Discovery Visits are now available for YMCA175 Delegates

Experience a distinctive mix of discovery visits  planned for you by local YMCAs across the UK.

Each visit will offer something different, see different cities outside London like Birmingham and Belfast or spend time in the english countryside in East of England and Dulverton Each as fascinating offering lots of culture and history.

You could take the opportunity to visit Scotland’s  breathtaking views of wild landscapes, mist shrouded mountains and rolling hills that go on for miles. Visits that include a fascinating history and natural beauty. You’ll get a first hand experience of YMCAs work in the UK and a chance to connect with young people we work with.

The visits take place both before and after YMCA175 and last between 2-4 days you can find available visits by visiting  YMCA175’s Eventbrite page.

The visits are an optional opportunity to visit local YMCAs in the UK before and after YMCA175 takes place. These visits, at an additional cost to YMCA175 registration, are hosted and exclusively organised by local YMCAs for YMCA175 delegates and aim to extend contextual knowledge of YMCA’s work, develop skills and expand networks, to advance global partnerships.

If you have any questions take a look at Frequently Asked Questions about these experiences. If you have any questions please email, note that Terms & Conditions apply.


Our exciting and dynamic programme features over 70 seminars, lectures and workshops embracing four key impact areas of health, environment, civic engagement and economic empowerment & youth employment, with an overarching theme of education. Influential keynote speakers and leaders are set to share their knowledge and inspire you to bring about change in your community.


Our prominent speakers include Christian activist and best-selling US author Shane Claiborne, who will stimulate and inspire discussion with devotional keynote speeches, seminars and informal gatherings.

Mental health activist Jeff Spar will be encouraging us to demystify mental health taboos, talk about our mental health and spread hope, along with Canadian social activist and youth leadership specialist Loizza Aquino and YoungMind’s CEO and young people’s mental health campaigner, Emma Thomas.

Hailing from Kosovo, youth policy pioneer Kujtim Gashi will be helping us to focus on creating opportunities for civic engagement, while UK environmental and sustainability expert and theologist Jo Herbert will show us the way to live a waste-free life and encouraging us to think about the impact that waste has on the planet.

We’re also excited to announce that youth voice activist and YMCA alumna Ashley Kolaya will act as a leading plenary host. Ashley directs curation and speaker coaching for TED-Ed and TED Masterclass and will also be offering workshops to help young leaders develop their stories and share their voices in the form of TED-style talk.


There will be five major Panel events to attend that will present unique opportunities to hear the views of the experts, share your opinions, ask questions and learn more in a very interactive way.

The Health & Wellbeing Panel will focus on mental health, and the difficulties that taboos, labels and stigma cause young people. The Economic Empowerment Panel will shine a light on inequalities in the labour market (and the collaboration with corporates which is needed to address them), while the Environment Panel will encourage debate on climate action with positive steps for the future.

The Civic Engagement Panel (comprising experts including Amnesty International’s General Secretary Kumi Naidoo and Archbishop of York and YMCA England & Wales President John Sentamu) will look at how we can create safe spaces to improve the quality of life, and bring about meaningful and lasting change in our communities.

Our special Partnership for the Goals session, led by campaigner and community activist John Loughton and Carlos Sanvee, Secretary General of World YMCA will explore what impact the UN sustainable development goals can have on our future and how to achieve them by 2030.


Performances from artists such as Guvna B (a rapper who won the MOBO Award for Best Gospel Act in 2010), Philippa Hanna (a contemporary Christian music singer-songwriter) and Jake Isaacs (an up-and-coming singer/songwriter) will ensure that everyone can join in with the celebration of 175 years of YMCA. There will also be inspirational poetry from Joshua Idehen and performances from the Saltmine Theatre Company with excerpts from Soul in the Machine, telling the story of founder George Williams and the beginnings of YMCA.


We are proud to announce that our History & Heritage exhibition awaits you in the Plaza and around the venue, supported by UK Heritage Lottery Fund. The interactive heritage exhibition will be the largest ever display of YMCA history and heritage, connecting its past, present and future.

Take your time to read the inspirational accounts of prominent individuals – their work and conviction will inspire you. Discover the impact of the expansion of YMCA throughout the world in history, from YMCA’s relationship with the Olympics, refugee programmes and the United Nations; the origins of basketball; YMCA & the Arts; to life-changing work during wartime.

