Images Courtesy of the Author's Personal Collection.
Maxie Herber and Ernst Baier skating at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in front of huge crowds and dramatic scenery, typical of Olympic skating.
Madge Syers Olympic and World Champion London 1908
After the main London 1908 Olympic Games in July, the ‘Winter Games’ began in October, including Association Football, Lacrosse, Hockey, Boxing and Figure Skating. At the Prince’s Skating Club Knightsbridge, the women's individual skating gold medal went to Florence Madeline, 'Madge' Syers, who had previously retired from a world-class career due to ill-health but returned specifically to try for an Olympic medal. Else Rendschmidt won the silver medal for Germany. Dorothy Greenhough-Smith, who was the reigning British champion in Madge Syers absence in 1908, took third place for Britain. Gwendolyn Lycett of Britain and Elna Montgomery of Sweden were the remainder of the field.
Madge also won an Olympic bronze in the mixed pairs with her husband, Edgar in 1908. The gold medal went to the German pairing Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger, ahead of married British couple Phyllis and James Johnson in second place. Phyllis Johnson was also a world champion with James, until his ill health forced her to change partners and she became the first person to win an Olympic medal with different partners, when with Basil Williams, she earned a bronze medal in the mixed pairs. Coming fourth, she narrowly also missed our on an individual medal in the women’s singles in Antwerp.
Madge’s mixed pairs medal was a fitting testament to Edgar’s support, as he had coached her to more advanced levels. Having entered the World Figure Skating Championships in 1902, as there were no rules to prevent women from competing, Madge came second to Ulrich Salchow. She won the ‘men's’ world championships in 1903 and 1904, defeating Edgar. She therefore forced the International Skating Union (ISU) to accept women’s competitions as part of their responsibility and her husband had fully supported this. A heart condition forced Madge Syers to cease competition soon after the 1908 Olympic Games. She died, aged just thirty-five, in 1917.
Ethel Muckelt Britain’s only medalist Chamonix 1924
The inauguration of a separate International Week of Winter Sport in Chamonix in January 1924 (later designated as the Winter Olympics), overseen by the French Olympic Committee, initially added little variety to the events available to female competitors. Overall, six sports and sixteen disciplines were included, with individual and mixed pairs figure skating events providing opportunities for just eleven female athletes in total.
Having previously finished fifth in the skating pairs at the 1920 Summer Antwerp Olympic Games with partner Sydney Wallwork, Britain’s Ethel Muckelt took bronze in the Chamonix 1924 Winter Games in the women’s singles figure skating. She finished behind Herma Planck-Szabi of Hungary and Beatrix Loughran of the United States of America. Muckelt therefore became the first British athlete to win a Winter Games Olympic medal and narrowly missed out on another victory in the mixed pairs with partner Jack Page. Muckelt’s bronze would be Britain’s only medal in Chamonix and result in a tenth place finish overall for the British team.
Born in 1885, Ethel Muckelt’s family made their fortune manufacturing textile dyes. She had learned to skate at the Manchester Ice Rink; the only permanent facility in Britain outside of London at the time. So regional differences could be as important as other factors, like class and gender, in developing Olympic hopefuls. Phyllis Johnson, who had taken part in the 1908 London Olympics and skated again in 1920, could not sustain her place in the squad for Chamonix. Nor could her Antwerp team-mate Madelon St John. Muckelt’s Mancunian colleague, Gertrude Kathleen Shaw, came seventh in the individual competition in 1924, before competing again in St Moritz in 1928. For Mildred Richardson of London, in eighth place, it would be her only Olympic Games.
Although the numbers were relatively slight, figure skating was to have tremendous popular appeal and spectator interest in Olympic competitions was intense. Though she came last in the 1924 women’s figure skating, Norway’s Sonja Henie aged eleven, would redefine the sport. From 1927 to 1937 Henie won ten consecutive world titles and three individual gold medals at the St Moritz Olympic Games in 1928, in Lake Placid, 1932 and at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany 1936. Turning professional in 1937, Henie became one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood with the release of motion pictures Thin Ice (1937) One in A Million (1939) and Sun Valley Road (1941).
The All-Female British Winter Olympic Team in 1932
The Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games in 1932 saw the first all female British Olympic team of just four figure skaters, who could therefore only participate in the individual competitions (and not the mixed pairs). The figure skating as a whole was contested by 13 nations; more than any other sport. However, the women singles was restricted to 7 national representatives (including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, and the United States) with the mixed pairs contested by just four teams (Canada, France, Hungary and the United States). However, social class was an important part of the story of how and why the four British women came to be on the team at Lake Placid.
The reasons for a small team were mainly financial, so far as the British Olympic Association (BOA) said it was concerned, but also because the Winter Olympics had much less national prestige than the Summer Games. A letter from the Skating Association was considered in November 1931, that forecast no British representative would be in the medals and, in view of cost, one man and one woman should be sent as a token gesture with the hope of a top six placing. Similarly the British Ice Hockey Association sought to identify male British-born players in Canada and the United States both to enlargen the search for talent and to save on travel costs. Bobsleigh was not considered a national sport, so any male competitors had to fund their own way. As late as December 1931, the BOA decided that only one skating competitor was proficient enough to fund at Lake Placid, presumably Mollie Phillips although she was not named, and allocated £75 14 shillings and 3 pence for the purpose.
For the first time in Olympic history, Great Britain’s flag bearer at Lake Placid was a woman. Mollie Phillips was by far the senior member of the team at the age of 24 compared to Joan Dix at 13 years of age; whereas Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor were both just 11 years old. Colledge was 11 years and 83 days, making her slightly younger than Taylor, at 11 years and 102 days, and she remains the youngest ever Olympian. Dix’s father Fred was originally from Norfolk and he had been a speed skater, competing at the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games.
