Hot on the heels of England’s Lionesses roaring to Euro victory at Wembley, an event to celebrate and explore the birth of women’s football took place on 3 August at the Invincibles Lounge at Preston North End, supported by Community Rail Lancashire.
The Dick, Kerr Ladies football team was formed during WW1 to boost morale amongst women whose husbands were fighting on the front line. Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd was a munitions factory that the women worked in and together they fought against the ban on women playing on the Football Association’s pitches.
The event was part of the Lancashire Connects Football project, which is funded by Community Rail Lancashire and Avanti West Coast. It included a moving dance by About Time Dance Company, called ‘Quite Unfit for Females’, which tells the story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies, the ban on women’s football and how they fought to carry on playing. This was followed by an emotional speech from Steven Bolton, the grandson of Lizzy Ashcroft, an original player in Dick, Kerr Ladies team. Steve introduced the showcase screening of a short film entitled Granny, which commemorates his grandma’s life as one of the original Dick, Kerr Ladies and showcases her time in Preston. The film can be watched here.
Another part of the project involved a local group from DRN Project SEARCH working alongside artist Karen Allerton to develop ideas for a series of postcards raising awareness and celebrating the achievements of the Dick, Kerr Ladies. The postcards were distributed in July at Preston Train Station.
Richard Watts, Chair of Community Rail Lancashire and Secretary to the four Lancashire Community Rail Projects, thanked everyone for attending the event. He said:
“This amazing event and the overall Lancashire Connects Football programme is a great initiative to promote the legacy of the Dick, Kerr Ladies by engaging with young people in the region, especially with the incredible success of our amazing Lionesses at Euro 2022.
“It was great to see so many people attend – the dance performance was incredible and the premiere of the Granny film was fantastic. Both of these will help keep the Dick, Kerr Ladies legacy alive for the next generation and beyond.
“We hope this event is the start of many which will expand the reach of the football narrative to other areas of Lancashire, and will prove a valuable opportunity to promote sustainable forms of travel, via train and bus to local towns at the heart of football history.”
Steve Bolton, grandson to Lizzy Ashcroft added:
“This event has been very emotional for me. The dance performance was very aggressive and perfectly depicted the struggles the Dick, Kerr ladies fought through on their football journey.
“The reaction to the film was beyond my wildest dreams and for the premiere to be held in Preston, the home of women’s football, was incredible. The film shows the strength of my grandma and her friends, but also shows the beauty of the city of Preston.
“The whole week has felt like a dream – from being at Wembley on Sunday cheering on the Lionesses, to this event, it’s all just incredible timing and has been amazing to experience.”
Joanna Buckley, Community Manager at Avanti West Coast, said:
“We’re proud to have worked with Community Rail Lancashire to raise awareness of Dick, Kerr Ladies FC amongst local people, and help keep their fascinating story alive, as we want to champion the places we serve and celebrate their heritage.
“Bringing together the community to recognise the legacy of the Dick, Kerr Ladies with this special event feels even more fitting following the triumph of England’s Lionesses at the Euro 2022 Final. We hope this project will further help the interest in women’s football, play a part in paving the way towards a more inclusive society, and inspire the next generation to pass on a key part of Preston’s history.”