Culturally producing and negotiating women’s rugby league histories through applied performance

Conroy, Colette and Dickenson, SJ (2020) Culturally producing and negotiating women’s rugby league histories through applied performance. In: Prenki, Tim and Abraham, Nicky, (eds.) The Applied Theatre Reader. Routledge, London. Full text not available from this repository.

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Rugby League is a community based and working-class sport, contrasted with the more resource rich Rugby Union. Areas of Rugby League’s popularity map closely on to areas where in 2016 populations voted in favour of the UK leaving the EU. The working-class communities of the North of England have been represented in the media in injurious terms during the UK recession and the Brexit debates, and there has emerged in the press a narrative of communities that have been left behind by neoliberal economic development. This essay and of course, the project are not explicitly related to the debate, but they share a field of concern with the political discourse of populism and community identity. REF: Crossing the Line has worked across theatre and museums to develop spaces for the cultural memories of women within Rugby League communities using the structures and spaces of community cohesion and activism built around sport. Communities exist through interactions and actions and they are dynamic, whereas some external notions such as ‘working class culture’ are not. As part of this resistance to nostalgia, histories of Rugby League and their communities are important and significant to British politics, moving us from the generalised and injurious to the specific and nuanced. Some Rugby League clubs have begun to establish archiving projects in recognition of their importance, but none so far focus on the memories and multiple contributions of women. The danger is that the roles women have played and are playing in the clubs and the connected communities will be ignored and lost, overwritten by an assumed absence of women in a male domain.

The REF: Crossing the Line project is a bundle of works: a piece of theatre, a variety of interactive workshops and a SMART (Social, Museum and Art) Gallery. The contributions of participants to the project will result in a permanent exhibition at the Rugby League Museum in Bradford. Participants are women from the white working-class communities in several of the areas involved. The workshops and curating processes are intergenerational in order to establish a working process for the gathering of future memories and to allow space for community activism and intervention. Delivery of phase one of the project was in partnership with Rugby League Clubs and Foundations, based in Batley, Castleford, Hull and Featherstone, all areas in the North of England. Phase two of the project expands the engagement base both in the UK and abroad. The project is funded by the ACE Strategic Touring Fund, The Heritage Lottery Fund and the University of Hull. We focus here on phase one, which took place between September 2017 and October 2019. This case study looks at the processes and implications of developing a project with multiple participants. It focuses on the process of negotiating autobiographies and archives of memory with the development of cultures of reception and activism.

Item Type: Book Section
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 9780367376291
Related URL(s):
Departments: Institute of the Arts > Performing Arts
Depositing User: Colette Conroy
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2021 12:20
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2021 11:08
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