Megan Taylor was the highest-placed British athlete in seventh place, just ahead of Cecilia Coledge, Mollie Philips and Joan Dix. Born in Wimbledon, Megan Taylor was coached from infancy by her father, Philip, who had been a speed skater. She would be a longtime rival to Cecilia Colledge, and, by extension, Sonia Henie. Colledge, was the daughter of a surgeon and was coached by Jacques Gerschwiler, and had trained at the exclusive Ice Club, Westminster from 1928. In each case therefore the young women of the team (Colledge, Dix and Taylor) had a considerable amount of financial support and family interest in their chosen sport, to the extent of training as full time as education would allow. It was this familial support, and some private appeals by the Skating Association, that got one woman and three girls to Lake Placid.
Given the social background of these young women, the staging of the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games and Los Angeles Summer Olympics of 1932 caused the British Olympic Association once again to debate the relationship between amateur values and specialist preparation. Even the timings, using a chronometer rather than a stop-watch, evidenced this increased technocracy. This was primarily described as an American ‘problem’ in correspondance between the BOA with the IOC over ‘broken time’ payments and implied professionalism. But skating also provided a public platform for young women to become sporting, and Olympic heroes.
All images courtesy of the National Football Museum.
The world’s fastest-growing economic power over the last two decades, China has used Olympic sports, and particularly football, as a way of integrating the country into Western markets. Football investment reflects China’s acquisitive overseas policy and acquiring European corporate assets has been part of that strategy. President Xi Jinping is a football enthusiast and previously said he wants China to win the World Cup in the next 15 years and the Chinese FA has committed to grow the sport to 50 million participants by 2050.
Of course, what President Xi Jinping is ignoring is the fact that China has already hosted two football world cups. In my recently published chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Legacy, I used the idea of asking how small scale tournaments, like Women’s World Cup in 1991 and 2007, may have helped China to build ‘soft’ legacy experience and expertise in preparation for larger Mega Events like the Beijing Olympiad of 2008. We usually understand ‘hard’ legacy to involve changes in infrastructure, whereas ‘soft’ legacy can often be overlooked. So football seems able to access markets that some other Olympic sports cannot, and, at the same time, the cultural and iconic aspects of the sport are attractive to China.
Migration and Global Flows in Football
It may make sense for one of the worlds largest and most populous countries to showcase itself through the mega event, but how did China build the capacity to do so? Many examples relating to football rely upon bringing in expertise, star players and so forth and there remains constant speculation about whether this or that big star will sign to play in China.
Again, we have to remind ourselves that this focus on football’s flows of migration and exploitation of new commercial markets is not new, although the globalised scale is an innovation. Scottish ‘Anglos’ were derided for following the money South to England almost as soon as the newly professional Football League was inaugurated in 1888. In 1950 several high-profile British professional players, including Charlie Mitten, Neil Franklin and George Mountford, moved to Indepentiente of Santa Fe, Colombia for the Princely sum of £2000 signing on fee and £60 a week. This was a short-lived and on their return home all were temporarily banned for their work as economic migrants and were sold by their clubs. Mitten’s Indepentiente signing on fee was reportedly double this sum, and the exact sums may well remain unclear. But what of the ‘little men in grey suits’ who organise world football: how is their expertise in hosting mega events built and how has China learned from that?
Using Mega Events to Brand a Nation on a World Stage
The first thing to note is that the narrative around China has changed considerably in terms of international relations, and especially in sporting contexts. China is actively investing in a number of infrastructure projects across the world, that brings in foreign investment, as well as external influence. Hosting mega events in a variety of sports fits with that wider policy in terms of being part-funded by the licensing organisation, but allowing local branding, accreditation and sponsorship. Both public and state finances provide for these increasingly large festivals, designed ultimately to attract both large numbers of tourists and global media attention.
As both Muller and Roche have indicated in their work on mega events, The Shanghai Expo of 2010 was much larger in terms of visitor numbers than the Beijing Olympic Games of 2008, but international and transnational sport has a prestige that pure commerce can lack, and this is often because of its highly symbolic and nationalistic nature. Part of this is also the ambition of the cost of staging such a transformative event with costs now regularly in excess of US$10 billion, marking out the host as aspirational and a related aspect of public culture capital investment, which appears to build a legacy for the local and regional community .
Not just Olympic Sports: Formula 1
Again Formula 1 is a case in point with the Chinese Grand Prix reputedly one of the largest loss making races in the calendar, offset in what it loses in money by the kudos of hosting the race. Like Formula 1, both the football and the Olympic authorities are moving into Eastern and Southern markets as older European audiences become saturated. We may be moving beyond the era of the mega event into the giga event, which is larger in visitor attraction measures, cost, mediated reach and transformation. Similarly, developments in e-sports are changing the nature of the mega event and blurring lines of who is performing and who is spectating.
Case Study Career: Zhang Jilong
My work on capacity building in mega events in China began in 1999 when I was a consultant to FIFA during the Women’s World Cup in Los Angeles, and again when it was staged there, having been moved from China due to the SARS outbreak in 2003. I presented my work on a panel with Zhang Jilong, a Vice President of the Chinese FA, Marie George Buffet who was at the time French Minister for Sport and Anita De Frantz an Olympic Vice President. I discussed with Zhang Jilong how he had come to sporting administration. Zhang was born in Shandong Province, and graduated from Beijing International Studies University in 1975. He joined the National Athletic Committee and worked in the foreign affairs department, where his language skills helped his career. He joined the Chinese Football Association in 1978 at a crucial time in its history following the Cultural Revolution and the death of Chairman Mao in 1976. With the support of FIFA member Henry Fok, China began to enter into the Asian Games and a number of high profile teams like Pele’s New York Cosmos, and West Bromwich Albion toured the country.
