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WOR BELLA NEWS

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  Geordie Plays (Vol.1), by Ed Waugh 

 

Playwright Ed Waugh's book of fabulous, North East (Geordie) history plays is now out!

Published by Tyne Bridge Publishing, Newcastle, Geordie Plays (Vol.1) comprises:

 

Carrying David

Hadaway Harry

The Great Joe Wilson

"Harry Clasper, Joe Wilson and Glenn McCrory; three Tyneside heroes, each with a  magnificent tale to tell. It's important we are still talking about these icons who have added so much to our culture. And in his Geordie Plays, Ed Waugh brings to the stage the essence of what it means to battle against all odds to make an impact, in what is often a brutal and unforgiving world. The plays also reveal so much about how important regional heritage is and how the North East has a unique cultural identity that makes its people proud ." - Tyne Bridge Publishing.

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Rachael Rickwood
Holding copies of Geordie Plays (Vol.1)

  Preserved for future generations 

We are delighted that Newcastle Cathedral have included a copy of Ed Waugh's Geordie Plays (Vol. 1) in the time capsule they buried in June 2021.

Exciting new developments are happening at the Cathedral in Mosley Street (at the bottom of the Bigg Market), including the creation of a performance space in the wonderful building that has been at the heart of the city of Newcastle for more than 900 years.

As part of the cathedral's National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Common Ground in Sacred Space, the team buried the capsule so Geordies of the future will learn about our wonderful city’s past - from the last five minutes to the past 2000 years. 

 

Stories, images, poems and other memorabilia were included in the capsule that was buried under the site of a new dedication stone in the Cathedral on June 11, 2021.

 

Rachael Rickwood, Newcastle Cathedral Learning and Activities Officer, said: "The response was tremendous and we had loads of really varied and exciting responses. Unfortunately, we could only put a small number of items in the capsule, and we picked a selection including works by locally based artists, plans from our builders HPR and Geordie Plays (Vol.1). We selected Geordie Plays (Vol.1) because it encapsulates the Geordie spirit."

 

The capsule will be opened in 2121.

High-flying Chelsea FC Women would offer Bella Reay a trial

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Paul Green

Chelsea Women FC

General Manager of the top British team since 2013.

Women's football worldwide has never been as strong as it is now and this is especially the case in Britain.

 

The Tokyo Olympics this summer will serve to bring the beautiful game to many millions more both internationally and nationally where Team GB includes the likes of Northumberland-born superstar Lucy BronzeLucy Staniforth, who grew up in Alnwick, and Jill Scott, Steph Houghton and Demi Stokes - all of whom were either born in or with strong North East links. If they are not already, they will soon become household names in the world of women's football.

The top team in Britain is undoubtedly Chelsea FC Women who landed three trophies this season: the Community Shield, Continental Cup and FA Women's Super League (WSL), reached the UEFA Women's Champions League final and are still in the FA Cup (carried over until next season because of the pandemic).

 

The Chelsea FC Women general manager is Newcastle United supporter Paul Green. The son of two proud Geordies, Paul's late father Bill was an ex-professional player (he captained Carlisle United in the old First Division before signing for West Ham) and later became a coach, a chief scout and football league manager.

 

Paul, 45, was a professional footballer until rupturing his cruciate ligament. After gaining his UEFA 'A' coaching license, he was involved in the men's game, working as a scout for Derby County, Wigan Athletic, Leicester City, Hull City and Southampton.

 

Transferring to the women's game in 2006, he spent seven years at his hometown team of Doncaster Rovers Belles, during which time the club made the transition from the FA Women's Premier League to the FA Women's Super League (WSL). He was instrumental in the bidding process required to secure the Belles' WSL status in 2010.

 

During his time with the Belles, the club finished in the top four twice, reached the 2009 FA League Cup final and developed some of the best young players in the country.

 

An opportunity to join Chelsea in February 2013 was too good to refuse. As general manager, he is responsible for overseeing everything from signing new players and dealing with contracts to departmental budgets and hiring. 

 

Paul works closely with team manager Emma Hayes who recently steered the club to their fourth WSL title - a record in itself, and breaking records en route for the most wins (18) and most points (57) in a season, and becoming only the third team to defend the league title after Liverpool and Arsenal. 

 

Despite a 4-0 reversal to Barcelona Femeni (May 16, 2021), in their first-ever Champions League final appearance, Suzanne Wrack of The Guardian stated that Chelsea are "best women's team to ever play in England's top flight".

