Girls on Football
We're super excited and lucky to be hosting a women's football panel at Moving the Goalposts, the latest event by Girls On Film.
The all-women film collective comprised of writers, programmers and producers collaborates with other women-led organisations to create energising events, promote women artists as well as provoking conversations about social and political topics that intersect with the arts.
Girls on Film have shown us what it is to truly collaborate, to be able to lift each other up, and that is very central to the work they do – everything they touch is about supporting other women through the medium of film. So we wanted to get to know this incredible collective deeper, and provide more insight on why they chose football to theme their next event. I mean, we wanna hang out with anyone who wants to screen Bend It Like Beckham. We sat down with 3/4 of the collective, Amelia, Holly and Julia.
Let's start at the beginning – four years ago – how did this all come together? Did you start with events or did that grow out of what you were already doing?
Holly: Amelia and I started as a blog reviewing films, very simply. Then we got involved with another short film night and started reviewing their event and a few others on our blog. And then they basically asked us to start programing their recurring women's short film night called Women in Revolt. It was really popular and clear that people wanted to have a space to talk and young filmmakers could get advice. We admired that a lot.
Julia: That's when I joined. When we took over Women in Revolt we completely changed it. We put a structure in place that wasn’t just a film and then a Q&A.
Amelia: We found that if you’ve got these women in a room together they would be discussing each others work, critiquing and having really important, meaningful and progressive discussions. They would start just having a chat and then it would develop into a really beautiful conversation. The thing is, if you still have to have a women’s night, if women still have to be category or theme, treated in the same way as comedy or horror, then there has to be a reason for that, a meaning behind that. So we took that idea and ran with it. We made each night a different women’s topic.
H: We started with motherhood, then girlhood, then bossy women about women in positions of power. From those big changes and a different perspective Women in Revolt became too big to host in the way we wanted it to work and it was important that the advances we were creating benefited women from the ground up, so we went it alone from then on.
So, you’re on your own all of a sudden. How did you start moving forward from there?
A: We were very lucky when we were doing Women in Revolt as we had a venue, an audience who knew us and knew the name of it. So we had to do all of those bits ourselves, like where do you start?! So we started again, just us in September, that's when Sabrina joined.
J: She built us a new website, she’d never done any coding or anything but she's a bit of a genius and she has such a good eye and just made it. We needed that element, we just couldn't do it ourselves so she really really helped us out.
A: We had our launch party then we did our first two events in September. We kept a similar structure that we had developed but cleaned it up and added parts that felt more like ‘us’. It’s very important to us that we are all ways creating platforms for women, whether that's the filmmakers that we are showing or the charities that we ask to work with us and that’s never gonna change. Now we have the autonomy to do what we want and it’s way harder but way more satisfying.
J: The last thing we want to do is feel exclusive, a lot of collectives can make other groups of people feel unwelcome, we just wanna bring people creating things together and appreciate these amazing women. We want every event to be really positive.
The next event, Moving the Goalposts, is all themed around women’s football. How did you get to choosing this as the central point for your next event?
A: I’d had this idea for a while. It’s a romanticized idea about boys and football, how its this thing that all boys can do together. It stems from this one day I was at school, it was a really sunny day, everyone was on the field and there were all these boys that were from pretty different groups in school; the cool and popular boys and the really nerdy boys. They all just came together and played a game of football. They didn’t have to chat or get on in that way, they just played this game together then they finished their game and went their separate ways. I was watching this and thought, girls just don’t have anything like that. There is nothing that unifying for girls. I couldn’t see anything that was gonna bring me, that girl and that girl over there together and just get on.
It’s a national thing, why don’t I know about it? Why don’t I like it? I didn’t know anything about how to play football. My Dad is such a football fan, why is that something that I’m not a fan of? I then found out about this film that was being made by someone I sort of knew and then I was like, that’s amazing, I’ve got to screen this film [mini documentary Moving the Goalposts].
What kind of relationship do you have with sport?
H: Every time I talk about football my boyfriend just laughs at me. It’s like the idea of me doing anything physical makes him laugh.
A: I kept up with football while I was at Uni so that I would have something to chat with my dad about. I’d call him and be like, “Oh Tottenham are doing really well…”. I’d quickly go on BBC Sports before I chatted to him and check how Tottenham were doing. I’d just regurgitate something I’d read and it made him really happy and was something we could talk about. In my fourth year at uni I decided I was going to join a team. It took me 'til my fourth year because I was like, I don’t want to do it, it’s not for me. I started rowing but even though you’re in a team all the training is very individual and you’re not like really connecting with another person.
J: I’ve been in sport since I was like, six years old. I’ve been on every single team at school and played volleyball for ten years. I’ve been running, I've played basketball. I’ve always considered myself really sporty, I’ve always followed women’s tennis – I was obsessed, I used to watch it religiously. So yeah, I feel really at home with this crowd. I stopped for a bit when real life kicked in, but I love playing volleyball because it just makes me feel good at something. I’m there with other women and we are doing something that we all like and we just connect on this amazing level.