In addition to his role as the foreign affairs director at the State Sports General Administration, in 1989 Zhang joined the Asian Football Confederation’s rules committee, before also serving on the finance committee and was appointed in 1994 to the FIFA Women’s Football Committee. After serving on a number of organising committees for FIFA, Olympic and AFC tournaments, Zhang oversaw the Beijing Olympic Football tournament and acted as chief organiser for football at the 2012 Olympics. He has subsequently stepped down from a number of posts due to the international and domestic travel involved.
So my case study highlighted a relatively neglected aspect of ‘soft legacy’ as China transforms. Namely how individuals, and the organisations for which they work become adept at handling ever-larger sporting events, and not just in their own country but as a national representative on a global stage. So it might seem unusual to focus on a case study of an individual, but sport is often made at an individual level as well as networked at organisational level. If we think of the number of people with whom Zhang Jilong has interacted in the course of his career, we can see that China has built expertise in the administration of football that the country has now exported to London 2012 and other mega events, and this trend of the trained specialist looks set to continue. It’s another form of soft diplomacy and while many focus on the movement of expertise, like elite players, to China, the flows of migration are also changing British football.
Why Should Museums and Archives Engage with Oral History Specialists, including Academic Experts, in Producing Their Oral History Strategy?
Since the 1950s there has been an increased focus on ‘history from below’ in terms of a broader and more inclusive social history and these academic specialisms have also influenced museums and archives to include more oral histories. Traditionally, folklore, oral traditions and word of mouth cultures valued narratives that were passed down as sources of history but gradually printed sources became more valued. Since the formation of the British Oral History Society in 1973, after a more informal conference in 1969, academic historians began to use these techniques as ways of capturing the history of those excluded from traditional archives, and highlighted that archives and museums were often themselves sites of power in that collected historical documents were often the records of the ‘winners’ and the privileged.
Now oral historians can span a range or roles; including volunteers and non academics. This democratises history itself, since a range of people can participate in 'making history'. However practitioners across a range of academic disciplines have also highlighted that oral history is not an easy option, as it is sometimes considered to be, and specialists have developed the method into rigorous ways of recording, understanding and archiving narrated memories. International collaborations in narrative and memory between oral historians in the 1980s, led to the formation in 1996 of the International Oral History Association
Although there are many ways of doing oral history, the common phrases used in projects are both 'history from below' and 'uncovering hidden histories'. These include a lot of connectivity with women's history, black and ethnic minority histories, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender histories and the history of medicine, particularly new specialisms such as gerontological focus on the memory of older people and ageing, such as new dementia research.
What Would JJHeritage Advise When Strategic Planning An Oral History Project?
Scale, Scope and Strategise at Bid Stage
Many projects begin from a position of seeing oral history as a relatively cheap form of research, when its primary reason is a commitment to the majority of lives rather than the few that become enshrined in archives and so have a social commitment to equality and diversity. This can often mean when putting bid for funding together that oral histories are given a small consideration because the 1. Scale 2. Approach and 3. Overall Strategy have not been agreed and realistically costed by the project team. It is at this bidding stage that you really need to involve an expert. It is better to have a small, successful proof of purpose strategy and then bid for more funding when you have proven the need for more interviews than over-reach by trying to do too many interviews of varied quality on a small budget and then have less rigor in your outcomes.
The Past-Present Dialogic or…If Your Project Uses Volunteers, Agree The Overall Approach, Standardise and Provide Training to Ensure Rigor and Quality
I’ve been doing oral histories since I was first trained in 1998 and an important principle is the past-present dialogic, which in plain English means that people are both the actors and subjects of their own histories, when interviewed. There is an important sense of ownership, not for the museum or archive, but the individual concerned and the role of the interviewer is to collaborate. Those who impose, shape through omission or neglect of a detail, or interpret are not respecting the right of the interviewee to tell their own history their way. See the Oral History Society guidelines for instance.
This is very important to us at jjheritage, as a common mistake of small and start up museums is to appoint a volunteer oral history co-ordinator who then uses volunteers to conduct interviews and another set of volunteers to transcribe interviews, and cannot describe their overall strategy or methodology. This lacks rigor and is fundamentally disrespectful to those being interviewed, and of course limits the value of the source to future generations. By involving specialists early this can be avoided and greater consideration given to intersubjectivity and the power relations between interviewers and interviewees, the responsibilities of researchers and the researched.
So, Who Provides The Narrative and What Aspects of Memory Should Be Recorded?
Academic researchers have been clear on ‘the challenges of the transcript.’ What they mean by this is that most of us edit ourselves, in speech, all the time either through intended omissions, exaggerations, figures of speech, the ability to recall and event, the emotions provoked through remembering and so forth. So, does the transcript record everything: the pauses, the repeated verbal ticks (erms, hmms, and so on), the changes of mind and contradictions, laughs, exclamations and so forth? Or does the transcriber edit, and if so to what extent? Increasingly, oral histories are digitally recorded for release as audio material, and here also ethical dimensions exist. What if the person makes a remark that could be inappropriate in the public domain, or is discriminatory, or could be hurtful for a living person or the deceased? What if the memory of an event is contested, since it is now generally accepted that a single event can be remembered very differently by people who experienced it? The processes of remembering are also being subject to more scrutiny and an emphasis on interviewing younger people, who have traditionally been excluded more from oral history studies than older populations. These delicate ethical debates require a standardised strategy at the outset so that exceptions can be managed in relation to the overall collection policy. Strategies can be adapted, but provide an overall framework in which to amend on a case by case basis.
Bridge is not considered by most people to be an Olympic sport but several of the world's leading 'mind-based' contests have been called Olympiads. Rixi Markus and Fritzi Gordon were one of Britain's most prolific women's pairings after World War Two and Jean has interviewed Fritzi's niece to find out more about her Aunt's career and life.
jjheritage are currently involved in a number of oral history projects in relation to motor sport, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, football, cricket, volunteering and hockey we can provide bespoke advice for your project how to begin, from planning and strategy to archiving the final interviews and dissemination activities. Let us help you to develop your project, in a sensitive, rigorous and strategic manner. It’s a uniquely rewarding way of doing public history and my most recent interviewee, 100 years young and who took me out to lunch (rather than the other way around), has inspired us to do more work in this important socially aware field of history, heritage and memory.
