REF – Crossing The Line

REF Crossing The Line

Ref! written by Sarah Jane Dickenson
Produced by Space2, Leeds

Julia Lee, born and bred in Hull was one of the first female referees to referee men’s match both in England and in Australia. The play ‘Ref’ inspired by Julia’s life story, was written following a chance meeting with playwright, Sarah Jane Dickenson

 ‘The game, the true game of league, not the business, but the game, the truly beautiful game makes people feel they belong whatever their genitals.’

Based on a true story REFEREE tells the heart warming, humorous story of Alexs fight to become one of the first women rugby league referees in Britain to be in charge of men’s matches.

Moving from the 1980’s to the present REF charts the story of Alex’s rise from a kid obsessed with watching the game to her tussles and triumphs to be totally involved, in charge right in the middle of the game. This is a universal story of how a woman  – against the odds  – determinedly proves she is not a victim – but a survivor.

Ref! premiered in Hull in 2018 & toured in 2019. There are plans for the next tour in 2021 in partnership with RLWC2021.

Ref! Crossing the Line

Ref! Crossing the Line was part of a much wider project to inspire women and young people.

Sarah Jane says “the play Ref! is not just about retelling the memories of Julia, it’s about what aspects of the memories might speak to women connected to Rugby League today.  What aspect of adapted memories might move and intrigue the audience, so they can reflect on how life is and more importantly how they want it to be for themselves and for those who follow them – the next generation who love the game, want to be involved, shape and develop the beautiful game of League. “

Rugby League Referee - Julia Lee

Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson

Sarah Jane’s experience of scriptwriting ranges from: working with Graeae Theatre Company, the Goethe Institute as part of an international European project – and the Wellcome Trust . For the project and play The Not Knowns’: Her work has been produced in a variety of settings from small theatres, community centres, schools and prisons, working extensively with large and small casts in participatory and community settings. Her latest plays to go in to print are CBA and That Berlin Moment, both published by Barbican Press. Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson is a writer and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and Education at the University of Hull.


Space2 is a successful arts and social change organisation, established in 2003.   Space2 pioneers arts and social change practice, alongside programmes of community development to help bring about transformation in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Leeds and  the country.  The organisation addresses issues with people who experience under-representation and marginalisation to support them in finding a sense of agency and community capacity building.  It produces arts and cultural events, projects and programmes with partners designed to provide opportunities for long-term engagement across generations.  Space2 offers a wide range of engagement and development activities including creative writing, photography, singing, film making, gardening, growing food, cooking, walking, health education and social support groups.  Last year the organisation ran over 25 projects engaging almost 2,000 participants with a further 2,500 people reached through events and short term activities and live audiences of 17,000.

SMART Gallery

Ref! Crossing the Line was funded by Arts Council England ‘s National Lottery funded Strategic Touring programme, Heritage Lottery Fund, University of Hull and supported by Hull Kingston Rovers, Featherstone Rovers, Castleford Tigers, Batley Bull Dogs and One to One Development Trust

The SMART gallery concept, originated by Turner nominated artist Helen Payton work with local communities to shape the memories into a digital collection, a SMART (Social Museum and Art ) gallery. The culmination of the project was a website celebrating women in rugby league which will eventually be part of  Rugby League museum.

Our Partners

Julia is a highly motivated and accomplished professional who is driven by her desire to positively influence the lives of those she works with.

Julia is a great role model for young people, with a proven track record and an inspirational story.

Mark Robinson