 

So Paul...

Why is women's football so popular today?

 

"The growth in support and interest comes from a number of factors, really. In April 2011 the start of the WSL led to a lot of television exposure. Then the success of the GB women's football team in the 2012 Olympics and the England team reaching the respective semi-finals of the European Cup in 2017 and World Cup in 2019. 

 

Young women have always had an interest in football - attending the men's games and playing - but they now have brilliant female role models and today there are professional careers in women's football. 

 

In addition, many women became fans, following their team. Crowds of 30-40,000 attend matches at Wembley. There is an incredible buzz about the game."

Will women's football ever be as popular as men's football?

 

"The FA banned women's football in 1921 and only unbanned it in 1971. That's 50 years the women's game was set back and it inevitably meant a lack of opportunities. We're playing catch-up at the moment.  

 

The past 50 years has seen a huge growth in support. The next, inevitable, step is the commercialisation of the women's game. Sky Sports and the BBC have bought the rights to show WFL matches next season so that will have a huge impact.

 

There are 12 full-time clubs in the WFL and below that a Championship comprising part-time teams. Will we ever catch up with the men's game? I honestly don't know, but what I do know is there are very exciting years ahead."

 

The North East is well represented at the international level - why is this?

 

"The North East is a hotbed of football in general. 

 

Success is obviously built on skill, but it also needs a work ethic, dedication and passion. The North East contains these attributes in abundance. At a grassroots level, there are more opportunities than ever, and the young players are obviously well looked after and encouraged at local level.

 

On a national level, it's great to see Sunderland Ladies will be playing in the Championship next season. Sunderland have been responsible for six or seven players who have made it onto the national scene, so I fully expect to see more stars of the future from the region.

What sort of historical debt do the modern women footballers owe those who played in WWI? 

 

"Obviously, it was these selfless women who were there when the ban happened in 1921, so without question players today owe a historical debt to the likes of Bella Reay of Blyth Spartans Ladies, and the Dick, Kerr Ladies team of Preston, to give just a couple of examples.  

 

It would have been fantastic for the munitionettes of 100 or so years ago to see what is happening today; they would have been regarded as heroes and pioneers by modern players. I think they would be proud."

Would Bella Reay (the "Alan Shearer of her day") have got a game for Chelsea today?

 

"Bella scored 133 goals in 30 games for Blyth Spartans Ladies. With statistics like that she'd have definitely been given a trial here at Chelsea. No doubt! While she'd be up against stiff opposition, I have a sneaking suspicion Bella would give our centre forwards a run for their money."

Kim's love of theatre and football 

Kim Hoffmann is the Head of Learning at Newcastle's prestigious Theatre Royal. A position she has held since 2013. Her role involves delivering, developing and overseeing the exceptional Project A, a full-time actor training company for 18 to 25-year-olds.

 

Aberdeen-born Kim, age 37, played football for a number of "boys" teams until the age of 12, before being told she could no longer play in "boys" leagues as it was “inappropriate”.

 

Kim went on to play for Aberdeen Ladies and Cove Rangers Ladies, also representing Scotland until 1999.

 

Kim and Newcastle Theatre Royal are enthusiastically supporting the Wor Bella project. Her tremendous support and enthusiasm were instrumental in getting the project off the ground. We asked Kim why she is so supportive.

 

What does Wor Bella mean to you personally and professionally, and why are you involved?

 

When Ed told me about Bella Reay, I was at first incredibly impressed that she too had flown the flag for women’s football, so long before I had done in the 1980s and ‘90s. I was then quite sad to think that so many years on, I too had faced adversity in simply being good at and enjoying the game I loved.

 

I think it’s so important that girls and women can have access to football (and anything else for that matter) that boys and men do and I’m grateful that the tide is slowly turning and women can now make a career from being a professional footballer player.

 

How are women's football and theatre compatible?

 

Football is the beautiful game. Theatre is a mirror back into our society. The two are intrinsically linked not only by their beauty, but by their ability to unite and provide freedom of expression.

 

Blocking a performance is like setting out your formation, the coach directing the action on the field after weeks of “rehearsal” on the training pitch. It’s all about reading the game in the same way you would read a script and then ensuring a balanced stage in the same way you would a balanced playing field. There’s something both mathematical and scientific about both.

 

What have you and Newcastle Theatre Royal done to support the Wor Bella project?