We are delighted to announce that we have been selected as the academic lead for the National Football Museum project Unlocking the Hidden History of Women’s Football. We will be working with the museum on several aspects of the project and so if you would like to get involved please get in touch. Our involvement in the project will last until September 2018 so there is plenty of time.
The first big task is to establish and lead a research network; to coordinate academic and community research and connect related collections on women’s football. There are many museums and archive with holdings containing women’s football, and jjheritage has worked with several of these including the British Library, The Imperial War Museum, The British Film Institute and The North West Film Archive along with colleagues from the Sporting Heritage Network and National Media Museum. There are also collections at various places of women’s work such as Lyons Tea Houses and Marks and Spencer, and some public history work funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund on the women’s team in Coventry, circa 1921.
There can be an international element to this as Jean has worked in archives on women’s football in China, USA, Australia, Namibia, as well as FIFA, UEFA and the International Olympic Committee collections in Switzerland. The Scottish Football Museum was very helpful in the past, and one outcome could be a scoping exercise of what is archived where, in relation to women’s football. We are also engaging the LGBTI communities and a number of equality and diversity groups in and around football.
A second major piece of the work is to host what we hope will be the largest international conference on women’s football on International Women’s Day 8/9 March 2018. We are hoping to bring over speakers from the US, Canada, Europe, and Brazil, as well as a wide range of UK speakers. A call for contributors will go out so if you wish to provide a blog post or contribute, look out for this later in November.
We will also research and prepare content for an extension of the Museum’s permanent gallery to include women’s football based on the Chris Ungar collection. Jean has curated and written exhibitions before. In 2016, she helped the museum to obtain funding for Memories of 1966, and in 2014 Jean co-curated The Road to Rio: History of the World Cup in 24 Objects.
Finally, we will explore the possibilities and funding opportunities for a publication. Jean has won several previous bids and written about women’s football in 60 countries, publishing 3 monographs and several articles on the topic. She has also worked extensively on object-based research with archivists across a range of collections including the Fashion and Textile Institute, New York and the National Sporting Library, Middleburg.
The Sporting Season and An Important Sense of Place Part 3: The ‘Profumo Pool’ at Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire
Cliveden House is currently a National Trust-owned property, leased as a hotel and spa. The main house is an Italianate mansion and with an estate of 375 acres of gardens and woodland in Buckinghamshire, on the border with Berkshire. Close to the village of Taplow, near to the Thameside town of Maidenhead, Cliveden’s grounds slope down to the river and the current Grade 1 Listed property is the third house built on the site, completed in 1851 by the architect Charles Barry for George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, the Second Duke of Sutherland. Although linked with the social elite, particularly when owned by the Astor family, Cliveden is open to the public through the National Trust scheme there and the grounds are much used by a wide range of people in the Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Nancy Astor and ‘The Cliveden Set’ in the twentieth century
Although Cliveden had a long and distinguished history dating back to the seventeenth century, its reputation was cemented as a place for glamorous leisure when the American millionaire hotel owner William Waldorf Astor purchased the estate for $1.25 million in 1893. Astor’s first wife Marnie died at the age of just 36 one year later, and William focused much time on the house, redeveloping it and adding key features such as the mid eighteenth century wall panels in the French Dining Room from Chateaux d'Asnieres near Paris and the Fountain of Love Fountain carved by Thomas Waldo Story in marble and volcanic rock.
Although Nancy Langorne had been previously married to socialite Robert Gould Shaw, she divorced and moved to England in 1905 with her son, and became a celebrity almost overnight for her beauty and wit. Within a year Nancy had married Waldorf, son of William Waldorf Astor, who gifted the Cliveden estate to the young couple. By becoming a prominent hostess to the British elite, Nancy became one of the most famous women in the world while in her mid twenties. For instance, Nancy received an elaborate Cartier tiara as a wedding present containing the legendary Sancy diamond weighing 55 carats, which had previously been used in the coronation of Louis XV and Louis XVI, and is now kept in the Louvre in Paris.
A supporter of women’s rights, Nancy also encouraged her husband to become involved in politics. In 1910, Waldorf was elected as a member of parliament for Plymouth, later reconfigured as Plymouth Sutton, until 1919. That year, Waldorf’s father died and he inherited the title of Viscount Astor, therefore he succeeded to the House of Lords. This also made Nancy ‘Viscountess Astor’ and she stood as a Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton, and won. She became the first woman to ever sit in the House of Commons on 1 December 1919 and defended it until 1945.
Being wealthy, well connected and outspoken made Nancy Astor a controversial figure, although the couple fought for several causes in which they believed, including appeasement as a way of avoiding war in 1939. Public service also included turning Cliveden into a hospital during the First World War. When peace broke out again, President Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin and George Bernard Shaw were among the high profile guests that made Cliveden so famous as a leisure destination for the elite. There is a legend that Winston Churchill and Nancy did not get along, with the supposed aphorism that she told him: ‘If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea’ to which he replied, ‘Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it.’ Either way, this reflects the tone of the times.
On the death of Waldorf Astor in 1952, his eldest son William, or Bill, became the 3rd Viscount Astor and he was to install the outdoor swimming pool that would spark one of the biggest political scandals in recent British political history. Nancy would become increasingly reclusive in her later years and died in Lincolnshire in 1964, by which time the Cliveden swimming pool would become famous world-wide.
