Dancing around women's soccer

Published: 29 August 2021
Reporter: David Upton

The cast of Quite Unfit For Females Credit: Robin Zahler

They thought women’s football was all over in 1921 but, a century on, the story of a pioneering team will be told through dance.

Preston-based Dick, Kerr Ladies brought about a 50-year ban on women’s football. But their pioneering footwork will be reflected in performances by About Time Dance Company.

The première of Quite Unfit for Females will take place outdoors on September 18 during the Lancashire Encounter Festival in Preston. Performances will be in the Flag Market at 2PM and 5PM. There will be a further performance and school workshop at the National Football Museum in Manchester in October.

Preston-born Jenny Reeves, About Time’s artistic director, said there’s an amazing link between the physicality of football and dance. A cast of five have trained with a football coach to ensure movements mirror those of the game.

Established in 1917 as a charitable football team to raise money for soldiers during World War One, Dick, Kerr Ladies were named after Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd, the munitions factory where they worked.

Their first match at Deepdale, the home of Preston North End, attracted 10,000 fans and raised £600, the equivalent of £50,000 today. By 1921 they were so popular they played more than 60 games in a year while still working full-time and a total of almost 900,000 people watched their matches.

By December 1921, the Football Association famously declared the beautiful game to be “quite unsuitable for women” and banned ladies’ football. In fact, the defiant Dick, Kerr team continued to play until 1965.

Their determination led to the formation of the Women’s Football Association in 1969, the lifting of the ban in 1971 and, in 1997, the development of present-day women’s football by the FA.

About Time was founded by Jenny Reeves in Lancaster in 2016 and works with artists and communities to explore the heritage and local history of the North of England. Jenny trained at London Contemporary Dance School and Trinity Laban and works professionally as a dancer alongside running About Time. She also works part-time at UCLAN in Preston.

About Time’s first professional touring work, Cotton – presented tales of Lancashire Mills. Other projects include Lancashire Sparks, Walking Watling Street, Gone Fishin’ and Longways / Crosswise.