50 Years On: 1966

Close-up_of_the_ball_from_the_1966_World_Cup_Final_(3302542219)I’ve just received a copy of 1966: the 50th anniversary, which the Football Association have endorsed as the official book of the 50th anniversary of England’s only World Cup victory. This is a cracking book, beautifully illustrated and very well put together, with a quirky blend of familiar narrative of the events of that summer along with a stunning range of photographs. Action pictures from the matches are reproduced alongside pictures of all sorts of World Cup ephemera, ranging from beer mats to knitting patterns, and from ticket stubs to teacups. This book, with a foreword by hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst, serves well as a retrospective of the tournament and the (now) 50 years of hurt that this summer’s Euros in France have done nothing to end.

I would also recommend that you visit the 1966 exhibition at the National Football Museum in Manchester, which runs until April 2017. The launch in late June was a spectacular affair, with appearances by three members of the 1966 England squad – Jimmy Armfield, Bobby Charlton, and Roger Hunt – as well as members of the late Alan Ball’s family and FA leader Greg Dyke. The

Roger Hunt and Bobby Charlton

Roger Hunt and Bobby Charlton

exhibition itself brings together the Jules Rimet Trophy, players’ shirts, equipment, and ephemera along with ordinary people’s stories of the tournament – and, of course, the 1966 final ball posed tantalisingly over a goal-line. The wonderful folk at the Sporting Memories Network have also got involved, and you can share your memories with them as part of their ground-breaking work to help people experiencing dementia and depression.

 

 

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International Postgraduate Presentations on Sport

IMG_0337Last week was one of the highlights of my working year. I am one of the directors of the CIES International MA in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport, which De Montfort University co-teaches with SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, and the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The year-long course, which attracts talented students from around the world culminates in an afternoon of group presentations on the students’ chosen research topics. This year, subjects included Esports, Ethics, the pros and cons of co-hosting mega-events, the Youth Olympic Games, data analytics in sport, and so much more. The full video of the presentations is now available here. The following day, the students graduated in an inspiring ceremony at Neuchâtel Castle, where guests of honour included Fatma Samoura, Secretary-General of FIFA, and Giovanni Malagò, President of the Italian National Olympic Committee.

Congratulations to all of the students involved, and to my colleagues at CIES and the partner universities.

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Sports History conference at De Montfort University, 5-7 September 2016

This September, I am hosting the annual conference of the European Committee for Sports History (CESH) at the International Centre for Sports History and Culture, De Montfort University. the conference will take place on 5-7 September inclusive. papers are welcome on any subject linked to the history of sport, physical education, and physical culture, and they can be delivered in any European language. For full details, including the Call for Papers and directions on submitting an abstract, please visit CESH’s site.

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Sport and Politics: new series of books with Palgrave

I’m delighted to announce that Palgrave have launched a new series of books, Palgrave Studies in Sport and Politics, which I am editing. The series will explore various aspects of the complex inter-relationships between sport and politics. It will include books with a historical focus, and those with a more contemporary approach, and it will encourage contributions that consider politics in the broadest sense, with themes such as: sport and the state; non-state political agencies and organisations; governance and the internal politics of sports organisations; sport and diplomacy; sport and war; sport, security, and terrorism; sport and political ideology; sport and human rights; sport and law; sport and policy; sports development; sport and political dissidence and protest; sport and cultural politics; sport and identity politics; sport and the politics of gender, class, ethnicity, age, sexuality, religion, and disability. I’ll be working with an international editorial board to develop this series, which will include monographs and edited collections.

The first two books in the series are already out. Luke Harris kicked it off with his Britain and the Olympic Games, 1908-1920: perspectives on participation and identity. This will be joined very soon by Kevin Blackburn’s War, Sport and the Anzac Tradition.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for a book, or in discussing an idea informally, please contact me direct through this site, or click on the Publishing With Us tab on the series’ home site.

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Liz Ferris in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The new update of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is now available online – you can subscribe through public and university library systems. This year’s update covers significant Britons who died in 2012, ranging from historian Eric Hobsbawm to novelist Miss Read via actor Herbert Lom, Monkee Davey Jones, and photojournalst Eve Arnold. I’ve written the piece on Liz Ferris (1940-2012), the diver who got the bronze medal in the 3m springboard event at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, and who then went on to play a leading role in debates about gender equality at the Olympic Games.