The Profumo Pool
During the summer of 1961, scandal enveloped Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Conservative Government. John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, was the guest of Bill Astor at Cliveden and had a brief relationship with an aspiring model, Christine Keeler who was also involved with the Soviet naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov, allegedly a Russian Spy. Keeler was staying at the Cliveden cottage with ‘society osteopath' Stephen Ward, who had friendships with all concerned, and she had gone to the swimming pool to a party, where Profumo was entranced.
Ward was bought to trial on exaggerated allegations of living on immoral earnings, including those of Keeler who was obliged to appear as a witness. Ward would commit suicide before he was convicted of the guilty verdict and his was not the only casualty. In March 1963 Profumo stood before the House of Commons and denied improprieties with Keeler. It was also alleged that Bill Astor had an affair with Mandy Rice-Davies, a friend and flatmate of Christine Keeller. Rice-Davies became the star of the show when Lord Astor denied having slept with her, by responding ‘Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’. The response entered the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and has been repeated ever since. The case embarrassed the government and generally discredited those involved, all but for Rice-Davies who maintained a high profile and wealthy lifestyle of which Nancy Astor might have approved.
Cliveden House, now has a twenty first century spa alongside one of the most historic grade II listed swimming pools in Britain. The Profumo affair was really about old and new attitudes to sexual freedom as the Sixties began to swing. But the legacy and heritage of the scandal have been mixed and contested. No security risk was ever proven but Profumo had lied and had to resign.
Interestingly, Lord Denning’s report into the Profumo affair in 1963 revealed publicly for the first time details of the British Secret Service's role and increased interest in espionage at the height of the Cold War. The iconic photograph of Christine Keller taken by Lewis Morley in 1963, posing naked and sitting on an iconic plywood chair, was intended to promote a film The Keeler Affair that was never made.
In a separate court case in 1963, Keeler admitted to perjury and was sent to prison for nine months. She has published several accounts of her life including most successfully Scandal in 1989. In the film Scandal, actress Joanne Whalley portrayed Keeler. Andrew Lloyd Webber produced a stage musical Stephen Ward the Musical in 2013, and there have been many other references in popular culture. Finally, John Profumo lived quietly after his resignation and dedicated himself to charity, having been able to live off inherited wealth. Unlike Keeler, who was not able to sustain a comfortable lifestyle subsequently, he was later considered redeemed and awarded a CBE in 1975 and received at Buckingham Palace.
As you will be aware from previous jjheritage blogs, this made the venue an iconic sporting landscape and one in which Jean just had to go and swim. Thankfully, no scandal whatsoever ensued and my dip a very respectable affair!
The Serpentine is a swimming, boating and leisure lake in Hyde Park, established by Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, in 1730. Strictly speaking the Western half is referred to as The Long Water and the Eastern half The Serpentine but often the lake is considered to be a single body of water, and better known by the latter name, which refers to its sinewy natural-looking lines. There may have been monastic ponds on the site beforehand. Originally the water for the artificial lake of The Serpentine was supplied from The River Westbourne and The Thames but, due to pollution, the water now comes from three boreholes within Hyde Park. People have used the lake for leisure and pleasure since its creation, and it has a varied clientele, combined with other park users. A plan to create a skating pond with formal edges was for example proposed in 1860 but was never implemented.
Swimming, the Lido and The Serpentine Club
Though swimming in open water has been a popular activity since The Serpentine was first created as a lake, a rectangular swimming area on the southern bank opened in 1930, and was known as Lansbury's Lido, after a prominent Labour politician who was First Commissioner of Works from 1929-1931. Lidos were opened as part of a wider movement to encourage healthful recreation, and the important skills of swimming and life saving amongst the wider population. The Lido is partitioned off from the rest of the lake by a perimeter of buoys and, my research (A Contemporary History of Women’s Sport) has established that when it opened on 16 June 1930 the first person to enter was twenty one year old Kathleen Murphy of Pinner who had arrived at the gate at 5 am and was rewarded for her enthusiasm by a medal by Alfred Rowley the Secretary of the Serpentine Swimming Club.
The opening of the Lido marked a vague for mixed bathing outdoors that swept across Britain and saw more Lidos constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. However, The Serpentine Swimming Club was amongst the oldest swimming clubs, dating back to 1864, though at least one other club, the London Swimming Club, was also formally sharing the swimming area on the lake's south side at the time. This open air swimming was not for the faint hearted, as the lake could ice over in December and January and the number of people drowning in the Victorian era was a major cause for concern, with The Royal Life Saving Society founded in 1891. The Club holds a race every Saturday throughout the year: from a 40 yards to a mile, all measured in in imperial lengths. Members can swim in the Serpentine any time between 6am and 9.30am, and many do this as before their working day.
The Serpentine and Literary History
As you will probably be aware, as well as being a keen swimmer and having completed The Great North Swim mile event in Lake Windermere a few years ago, Jean was also for many years a teacher of English. So as well as the special geographical place of The Serpentine in the history of sport and leisure, Jean has long been intrigued by the history of the lake because it has a unique place in literary history. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was not known to swim, but he was drawn to water. Notoriously, in December 1816, his pregnant wife Harriet Westbrook, was found drowned in the Serpentine having left a suicide note addressed to her father, sister and husband. Having already conducted a lengthy affair since 1814, Shelley married Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, less than two weeks later. The couple had already lost their own daughter and would lose two more before a surviving child and the success of Mary’s novel Frankenstein bought happier times. But Shelley would drown in 1822 in suspicious circumstances in a boating accident off Sardinia.
More happily, the public are aware of the Serpentine Club Christmas Day Race, which records date back at least to 1864. Since 1913 the Christmas Day race has been swum for the Peter Pan Cup, donated and sponsored by James Barrie author of Peter Pan. Living nearby, he often walked in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park and was inspired by the Serpentine swimmers. More directly, Indian author Vikram Seth became an active club member for several years as well as briefly using this experience in An Equal Music.
Jean Swims The Serpentine as a guest of The Serpentine Swimming Club 17 September 2017-water temperature 13 degrees!