Do any of you feel like putting on this event has changed your relationship to sport, or how you see yourselves connecting to sport?
H: Yeah. I really want to [join a sports team] now. Just after doing the research and the reading I really want to do a sport. I’ve been thinking about it and it’s one of those things that you can lose yourself, completely immerse yourself in and you don’t think. That sounds so nice, you’re under such physical strain that you can’t be up in your head. That's what I need. You have to react to what’s happening in the moment and I love the idea of that. And Amelia's going to join one with me!
So you’re going to take up football?
A: Yeah – I think so, because I think it’s something that will accept you if you’re not that good, which I am definitely not...
H: No – don't say that! You don't know that!
A: Well, I guess I don’t know if I’m not good because I’ve never played. I have a kind of love hate relationship with exercise. I find gyms especially can make me very in my own head and I become very conscious and self conscious and uncomfortable and it’s not a very nice environment for me. It’s taken me this long to realise that and now I’m like, I need to find something else that I'm not just doing because I want to look good, I want to feel good.
H: Yeah man. I wanna look like shit, you know?
A: I had not connected that until doing this event, and talking to Fleur from Gold Diggers. Yes, sport can be there just for fun, going to the cinema, playing football, and that's never connected for me.
What do you want people to take away from the event?
A: I want them to be more aware that women’s sport is not on their radar. Like you can open a newspaper and think, I haven’t actually seen any women’s coverage, or like the fact that there’s no women’s sport on TV, like on a normal channel. Just how hard it is to seek out.
I’d also like people to realise that sport is not an elite thing that you can’t be a part of because that’s how I felt for a very long time; I didn't think I could join something because I felt like I can’t do that, it’s for 'sporty people'. Then you’re not interested in the sport because you’re not a sporty person. I’d like people to come out of it and be like, 'hey maybe I can be involved in sport even though I’m not sporty’.
J: And it's another great way to give other people a platform, like SLOWE and Goal Diggers, and for the audience to make those connections. That's definitely important for us.
H: Whatever we do and whatever theme we address we are always trying to get people to experience it through film and think about how film feeds into everything.
What do you think Bend It Like Beckham can still say today, over fifteen years since it first came out?
H: When it came out my entire life was suddenly about football. I was obsessed, like completely and utterly obsessed. I just spent all day with my football in the garden, all I wanted to be was a footballer. I joined the team at school, I thought it was the coolest thing in the whole world.
J: The fact that it had an Indian protagonist as well, it wasn’t just as simple as ‘women and football’ it’s also the cultural relevance, so simple yet so complex.
H: So positive and funny whilst being completely accessible and universal. There are so many issues in it. I still think it holds its own because it is so accessible and positive and funny. Also, the characters are so strong, I think we wanted it to be like we were screening this film for loads of amazing female footballers, there will be loads of them in the crowd, it's a big positive film to make everyone feel good.
A: Another thing that comes out of it is how, when the women all work together and it's not bitchy, incredible things come from that.
Do you guys have any favourite athletes?
J: When I was younger I used to be obsessed with Sharapova, she was beautiful, she was tall, she was a good player and she beat Serena Williams, I’m sorry, she was 17 years old! But obviously later came the scandal and the doping...
A: I love Laura Trott [Kenny]. I just love her, everything about her. I think that she’s so amazing and what she’s done for young girls in sport is outstanding. I think cycling has been great, like her and Victoria Pendleton, I think they’re really cool. I also really love Katarina Johnson-Thompson I have been watching her since she was 14. My Dad loves athletics so we watch it all the time and I’ve been watching her at the world championships when she was so young, to see her now, getting better and better is so amazing. I love watching athletics because the repetitive nature of watching 20 people do a pole vault is so nice. And Nicola Adams is actually fucking amazing, super inspiring.
J: And Simona Biles, well, the whole American Gymnastics team is freaking insane, the stuff that they can do with their bodies is incredible.
Finally, what are your future plans for Girls On Film?
H: We want do less events actually and focus on growing it as a business. Over the year, we are doing two events after this at the W Hotel in the Spring/Summer and then a fashion event. We want to do fewer but bigger and better.
A: We want to be able to do this all the time. One of our biggest goals is to get other girls to see what we are doing and think, ‘hey, I could do that’ and start a satellite Girls On Film.
J: We actually inspired one woman – a girl that showed her film at Women in Revolt emailed us from Sheffield and said that she loved our event, it was our first one actually, and that she was gonna start something similar in Sheffield. And yeah, she’s doing it! We want more people to do exactly the same. We don’t want it to be London-centric either, anywhere, someone can do what we do, we just want a bigger platform.
A: We’d like to be a part of the PR and distribution for smaller womens films as we’ve seen the kind of PR they get, they don’t have as big a budget so they’ll just get one screening and that will be it. There’s loads of funding out there to get things out of London, we could do Q and A tours around Unis or give them a cool premier, like the kind of thing we do already. So that’s something that we would like to do in the future and probably make a film at some point?! But thats so far away. One day we’ll do it all but you’ve got to take those stepping stones to get there.