 

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Festival of History and English at West Suffolk College

On Wednesday 27 January, West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmund’s will be holding its first Festival of History and English, with speakers from both subject areas giving papers on a range of themes for current and prospective students and anyone with an interest. I’ll be speaking on Britian’s Olimpick, Olympic, and Olympian History, 1612-2012. Other speakers and their subjects are Rebecca Pinner of UEA on ‘Arrows, Wolves and Wuffings: Finding St Edmund in East Anglian Churches’, John Gardner of Anglia Ruskin on ‘Poetry, Protest, Rebellion and Repression in Britain in after Waterloo’, Dilwyn Porter of DMU on ‘The ‘Daily Mirror’, its readers and their money, c.1960-2000′, Emily Crane of King Edward IV School on ‘Art, Literature and Film in post-colonial India: The Legacy of Rabindranath Tagore’, and Adrian May of the University of Essex on ‘The Poet and Song’.

Click here for full details of the Festival.

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A Slice of Sporting Life

Customers_enjoying_afternoon_tea_at_Lyon's_Corner_House_on_Coventry_Street,_London,_1942._D6573I’ve just visited ‘The Lyons Teashops Lithographs: Art in a Time of Austerity 1946 – 1955’, the wonderful exhibition of late 1940s and early 1950s prints that has been curated by Towner at Eastbourne. It’s currently on at the National Trust’s Mottisfont in Hampshire.

J. Lyon’s & Co , that mainstay of the British catering industry from the 1920s until the 1960s, commissioned a series of prints from leading artists in 1946 in order to brighten up their cornerhouses. The artists, including Duncan Grant, John Nash, and L.S.Lowry, were commissioned to produce images of Britain, and the slice of life that emerged included numerous representations of sport and leisure.

Anthony Gross celebrates the rural idyll of a village cricket match, but one in which the main action is amongst the spectators: boys arrange the numbers for the scoreboard or coax beetles from matchboxes to fight each other, while young men in blazers watch the action intently from their deck chairs while a young girl, looking bored, turns her back on the game. This print is reminiscent of some Victorian genre paintings of sport, such as Frith’s Derby Day, in which the play is of secondary importance to the social life of the crowd. Rural peace also features in John Nash’s Landscape with Bathers, which feels like something of a British response to Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, with two women reclining on the riverbank after a swim, ignored by a lone angler further down to the shore. WHO included scullers in his view of the Thames at Putney, stroking their way amongst the industrial and passenger traffic on the river.

Scenes from more working class sport and leisure also made their way into the series. Sam Rabin’s The Last Round  has three figures – two boxers and their referee – against a stark canvas, their faces abstracted so that we concentrate only on the shapes of their interaction against the vast neutral space of the ring. In Ruskin Spear’s Billiard Saloon, we can almost taste the smoke that hangs like a fug under the table lamp as a player lines up a shot while his opponent, head hidden in the darkness, chalks his cue.

The slice of British life covered in these prints reminds us of the diversity of popular culture, and of the range of sites – urban and rural, indoor and outdoor, commercial and free – that made up the leisure landscape. The prints have some things in common with the Your Britain: Fight For It Now posters of the Second World War, and there is also some resonance with the examples of cultural identification that T.S. Eliot listed in his 1948 Notes Towards the Definition of Culture: ‘It includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth-century Gothic churches and the music of Elgar.” The collection at Mottisfont takes us into this culture, and suggests to us the ways in which people drinking tea at their leisure in the Lyon’s corner houses could look on the country’s culture of sport and play, and see themselves reflected back.

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Sport and Leisure History seminars in London

The new series of Sport and Leisure History Seminars at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) starts on Monday 12 January. This is an excellent series that brings together postgraduates, academics, curators, and freelance historians to look at a wide range of themes in the history of sport and leisure. It’s run by the London branch of the British Society of Sports History South Network. Sessions take place in Room 104 of the IHR in Senate House, starting at 5.15pm. The seminars for this terms are as follows:

12 Jan: Suzanne Lenglen to Serena Williams: An Object-Focused Investigation into the Role of Fashion in Women’s Tennis Dress, Suzanne Rowland (University of Brighton)

26 Jan: URBAN CINEMAGOING IN INTERWAR BRITAIN

Patriotism, Pathos and Pride: Interwar Cinema-going in the Naval Port Town of Portsmouth, Dr Robert James (University of Portsmouth)

‘Young Men with Beards and Young Women in Homespun Cloaks’: London’s Early Art Cinemas and their Audiences, Dr Chris O’Rourke (University College London)

9 Feb: Producing Public History: How the National Football Museum Created ‘The Greater Game: The History of Football in World War One’, Dr Alex Jackson (National Football Museum)

23 Feb: THERAPEUTIC LEISURE IN VICTORIAN BRITAIN

Promoting Wellbeing through Leisure: The Case of the Turkish bath in Victorian Britain, Charlotte Jones (University College London)

A ‘Murderer’s Paradise’: Leisure and the Treatment of Criminal Lunatics in Late-Victorian Broadmoor, Dr Jade Shephard (Queen Mary University of London)

9 Mar: ‘I Saw My Name on the Board’: Race, Gender and the Summer Olympics, 1932-1948, Dr Stanley Arnold (Northern Illinois University)

23 Mar: ‘A Fortune in a Thrill!’: Early Amusement Parks in Britain, 1900-1939, Dr Josephine Kane (University of Westminster)

Full details are here. Follow @BSSH South on Twitter.