So I have always wanted to swim The Serpentine Lido section, and joined as a day guest of a Serpentine Swimming Club member, called John. At a balmy thirteen degrees at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning the experience can perhaps best be described as bracing. The buoys are placed to mark out a rectangular area one hundred yards in length, though many of the club members swim beyond these to extend their workout. The single small, sparse changing room offered little comfort other than that others thought the experience worth the Spartan conditions. Although offered a regulation hat I declined as I often find that they give me a headache, but other guests are well advised to wear a bright cap for identification. Dodging the debris left by resident geese and ducks on the platform, a quick walk down the steps into the water and we were in! Other braver, and hardier souls dive into the lake, but entering the water head first can be shocking and so not for us. I swam with my friend Debbie who had not swum open water before and took to it like the proverbial duck to water. Or should I say dolphin because once acclimatized on the hundred yards out, her confidence and speed increased exponentially. Me? Well I had waited a long time to swim the Serpentine, and though my standard pool swim in a mile and a half front crawl, I choose to take my time and savour the experience. We are meeting again today, Saturday 30 September, #NSHD2017 to discuss our next open water swim to prepare for another Serpentine outing. Intrigued yourself? Why not take the plunge?
Introduction: Popular Music at the V&A
Pink Floyd Their Mortal Remains is the most recent V&A temporary exhibition to cover popular music, but it is a topic that one of the world’s leading museums of art and design has been covering in a serious manner for over a decade. In 2008, to celebrate 50 years of Motown, the V&A opened a temporary exhibition the Story of the Supremes, which displayed not only a sparkling array of dresses and costumes, from Mary Wilson's own collection, but also addressed issues of social history, civil rights and Black performance in theatre, music and dance.
Since then the V&A has added to its analysis of popular music, in 2013, with a touring exhibition David Bowie Is and more recently on the Rolling Stones.
Their Mortal Remains
How then can an exhibition bring something as immediate as music, and as personal as fandom, to a wide audience. What is in the exhibition for those who are not fans? In some senses the opening and introductory elements repeat cliché’s of the swinging sixties, when the band formed, as a vortex of swirling psychedelia. Historians now generally agree that the sixties did not swing for everyone in Britain, particularly those outside of the major urban cities, in the same way and relatively late, from 1968 onwards. So it is questionable if, for some people, the sixties swung at all. The figure of founding member Syd Barrett has a conflicted place in the band’s history because although regarded with huge affection, he struggled with the demands of fame and had a psychological collapse, largely attributed to drugs, and was removed from the band in 1968. However, he continued to be influential to many artists, and to condense this to some rather simplistic psychedelia seems disrespectful to his continuing career. Certainly, The Beatles had moved from their pop roots to something more experimental, and the Rolling Stones became more influenced by Rhythm and Blues, even Elvis Presley producing more progressive records like In the Ghetto and Suspicious Minds in 1969. So signaling a broad experimentation with music in the decade, red telephone boxes are filled with contextual material to suggest direct, and potential, influences.
After this, the exhibition improved as it sought to explain how progressive rock used non traditional technologies such as synthesisers, alongside drums, guitars and the more traditional instruments, along with recorded noises to create a new genre. Pink Floyd innovated new electronic technologies in its music, and also new touring technologies in which to reach the widest possible audience. For those who are fans of the band or the ‘prog. rock’ it perhaps addressed the myth that ‘middle-class noodling’ as the music has been called was exclusive in approach. Remaining band members Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard White and new recruit David Gilmore make the point that they negotiated lower Royalties for their albums, in exchange for more time in the studio, so the level of experimentation and the development of musical ideas was absolutely central to their ethos. Similarly, the album format, as opposed to the creation of singles for chart success, allowed the development of a concept, in which Storm Thorgerson’s cover designs were integral. From here, chronologically, the band then took on developing increasingly complex stadium architecture as a way of touring that concept to as wide an audience as possible.
There were many highlights of the exhibition for me, and I guess that you will have guessed that I am a fan of the band. Firstly, in the section on The Dark Side of the Moon, the track Money has a number of looped sounds such as a cash register being rung and the sounds of coins jingling together. Several individual mixing desks were available in front of which a video of the song was running in a screen and it was possible therefore to mix your own version of the various instrumentals and effects, such as reverb and echo. Secondly, the section on the history of Storm Thorgerson’s cover design ideas, and the role of the Hipgnosis company in conujuntion with photographer Aubrey Po Powell. In the days before computers and Photo-shopping, it was necessary to use other means to produce such iconic images: especially those that sought to depict the soul-less executives running record companies. ‘Sticking it to the Man’ has long been a theme of rock, progressive and otherwise. Wish You Were Here was the bands ninth studio album, released by Harvest in the UK and Columbia Records in the US. The US cover cannot fail to have spoken to those who ran the labels as it depicts two sales executives in a film studio shaking hands on a deal while one was on fire. ‘Getting burned’ by deals in the music business was a common turn of phrase. However, in order to get the shot the stuntman Ronnie Rondell had to be on fire during the handshake with his colleague Danny Rogers. Due to the length of the shoot, Rondell was set of fire fifteen times, before a gust of wind really gave the flames some height. Only due to the fire retardant suit he wore underneath, and his own expertise was he not badly hurt. Only an in depth exhibition could explore the evolution of these concepts in such depth.
Should I go?
The exhibition ends 1 October, and is currently free to Museum Association members and V&A members. On the day I went there were problems with the sound for about 30 minutes and so I was pleased that my entry was free. If I were in London I would make a second trip, to see things I maybe missed first time and to see if I could pick up those pieces of audio that I missed. So yes, on balance go. On the whole this was a bit static compared to the outstanding Bowie exhibition, and the historical context was not as good as the Story of the Supremes. Not did it have the sense of theatre that the 2015 fashion exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty had in the same space. Perhaps the layout mitigated against a more uplifting experience. But we each take something different from an exhibition so probably best to make up your own mind.