 

We have provided rehearsal space, provided some marketing support, ensured that Wor Bella is on the front of our winter Schools newsletter and shared it with schools across the North of England and beyond. We will also host three performances of the production as well as support educational workshops for school and community groups.

 

Who do you hope to attract to the show, and why?

I hope the show will attract anyone with an interest in football and the history of the region. Specifically young girls and women who have never quite felt confident enough to play, or even share their interest in football. It is also so important that young boys see the show too, so that they can appreciate that what is generally a game they are invited to play from toddlers, is something which isn’t as (or hasn’t always been) accessible to girls their own age.

 

What do you think people will learn from Wor Bella?

 

I think people will learn that there have always been strong female role models and ambassadors out there, flying the flag for equality. It is so important that people get the opportunities that are available to them based upon age, skill and experience, not because of who they were born as.  

 

Kicking a ball around is one of the most accessible and liberating things anyone can do. A single ball and some open space are all that is needed – you don’t have to play competitively to enjoy it.  

 

So for women like me, even if it doesn’t happen in our lifetime, Bella helps to demonstrate that change is possible, thanks to people like her.

 

Do you still play football?

 

At 23, I decided to go back to football. I’d always continued to kick a ball around but stopped playing competitively when I moved to Newcastle for University in 2000.

 

I got myself match fit and I was in talks with the coaching team at Newcastle United Ladies to return to playing. However, I had also begun a new career in Theatre and met the man who would become my now husband.

 

Two days after I got the green light to train with Newcastle, I found out I was pregnant. With twins! So, that was definitely the end of my playing career!

 

I take my son to his training and matches and have definitely raised a few eyebrows, flicking the ball back onto the pitch or knocking out a few keepie-ups in my work outfit, standing on the sidelines. It’s the raised eyebrows that I hope shows like Wor Bella will help to get rid of, so that regardless of your gender, you can get stuck into what you enjoy without feeling judged. (Though the raised eyebrows are also a bit of a compliment – especially when the dads realise I’d beat them on the pitch!)

Her school won but the score is unknown. Sadly, at the age of 12 Kim, like all girls, was not allowed to play in ”boys” leagues as it was “inappropriate”.

Top images: Kim [Hoffmann] playing in the Aberdeen schools cup final in 1993.

Alan Shearer to make theatrical debut

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Alan Shearer is to make his theatrical debut in the new play for 2022, Wor Bella, about munitionette footballers during WWI.

The Geordie football superstar and TV pundit has filmed a to-camera piece that involves him talking about Bella Reay (Wor Bella) the Blyth Spartans Ladies centre forward who scored an incredible 133 goals in 30 games between 1917 and 1918.

 

Shearer's analysis is set against the backdrop of the Munitionettes Cup final in May 1918, which was attended by 22,000 people. Blyth Spartans Ladies beat Bolckow Vaughan of Middlesbrough 5-0 to win the cup that involved dozens of women's teams from throughout the North East of England

 

Bella Reay scored a hat-trick in the final.

 

Ed Waugh, writer and producer of Wor Bella, explained: "In latter days Bella has been described as "the Alan Shearer of her day", so who better to ask for his half-time analysis of the cup final than the great man himself.

 

"It is a massive coup for us."

 

The 1996 UEFA Golden Boot winner holds the record number of goals for Newcastle United (148 in 303 matches), and as a Premiership player for Southampton and Blackburn Rovers, he also notched 135 goals in 256 games. His tremendous record included 30 goals for England in 63 games.

 

Ed continued: "Alan has been tremendous. As soon as he heard about the story he came on board and provided his time for free.

 

"To thank Alan for his support, we are delighted to do post-show collections for the Alan Shearer Foundation. The Foundation was set up to directly support the Alan Shearer Centre in Newcastle which is run by St Cuthbert’s Care and provides a range of specialist respite, residential and social facilities for people with complex disabilities and acute sensory impairments.”

 

Alan said: "The story of the munitionettes who saved the WW1 war effort - working 60 hours a week in dangerous and physically demanding conditions - and still found time to play football for wartime charities, is both incredible and inspirational.

 

"I'm proud to be part of this excellent project and play."

 

Wor Bella, starring Lauren Waine as Bella Reay, will premiere at Blyth Phoenix Theatre in Northumberland on Friday, March 25, 2022, before touring the North East, taking in Hexham Queen Hall, Newcastle Theatre Royal (studio), Alnwick Playhouse, Playhouse Whitley Bay and ending at South Shields Westovian Theatre, South Shields on Saturday, April 2.

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