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Running in the New Year

I’m up and writing at a pretty silly time on New Year’s Day. Why? Because this year I’ve set myself a big running target and I want to start as I mean to go on. My local parkrun has its New Year’s Day run at 9 o’clock, and I can think of no better way to get me into the good habits I need than of joining the other people on the start line and plodding my way round the 5km in the mud.

The target is, in many ways, just as much about my history as about my future. It’s about revisiting a classic run that I completed twice (having failed once) when I was a student in Lampeter. The Sarn Helen is a 16.5 mile mixed terrain race, with plenty of hills, which happens in mid-May. The race takes its name from the Roman road, and the historical course includes not just part of that road but also an Iron Age hillfort For my fellow student runners back in the mid-1980s, it was seen as the big one, the race that would give us some real credibility. I tried it in the first year of my PhD, and crashed out after only 12 miles. I cracked it the following year, and repeated it once more before left the area. This year, my friend Stephen, who also did it once and who I used to train with, has suggested that we go back. I’ll be 50 by then, he’ll have just turned 47, and, from this point on New Year’s Day, it seems like a great idea. Watch this space.

I always think a lot when I run, and this seems like a great time to reflect on the more recent past of the year that has just ended. Professionally, it’s been a good one for me. The highlight was taking up my new post as Director of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort in September. It’s great to be working in such a dynamic environment alongside other sports historians, and now that I’ve got to grips with the job I’m looking forward to being involved in various projects that help to promote research into the history of sport. The taught courses that I’m involved with, from undergraduate to taught masters and the CIES International Masters, and the PhD projects that I’m working on, are also giving me plenty of opportunities to reflect on the relevance of the history of sport, and on how we approach it.

SONY DSCAnother highlight was my trip to Japan in March, where I gave the keynote paper at the Comparative Sport History Seminar between the UK and Japan, at Ryukoju University (Omiya Campus) in Kyoto. I also gave a talk at Yamaguchi University, where my host, Dr Keiko Ikeda, was teaching. It was an unforgettable experience, full of new sights and new foods, and a range of experiences. As well as meeting some wonderful Japanese colleagues with a passion for sports history, I made my karaoke debut with I Fought the Law, woke up at 2am in my 8th floor hotel room to realise I was in an earthquake, and treated myself to a 7 mile aimless wander around Kyoto. I also visited one of the key sites in twentieth century history when Keiko took me to Hiroshima. I found the overarching narrative of victim-hood without context in the Peace Memorial Museum to be problematic, but some of the artefacts, the memorials, and the overall atmosphere were beyond moving.

And then, of course, there has been Brentford FC, who made their own history in 2014. I’ve been supporting them since 1977, and this year saw them gain promotion to English football’s second tier (currently called the Championship) for only the second time in my life. Last time, in 1992-93, they went straight back down, and the hope amongst all fans this time was that we could do enough to avoid that. As I write on New Year’s Day, they are 6th in the league, and serious play-off contenders. This is their highest position not just in my 35 years of following them, but in my 50 year life. So, as I re-engage with my own history on the hills of West Wales, I’m hoping for the club to re-write their own history and make it back to the top tier which they last played in in the first season after the Second World War.

So, as I pull on my trainers and head to the park, here’s a happy new year to you all, and all good wishes for 2015. I’m looking forward to developing as a historian, to writing and teaching,and to running into the future as a way of thinking about the past.

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A new job and new research opportunities

Sorry for my silence over the last few months. It’s been a hectic time in which I’ve started my new job as Professor of History and Director of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) at De Montfort University. It’s great to be at the heart of the sports history scene, and to be working closely with my colleagues in the Centre and the in wider History department. It’s also exciting to be in at the start of the new BA in Sports History and Culture, a unique undergraduate course, and to be working with the wonderful international students who make up the MA in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport.

I’ll get back to some proper blogging soon, but for now I just wanted to publicise a research opportunity that is available through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and which is perfect for high quality candidates wanting to undertake a PhD in sport and leisure history with us at the ICSHC. It’s called the Midlands3Cities (M3C) Doctoral Training Partnership, and it brings together six universities – Birmingham, Birmingham City, De Montfort, Leicester, Nottingham, and Nottingham Trent – in schemes of collaborative supervision. There are various kinds of funding available for UK and EU students. If you are interested in finding out more, or if you are a lecturer and think that some of your students might be up for this, then please email me on martin.polley@dmu.ac.uk for an informal chat.

The M3C website is here.

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