JJHeritage has been enjoying the traditional sporting season over the summer of 2017. In particular, we attended the Much Wenlock Olympiad to handed out some of the prizes at the closing events on 9 July and then the Silverstone Grand Prix on 16 July. Both Jean and Jo enjoy seeing sport take place within very different geographical contexts, having both run the London Marathon and Great North Run which effectively showcase the city in which they are respectively based. Theorists call the sense of place in sport, and particularly an affection for special locations topophilia. To like, or more strongly, to love a particular venue can often mean that families return to settings repeatedly as Joanna’s family did when she was young to see most of the season’s car races at Mallory Park in Leicestershire. Or it might be that the quirky, or unusual aspects of a particular spot resonate, such as the old East Stand at Filbert Street when it was the Leicester City Football Club ground before relocation to the King Power. Although it was known affectionately by fans as ‘The Cowshed’ because it was cold, had a corrugated tin roof and open to the elements, Jean preferred to watch Leicester City matches from the East stand because it was almost at pitch height, giving a real sense of speed when wingers were in full flight. Some fans choose to have their ashes scattered at a particular site, so we can see that topophilia is a serious, and enduring aspect of enjoying sport.
Much Wenlock and the Olympiad
Much Wenlock is proud of its history, including the creation of the Wenlock Olympiad in the middle of the nineteenth century largely because it supports other aspects of civic identity. Located in Shropshire, England, and situated on the A458 road between Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth, nearby is the Ironbridge Gorge, and the new town of Telford. So just as the Industrial Revolution created wealth and upward mobility for the broader region, thanks to commercial deposits of coal, iron ore, limestone and fireclay. This prosperity it today symbolised by the Iron Gorge, spanned by the first iron bridge of this kind in the world. The bridge was built in 1779 to link the industrial town of Broseley with the smaller mining town of Madeley and the growing industrial centre of Coalbrookdale. Just as ‘firsts’ and a history of self improvement and innovation are important to the region, the story of Much Wenlock Olympiad Games fits with these values.
The Wenlock Olympian Games was set up by Dr William Penny Brookes and his Wenlock Olympian Society (WOS) in 1850. In 1861 Penny Brookes initiated the Shropshire Games and in 1866, was part of a wider network who tried to establish the National Olympian Games. At the Raven Hotel diner to celebrate the 1890 Wenlock Olympian Games Baron Pierre de Coubertin was the guest of honour. Coubertin went on to inaugurate the International Olympic Committee at the Sorbonne in 1894. The Wenlock Olympian Games, a nine-day event staged on eight sites across Shropshire, are still held annually during July, and many events on the final day are held at the secondary school named after Dr Brookes. Jo and Jean saw the final of the Triathlon, the road race and several athletic contests.
What really stood out in terms of an affection for place was how many of the townspeople had volunteered their time to support the games. There was a real buzz of tourism prompted by an Open Gardens scheme the same afternoon, so, as well as sport visitors were encouraged to navigate the town and its picturesque history. A real treat on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon.
Silverstone is often called the ‘home’ of British motor sport, but in fact its contribution as a circuit has only really been significant since 1945 and older sites such as Brooklands were more important before World War Two. However, Silverstone has a much longer set of historical references identified by the circuit itself. For instance, in the early 18th Century, Stowe Woods were incorporated into a landscape design which integrated woodlands, ridings, and a carriage drive. Stowe Woods and Ridings demonstrated the transition between the formal gardens and the landscape style, which was pioneered by Charles Bridgeman as British forest gardening.
Earlier still, a Benedictine Priory at Luffield had only three inmates left by 1493. With the dissolution of the monasteries, the land passed into private ownership from which now only a fishpond remains, though the stones from the ruin are thought to have been incorporated into Luffield Abbey Farm, mamanged by tenant farmer until World War Two. After World War Two when the airfield was closed, like many disused airfields, racing began informally before becoming a proper circuit in 1948. The Farm House remains an important base for the British Racing Driver’s Club, (BRDC) formed in 1928.
In 1950 the World Drivers’ Championship was created and the inaugural event was held at Silverstone. Since then, the circuit has played host to the British Grand Prix a record number of 72 times. The British and Italian Grands Prix are the oldest continuously staged Formula One World Championship races in the world. Silverstone is of international and national significance, a venue where numerous British motoring champions have emerged and motorsport engineering practices have been established. For instance, the career of Jim Clark was celebrated in 2017. Seven out of the ten F1 teams currently have a base in the ‘motor sport corridor’ between Silverstone and Brooklands circuit and the industry is worth millions of pounds to the British economy. With crowds of up to 350,000 over the Grand Prix weekend, this remains one of the largest annual sporting events in Britain. Though the weather cannot always be guaranteed, this was another exciting event with Lewis Hamilton equalling Clark’s record of four consecutive wins, and five wins overall in 2017. There are a lot of volunteer Marshalls and games-makers that also make such a large event possible, as well as the more high profile guests.
So, what is the site of sport that holds a special place for you, and why?
Monday July 11th 1966
The eighth World Football Championship was opened by Her Majesty the Queen at the Empire Stadium, Wembley. The Queen, who was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, welcomed the many thousands of visitors from overseas to England. Immediately preceding the Opening Ceremony, some 350 London Schoolboys dressed in the National colours of the competing Associations paraded around the arena and formed ranks in the centre of the playing area. (The Football Association ‘World Cup Diary’ FA News: The Official Journal of the Football Association Volume 16 1966-67 Number 1 August 1966 to Number 12 July 1967 London: The Football Association 1967 p.9)
Jean’s most recently completed chapter provides the first general historical overview of all of the World Cup posters for the adult male competition to date from 1930 to 2014. Formed in 1904, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world governing body of soccer, agreed to recognise the Olympic tournament as a world football championship for amateurs following the very well attended matches in Stockholm in 1912. The Olympic Games are a multi-sport, mixed gender tournament held in a single venue. A World Cup is a single sport, gender specific event held across cities, and, more recently by more than one nation. The visual lexicon of World Cups therefore diverge from Olympic history, with strong elements of civic self-identification for the host cities, as they simultaneously present themselves to an international audience, and to local or regional consumers. This combined design history and ritualistic display, blending sport, politics, industrial graphics, cultural geography and national representation. But there are also strong and relatively under explored links with fine art, and high culture.
