Mikron Theatre are tapping into the huge popularity of today’s female professional footballers with Atalanta Forever celebrating the hardy Northern women who were the game’s pioneers back in 1920.
Amanda Whittington’s new play is based on the true story of one of three women’s football teams in Huddersfield that sprang up in post Great War Britain.
She celebrates those tough pioneers through the lives of two young women who join Atalanta Ladies Football Club that was formed ‘to provide games for the women of Huddersfield, to foster a sporting spirit, and a love of honour among its members.’
During the Great War women’s football teams were founded - usually based in factories or munitions works - and raised tons of money for hospitals and the growing army of war widows.
And they were a hit with football fans as 25,000 packed into Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium for their showdown with Preston’s all conquering Dick, Kerr Ladies, losing 4-0 to their much more experienced opponents.
The growing popularity of women’s football was by then causing concern in the corridors of power. The FA mandarins saw it as taking support away from the men’s game so on December 5 1921 they banned women’s teams from using FA affiliated grounds.
Amanda Whittington’s hits include Be My Baby, Ladies Day, its sequel Ladies Down Under, Kiss Me Quickstep and Bollywood Jane. The award winning playwright also has a very personal reason for penning this new work.
“I was an 11-year old footballer in the 1980s, the only girl who played in the boy’s village tournament and I vividly remember being ‘advised’ to stop because it wasn’t appropriate” recalls Whittington.
“I still feel the injustice, and the sense of shame for wanting to do something I wasn’t meant to. It brings joy to my heart to see football’s now the biggest team sport for girls in Britain.
“I wanted to write about the battle the women’s game has fought to survive and prosper, and perhaps to tell the 11-year-old me she was right?"
Atalanta Forever is set in 1920 where women’s football has become big news with teams pulling huge crowds. Huddersfield amateurs Ethel and Annie are taking a shot at the big time with Atalanta AFC tackling new football skills, mastering the offside rule and kicking back hard at the doubters.
Audiences are invited to come and cheer for Atalanta as this band of determined underdogs learn how to play the game, take on the legendary teams of the era and find the toughest opponents of all are the bigoted buffoons at the FA.
Atalanta Forever is directed by Mikron Theatre’s Artistic Director Marianne McNamara, designed by Celia Perkins, music composed and lyrics by Kieran Buckeridge with the music directed by Rebekah Hughes. Casting will be announced in the coming months.
In 2020, Mikron embark on their 49th year of touring as Atalanta Forever kicks off at The National Football Museum in Manchester on 18th April, and then tours nationally by road and river until 24th October.
Mikron are a company like no other as they tour for most of the year on board their vintage narrowboat putting on their shows in places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of, including allotments, YHA Youth hostels and Lifeboat stations around the UK.
Atalanta Forever will be touring nationally in the summer alongside Poppy Hollman’s new play, A Dog’s Tale, exploring the enduring love between people and their dogs.
For further information and tour dates for Atalanta Forever please visit https://mikron.org.uk/shows/atalanta-forever