Event Programme

YMCA175’s dynamic programme features over 150 hours of workshops, seminars and panel sessions, along with daily devotions and an opening plenary each day for the thousands of YMCA leaders, volunteers and staff who are attending. Designed to inspire, challenge and engage, the programme features well-known speakers and leaders from around the world who are experts in their field. Audiences and workshop participants are encouraged to take part, share opinions and ask questions, as young people develop their ideas and desire to bring about change in their communities.

The educational themes of health, civic engagement, employment, and environment will run through the entire event. Celebrating 175 years of YMCA will take part at every opportunity with drama, poetry, music and stories, along with a fascinating Heritage and History exhibition.




When you first arrive at ExCeL London for YMCA175, it’s the Plaza you will come to. In the run-up to the Opening Ceremony on Sunday 4 August, and throughout the event, the Plaza is somewhere to take time out from the formal programme to meet with friends, enjoy live entertainment, grab a coffee and visit the many interactive exhibitions, refresh and relax. Meet our partners and exhibitors promoting opportunities for delegates to engage, discover and experience different approaches to global issues. Grab a free give-away, visit the event shop, take a walk through YMCA’s thought-provoking 175 year history exhibits or explore reflection and multi-faith prayer spaces.


ExCeL London’s ICC Auditorium was one of the venues for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, hosting a variety of sports and thousands of spectators.

The Main Auditorium will host daily devotions, opening sessions, evening celebrations, and the Opening and Closing Ceremony.


From Monday 5 August, follow the stairs up from the Plaza and you will enter the Health & Wellbeing Space. Here, you can come and try fitness activities for all levels of ability, discover YMCA’s historical connection to sport and wellbeing or even take a relaxation, yoga or meditation class.

Each afternoon you can choose from a range of physical or educational health & wellbeing workshops, try an activity from a different culture or discover innovative youth programmes and campaigns addressing critical health issues.


Main Auditorium – Sunday 4 August, 7:30pm

This opening celebration promises a high energy start. Meet our dynamic hosts, who will guide you through the rest of the week. 

Expect to connect with people from across the world, through music, lights, flag bearers, and a high profile welcome to London that celebrates our journey to this moment, 175 years in the making.

Expect live performances and stories from young people around the world. As we look to the days that lie ahead, the key issues and topics will be introduced, including the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.


Main Auditorium – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 August, 11am-12:30pm

Presented in collaboration with TED-Ed.

At the start of each day young people’s stories will be showcased, demonstrating how young people are leading change in communities around the world.

Meet a mix of inspiring YMCA youth leaders, and high-profile individuals from the world of advocacy, campaigning, media and entertainment, who will share talks on how every one of us has the potential to unleash positive change in our communities around the world.


Main Auditorium – Sunday 4, Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 August

Providing a safe and inclusive space for reflection, prayer and worship, devotions will be led by a south London singer / songwriter of considerable note having worked across Christian and secular spheres with artists including Graham Kendrick, Martin Smith, Elton John and Maverick Sabre/Ella Eyre.

Created by an international YMCA team, devotions will reflect the depth and breadth of YMCA’s global movement. 

Outside of daily devotions, interactive and inclusive spiritual and ecumenical touchpoints will be created throughout YMCA175.


Main Auditorium, Education Suite, Plaza, Health & Wellbeing Space – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 August

Following the ‘daily kick-off’ grab a quick lunch before jumping straight into an afternoon where you choose the agenda, with an array of different spaces and places to connect and create within YMCA175.

Throughout the afternoon there is a host of interactive workshops, seminars, reflective learning spaces, open forum sessions to problem-solve how young people and YMCA address global issues, training opportunities, speakers and panel debates. There are opportunities to feed into global research and participative sessions to talk into the some of the biggest issues facing young people. These will be available in a range of languages and a variety of accessible delivery methods. A senior leadership programme for those of all ages (young and older) who hold a senior leadership or governance role within YMCA will be available, presented in partnership with the YMCA World Urban Network.

Alternatively during this time take time to meet with friends and colleagues in the Plaza, interact with exhibitors and heritage experiences, get rid of excess energy with a physical activity or sport in the Health & Wellbeing Space, before opting for a later workshop, seminar or health & wellbeing activity.


Each evening we invite you to join us back in the Main Auditorium for a different highlight.

Monday evening we will hold the official 175th YMCA Anniversary celebration.  This will be a chance to look back at some of the significant points in our movement’s history, celebrate our global impact and hold the biggest party in YMCA history in the heart of London, where it all began.

Tuesday’s evening programme is still under development with details to be released soon.

Wednesday evening will bring YMCA175 to a close with a final Closing Ceremony designed to look forward beyond 2019, to the future world, and YMCA, that we as young leaders want to shape and create.


We know that one of the most important issues that young people care about is environment. In fact, 89% of young people believe they can make a difference on climate change. (UNEP, GlobeScan Survey, 2008). There is growing evidence that a reduction in meat production and consumption, particularly in Western societies such as the UK, will have a positive impact on climate and the environment.

It is important to YMCA Europe that YMCA175 makes every effort to be environmentally sustainable, therefore catering provided on two out of three days will be meat-free, in order to support young people’s strive for a sustainable lifestyle and directly translate the environmental thematic pillar of YMCA175 into action. Through leading by example, YMCA Europe hopes to inspire other large-scale events to follow.

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