News


A project inspired by the story of the first woman to referee men’s rugby league has been awarded National Lottery funding. Commonsense Initiative (CSI), which inspires and empowers young people and women to unlock and achieve their potential, has been awarded £32,400 by the National Lottery to explore the heritage of women in rugby league. Crossing the Line (CtL): Women in Rugby League 1950 to present day, is inspired by Ref! a play, written by Sarah Jane Dickenson, about Hull born Julia Lee who became the first woman to referee a men’s rugby match of any code in 1991. Julia will now lead this project by delivering intergenerational workshops for women. CtL will develop participants’ oral history skills, collect and preserve experiences, memories and artifacts of women who have been a part of the rugby league over the past fifty years in the Batley and Featherstone districts of West Yorkshire.  The project will present a wide range of stories as these women had different roles in the rugby league; they may have been players, administrators, volunteers or supporters of this sport. Telling their stories will enable other women to draw on their experiences and find a place in a male-dominated sport. The participants will co-create an exhibition of memories and artifacts collected at the workshops through a Social Museum and Art (SMART) Gallery and a Rugby League (RL) SMART Gallery website that will allow the stories to be shared with a wider audience. The SMART Gallery will be hosted in each community for two to three weeks allowing attendees to learn about an unknown part of their local sport heritage. Julia Lee, Director of CSI, said: “We are so excited to be able to work with Featherstone and Batley Rugby League clubs on this project and to collect the memories...

Continue Reading


‘Ref!’

New play tells story of one woman’s fight to become world’s first referee of men’s Rugby League What happens when a feisty 12 year old lass from Hull decides that her career lies in the male-dominated world of Rugby League? A new play, ‘Ref’, produced by arts and social change charity Space2, is inspired by the true story of Julia Lee, who survived and thrived against the odds to become one of the first women to referee a men’s Rugby League match in Great Britain and Australia in the early 1990s. Moving from the 1980s to the present day this fictionalised, heartwarming account, written by playwright Sarah Jane Dickenson, follows the story of a girl called Alex as she tackles the status quo in order to prove that she is as good as, if not better than, the men she works alongside. ‘Ref’, directed by Rod Dixon of Red Ladder Theatre, is part of a larger Space2 project called ‘Crossing the Line’ which aims to uncover and share the stories of women connected to Rugby League. The project will work in partnership with Rugby League Clubs and Foundations, based in the northern heartlands, taking the theatre performance and interactive community workshops into those communities. Dawn Fuller, Strategic Director of Space2, said: “Space2 has a track record of working with people to uncover their real life stories and using the process to empower people – in this case, women.” “The performances of Ref! are a catalyst for meeting and chatting with women who’ve been involved with Rugby League in Hull, Batley, Castleford and Featherstone over decades, bring their stories to the wider community and support positive development with local women.’ Julia, aged 50, is quietly proud that her story will finally be told: “I’m excited because it enables me to use...

Continue Reading