’s great to hear Mackenzie’s inspiring personal story - a driven athlete who has overcome challenges whether as a competitor or embarking on a television production career. Mackenzie’s decision to take advantage of the training offer from Create Central is testament to the quality of skills bootcamps available here in the West Midlands. I look forward to seeing many more young people benefitting from bootcamps - boosting their confidence and making the most of their talents in the months and years ahead.” 

The WMCA’s portfolio holder for productivity and skills and leader of Coventry City Council, Councillor George Duggins, said: “It is really encouraging to hear Mackenzie’s experience. I would always advise young people to keep their options open and continue to develop their skills.

“Taking part in this bootcamp has meant that Mackenzie has done just that. I wish them all the very best in their future career both as an athlete and in TV.” Having already been involved in the Great British Menu in September 2021, an opportunity that came because of their involvement in the bootcamp, Mackenzie hopes to be involved in further TV productions.

“I’m really excited about the move of the Masterchef production from London to Birmingham. The Commonwealth Games showed that we deserve the recognition as a city – I had an amazing time working as a Logger during the Games for Lawn Bowls.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the Birmingham film and TV industry boom with new commissions and productions coming our way!” Encouraging others looking for success Mackenzie says: “My top tip for other people trying to get into the TV industry is that it is similar to sport – you’ll get rejections but just keep on going and you’ll get there eventually.

“No athlete was a pro or expert at the beginning. We train all year round to work on our craft, so keep on going and practicing. Network with people, keep knocking on doors and one will open eventually.” Mackenzie is also a personal trainer and comes from a family of keen skiers - both parents and elder sister ski and have encouraged them to be competitive.

More recently he went to live in Canada for eight months where they won four medals (three bronze, one silver) in the Canadian and American Nationals, before returning home in June 2023. They were part of a new high performance structured training program called Canadian Para Snowsport Training Centre running out of CADS Alberta, in Cochrane, Alberta.

This will be where they will be returning this season. Mackenzie hopes to be part of the Winter Olympics in 2026 by getting the points needed to join the GB elite team and will start training for that from October this year, but alongside this they will continue to develop their involvement in TV production.

Mackenzie is currently looking for local sponsorship as they are entirely self-funded.

*A key objective of the Create Central bootcamps is to develop an alternative training model to address industry skills’ shortages and gaps and recruitment for bootcamps focuses on democratising access for all and actively engages with underrepresented groups. The bootcamp Mackenzie took part in was delivered by Solihull College and was Create Central's HBTI Commonwealth Games Bootcamp with Sunset and Vine.

Three new beach volleyball courts have opened as part of Birmingham's Commonwealth Games legacy as twins Javier and Joaquin Bello, who won bronze last summer, opened the community courts at Moseley Rugby Club in the city.

On the opening, Clare Francis from Volleyball England said: “There had been a gap in the West Midlands for these types of courts.

“And, for the players here today, this is their first time on the sand." Ms Francis said, as she went on: “Many people usually play indoors and this is great for players to experience beach volleyball, on sand used in the Commonwealth Games.”

The nets and the balls have also come from last year's Games. Robin Johnson, Birmingham Moseley rugby director, said: "Birmingham 2022 was such a phenomenal event for our city, so we were only too delighted to get involved in this legacy project. 

"We already have very strong links with the local community and people in our local area, and this will enable us to spread our reach further and help even more people get active and try a new sport." The courts are available for members of the public to hire out.

Last year, the former site for Birmingham's wholesale markets, Smithfield, erupted when the Bello brothers made history by winning England's first beach volleyball medal at the Commonwealth Games. As well as officially opening the courts, the twin's also exhibited their skills for the public to see.

Kara Griffiths, Chair of the West Midlands Volleyball Association, said: “I’m delighted that the courts have finally been installed. It's a year after the Commonwealth Games that inspired everyone across the region to play more volleyball."