The first FIFA World Cup was hosted by Uruguay in 1930, and was won by the host nation. This invented a tradition whereby home advantage seemed to be conferred by hosting the championship, but this was by no means a guarantee of success. There were seven South American and two North American representatives, while only four of the thirteen teams were European (Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia). Uruguay’s victory coincided with celebrations of the centenary of the first Uruguayan constitution and ten key games took place at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, built specifically for the purpose. Local artist Guillermo Laborde designed an oil painting of a goalkeeper rising to tip the ball over the crossbar and, in so doing, set a tradition of winning a public competition to have his design reproduced as a World Cup poster. The original painting became a national treasure and an original in the Uruguay Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales (national art museum) has been restored and conserved recently.
Jean’s chapter argues that the posters give an insight into the growth of intercontinental World Cup competitions, and a are neglected aspect of the academic literature. Firstly, the process of hosting a World Cup was partly reflected in the design of the poster, and specific temporal concerns often influenced both the style and topical motifs used in any specific edition. Secondly, the idea of a football world championship fed into wider concerns about a particular nation’s place in the global economic, political and social order. Consequently, the posters reflected the hosts self-image, to both domestic and international audiences. World Cup posters, like Olympic artworks, and their antecedents (including cheap paper bills circulated by hand), acted as both public service announcements and metaphors for spectacle.
However, the chapter primarily concerns the innovations created during the England World Cup of 1966. The tournament heralded an unprecedented level of commercial exploitation exemplified by the first World Cup mascot; a cartoon lion called World Cup Willie who wore a union jack waistcoat, and walked with a comical swagger. When England won as hosts in 1966, it was the third time that this had been achieved in World Cup history; first by Uruguay in 1930 and secondly by Italy in 1934. Unlike both Uruguay and Italy, this has been the only time that England has won the tournament.
World Cup Willie was symbolic of the new era of sport merchandising. We now take sporting mascots so much for granted that it is difficult to think of this as a relatively recent innovation in modern sport. As David Gill has shown, British military regiments and US sports teams had used live animals as adopted mascots since the nineteenth century, but with the innovation of Walt Disney and Warner Brothers of merchandising their cartoon character mascots, in the 1930s, a new marketing trend translated from the entertainment industries to sport. 1
The promoter of World Cup Willie was Walter Tuckwell and Associates Limited, was at the forefront of the new character merchandising industry with licensed products including James Bond, Noddy, Dr Who and other BBC series. Mascots spread across major tournaments and in professional clubs, becoming a standard means of merchandising and promoting related memorabilia. Licensing a cartoon character also unfixed World Cup Willie from the football tournament of 1966 itself and made him available to a range of consumers who may have had little or no interest in sport.
Because World Cup Willie was a visual representation, visitors who could not speak English were able to see his likeness on temporary signs used by London Transport to get visitors to Wembley and White City stadiums during the tournament, and provided a simple way of highlighting relevant information. 2
As interest in the event burgeoned in 1966, so did the professionalization of graphic design. Historians have largely neglected the confluence of these aspects of football’s history, and particularly the visual aesthetic of world sport. The big research question of the chapter is: How have the design features of graphic representation shaped the identity of the World Cup over time?
1 David Gill ‘Sports Mascots: An Analysis of the Factual and Legal History of Character Mascots’ Trademark World 218 pp. 36-9 www.ipworld.com accessed 2 June 2017.
2 H. K Nolan ‘Temporary direction signs for the 1966 football World Cup finals, photographed at Baker Street Underground station' 15 July 1966 Image no: 5276/R/ London Transport Museum http://www.ltmcollection.org/photos/ accessed 2 June 2017.
Introduction: Much Wenlock and Olympic History
Much Wenlock is one of the oldest settlements in Shropshire and William Penny Brookes gave the town the distinction of links with the modern Olympic movement. However, Brookes began his work, not with sport, but with literacy when he set up the Agricultural Reading Society in 1841. Brookes was born in 1809 in the house where he lived, and later died in 1895, the subject of a blue plaque in the town today.
Brookes trained as a doctor, like his father and two brothers but he also had many other interests from international botany, to local projects like the establishment of the Wenlock Gas Company, and more importantly the Wenlock and Severn Railway Company, which also built the local railway station in 1864. After studying at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and qualifying in medicine and surgery, Brookes furthered his education in Padua, Italy and Paris, France before the death of his father in 1830 required him to return home and take over the family practice.
So the Agricultural Reading Society was more like an early lending library, part of Brookes’ wider commitment to the welfare of all classes. After many donations of books and other cultural objects, the classes diversified to botany, art and music. A separate Wenlock Olympian class was established in 1850 to hold an annual Games:
‘To promote the moral physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town of Wenlock, and especially the working classes, by the encouragement of out-door recreation and by the award of prizes annually at public meetings for skill in athletic exercises, and proficiency in intellectual and industrial attainments.’
We can see the idea of a healthy body and a healthy mind linked by Brookes’ philosophy. Although pre-dated by earlier examples of Ho-lympic, Olimpick, and Olympian Games in Britain, Penny Brookes inaugurated his Wenlock Olympian class at an important time in the development of modern sport, as increased codification of rules standardized different codes with their own bureaucracy, and regimes.
The Wider Impact of the Wenlock Olympian Games