Themed installations and spaces will provide an opportunity to immerse yourself in stories that intrinsically connect your past with the work of YMCAs around the world today.


Health & Wellbeing is a core value at the very heart of the global YMCA movement. To reflect this there will be a specially designed 4,000 sq metre sports and fitness activities space.

Catering for all levels of ability, you can take time out to enjoy sport and games (some you may have never tried before), such as Ultimate Frisbee, Tamburelli,  Arrow tag and table tennis, with wellbeing activities such as meditation and yoga. 

Our fun and interactive Health & Wellbeing workshops include subjects such as Futebol 3 Tempos, Volleyball and Tree House Camp building.


With over 150 hours of workshop, seminars and sessions at YMCA175, there is so much choice to cater for every interest. Our three Innovation Labs are a great space to build and develop ideas for your community projects or to refine ideas with which to influence change. Interested in human rights? Driven by a desire to make a difference? Our Amnesty Workshops will guide you through the world of  human rights.

We’re excited to announce that our exclusive TED-Ed workshops will teach you how to present a story that you are passionate about in a TED-style talk. You will learn how to shape and organise your story so that it’s impactful, has a global reach and resonates with influencers in your community.

The displacement of people across the world attracts big headlines and is a worldwide issue. Our workshop will focus on YMCA’s heritage and future refugee work, with personal experiences; interaction with the participants; video presentation and a view on the future. A representative from the International Organisation for Migration of the United Nations will give an update about the current situation with refugees.


At YMCA we know that young people have a passion and commitment to social justice and positive cultural change through promoting global equity and diversity.

Taking place at ExCeL London, YMCA175 is a global youth event that will have elements of a conference, summit and celebration, that will be a living embodiment of YMCA, bringing together thousands of young leaders and YMCA senior leaders and networks from around the world.

Download the new 20 page brochure that contains all the information you need to know for YMCA175.


This year, to mark the 175th anniversary of YMCA, YMCA175 will bring together thousands of young leaders for a unique four-day event, the first of its kind in the organisation’s history, taking place at ExCeL London, from 4 to 8 August 2019.

Carlos Sanvee, World YMCA Secretary General, explains why this global youth event is a springboard for global change, for unity and celebration.


Connecting young leaders like never before, celebrating 175 years of YMCA and young people transforming communities, and creating positive change and new ideas to shape the future.


There’s not long left to pick up your discount early bird ticket for YMCA175, which will increase by £55 after 31st January. Make sure you get your entry ticket to the unique four-day event, the first of its kind in the organisation’s history, from 4 to 8 August 2019 in London.


Registration is open for YMCA175 for Group Leaders, individuals and families. Young and senior leaders, YMCA staff and volunteers, trustees, board members, General Secretaries, supporters, retirees and associated networks are all invited to become a delegate and join us at YMCA175.


Organisers YMCA Europe also recognise there are some movements whose delegates will require visas to enter the UK. Therefore, we will continue to hold a number of the discount tickets back for a longer period of time specifically for those movements who may register at a later date subject to successful visa applications. All tickets sales will stop on June 30th.


More than half of all tickets for YMCA175 have been available at the early bird price to make our global youth event as accessible, inclusive and equitable as possible for young leaders around the world to attend this historic event.




In preparation of celebrating the 175th Anniversary of this transformational global movement, YMCA175 is looking for nominations from National Councils for stories of prominent individuals and moments in our history.

YMCA175 will reflect the influences that have shaped YMCA as a movement and will capture stories from our heritage around the world, telling the untold stories and telling afresh the stories we already know about significant events and individuals.

The experience will serve as recognition of the tremendous gift George Williams gave to the world when he formed YMCA and honour that memory by sharing the fruit of his legacy; YMCA’s collective history. In order to tell a cohesive, diverse and global history stories will be based around YMCA’s global themes of Civic Engagement, Economic Empowerment, Health and Environment. 

Stories will illuminate the totality of YMCA’s movement and encourage submissions on a broad-spectrum of sub-issues within the four key themes. This, for example, could be around wellbeing, peace, social inclusion, democracy, education, refugees, volunteering, employment, the health of our planet, YMCA’s Christian heritage and ecumenical cooperation.

YMCA175 is expecting stories from diverse groups of young people from around the world and wants them to be able to see a reflection of themselves in the experience they have at YMCA175. The stories can be submitted in a number of forms, they can be written word, video or recorded word / audio / interview.

Many stories that have been passed down through the generations and through our partner agencies, YMCA175 may be able to assist in basic research and fact-checking. If this is the case please send your story suggestions as early as possible to ensure their consideration for inclusion.

YMCA175 is here to help point you in the right direction on this. Within the YMCA175 Heritage Programme team are representatives of the World Alliance Archive, in Geneva; Kautz Family YMCA Archive, USA; Springfield College Archive, USA; and the UK Archive which is held in the Cadbury Research Library, in Birmingham, England.

Initially please submit an expression of interest for each story you wish to tell, with basic details of the story by 29 January 2019.

Once stories have been chosen by the YMCA175 team, all submissions will be notified. Those that are successful will be expected to submit the finished piece by the final date of 30 April 2019. Any enquiries should be sent to Ken Montgomery – ken.montgomery[at]



In 2019, YMCA’s landmark 175th anniversary year, YMCA will return to London – its founding city – and create a global opportunity to celebrate and harness the energy, creative vision and solution-focused approach of young leaders.

‘YMCA175’ will be a unique four-day event at ExCeL London from 4 to 8 August 2019, connecting thousands of inspiring young leaders from around the world to share their vision and personal experiences of social transformation to shape a positive and sustainable future for the world.

When YMCA was founded in 1844, the vision of a 22-year-old young man grew to become the world’s largest and oldest youth movement. Nearly 175 years later YMCA is now operating in 119 countries, with 64 million people reached annually around the world.

Young leaders will attend YMCA175 as delegates and will be drawn from YMCAs worldwide to challenge, debate and create new ideas and solutions to tackle the biggest issues that matter to them and the world.

Juan Simoes Iglesias, Secretary General of YMCA Europe, said YMCA175 will be a unique opportunity to celebrate YMCA’s remarkable contribution to humanitarian development and the empowerment of young people globally. It will take all delegates on an inspiring journey, further developing their leadership skills and talents as active citizens in today’s world.

YMCA175 will create an intensely packed programme that will drive young leaders’ agendas and actions at a local, national and global level. The programme of events will invite influential leaders from the worlds of politics, business and NGOs to challenge delegates to discuss, create and present innovative solutions to the biggest issues of today.

YMCA’s significant global reach and impact, into the heart of local communities, has been recognised by corporate, governmental and NGO partners around the world throughout history as critical for advancing youth-centred change. It is as a result of this impact that the World Alliance of YMCA’s has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. These relationships and partnerships will be further developed through the work of young leaders at YMCA175.

Johan Vilhelm Eltvik, Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCAs, said: “The significance of young leaders and key advocates, partners and supporters of YMCA converging on London, YMCA’s founding place, in our anniversary year is not taken lightly. YMCA175 will be a defining moment in our history where our global mission of empowering more young leaders to make the world a better place for all will be at the forefront.”

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive YMCA England & Wales, said: “As the host nation, YMCA England & Wales is thrilled that YMCA 175 will be taking place where it all began, in London. Following in the footsteps of Sir George Williams, YMCA’s young leaders from across the globe will join together to challenge, debate and shape their future. We look forward to welcoming them to our beautiful city and YMCA’s home.”

This global celebration of youth leadership will convene from 4 to 8 August 2019 at ExCeL London the home of world leading events.

Samantha Shamkh, Head of Conventions at ExCeL London, said “We are delighted that YMCA has chosen ExCeL London to host it’s 175th anniversary. We look forward to welcoming young leaders from all over the world to join together in this unique celebration. By choosing ExCeL, YMCA will be able to build on its legacy of championing youth leadership, adding a strong educational programme to a new style of event.”

Registration will open on Friday 21 September to YMCA’s global movement, with early bird delegate packages starting at £150 for individuals from countries that require Visas to enter the UK, with a range of packages in between, rising to £465 for delegate packages with accommodation from other parts of the world after early bird tickets have sold out.

YMCA175 will also host an exhibition that will showcase innovative technologies, projects and humanitarian work from internal and external partners, corporate organisations, NGOs and institutes for YMCA young and senior leaders to explore further partnerships and collaborations. To request an Exhibitor and Vendor Pack please email paul[at]

The global event also invites speakers to present, host workshops, panels or inspirational talks on a broad range of subjects including environment, economic growth, education, employment, the Sustainable Development Goals, health and civic engagement for the primary audience of 16 to 35 year old leaders. To find out more about the available opportunities email olga[at]

For more information please contact us.


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