Fringe drama recalling rise and fall of women's football to be staged at Tynecastle

The home of Heart of Midlothian is to be turned into a Fringe venue for a show recalling the rise of women’s football during the First World War and how it became so popular it was banned.

The club has agreed to play host to a new production, planned to run throughout the festival, which will relive the experiences of the female factory workers who formed teams.

The cast of Sweet F.A. – one of the first shows to be confirmed for this year’s Fringe – will use the real-life story of a women’s team from the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh to tell how Britain’s female footballers had to fight for their right to play the beautiful game.

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Despite some matches attracting crowds of more than 50,000, the game’s rulers would eventually impose a nationwide ban on women playing football 1921, declaring that the sport was "quite unsuitable for females."

Tynecastle Park, which will host the production in its main stand, has been confirmed as a Fringe venue for this year days after it emerged that a show would be staged at Silverknowes Beach.

The action in the show, which will have an eight-strong all-women cast, will unfold in the concourses and in the main stand, overlooking the pitch at Tynecastle.

Bruce Strachan, director of Sweet F.A., which has been written by Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow, said: “We’re thrilled to be returning to Tynecastle Park with a brand new production, telling this timely tale of the rise of

women’s football during the First World War.

Sweet F.A. will be staged at Tynecastle Park in August.
Sweet F.A. will be staged at Tynecastle Park in August.

"After an uncertain, disrupted time it feels more vital than ever to bring people together to tell stories. We’re grateful to Hearts for allowing us to take advantage of the outdoor, covered facilities in the main stand at Tynecastle, and we immensely look forward to meeting audiences again,

telling this important story about women’s football – including its historical connection to the ground.”

Lianne Parry, head of heritage at the club, said: “The resurgence of women’s football in the early 20th century, to huge popularity, and the subsequent barriers and bans by authorities had a huge and lasting impact.

"Sweet F.A. manages to brilliantly capture the spirit of those war years and deliver a little bit of history with some real laugh out loud moments, something I think we’re all in

Elspeth Turner will be one of the stars of the Fringe show Sweet F.A. Picture: Stephen Wilson Dunn

need of just now.”

Fringe venues have started to unveil their plans for this year’s festival, which is expected to be significantly scaled back from the 2019 event, which featured more than 3800 different shows in 323 venues.

Summerhall, one of the first venues to unveil a programme for this year, will be creating a new covered “secret courtyard” to accommodate more outdoor shows, including a series of live music gigs.

Meursault, Sacred Paws, James Yorkston, Siobhan Wilson, Withered Hand, Carla J. Easton, Stanley Odd, Andrew Wasylyk and Hamish Hawk are among the musical acts confirmed today.

Summerhall will a new 'secret courtyard' for outdoor shows at this year's Fringe. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Other highlights of the Summerhall programme includes Mamoru Iriguchi’s Sex Education Xplorers (S.E.X.) - a look at sex education and its many failings, and new shows from pianist Will Pickvance and comics John Hegley and Trevor Lock.

Summerhall general manager Rowan Campbell said: “After such a long time without live theatre and music at Summerhall, we are over the moon to be hosting such a strong programme that both puts Scottish artists centre stage and maintains our connections with artists and audiences across the world.

“We’ll be welcoming newcomers and old favourites alike in a programme with that classic Summerhall mix of groundbreaking, quirky, crowd pleasing and radical work.

“We can’t wait to share this first step back into the joy of Fringe with Summerhall audiences.”

The Traverse Theatre’s line-up includes the world premiere of Still, a new play by writer Frances Poet which is billed as “celebration of Edinburgh, the souls who reside there, and the community they have created.” Michael John O’Neill’s This is Paradise, a "timely and powerful monologue about the fragility of peace” set at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast in 1998.

Long-time venue operators Space – where the hit West End musical Six emerged from - say they will be operating four venues, including a new open-air theatre with an all-weather covering, in Hill Square.

A spokesman said: “Working closely with the Scottish Government, the council and the Fringe Society, we will be hosting a spectacular programme of live work, including theatre, comedy, musicals, cabaret and family friendly entertainment.”

Meanwhile organisers of the Fringe by the Sea festival, which will be staged in North Berwick in August, have unveiled new additions to its line-up, including soul singer Mica Paris, Scottish teenage sensation, Connor Fyfe, poet Liz Lochhead and folk favourites Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham.

Writer Irvine Welsh, singing legend Lulu, broadcaster Gail Porter, comics Janey Godley, Phil Kay, Ed Byrne and Reginald D Hunter, and dance music favourites Basement Jaxx have already confirmed their appearances.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has confirmed the line-up of movies for a weekend of waterside outdoor screenings at Port Edgar, in South Queensferry.

Moana, The Water Horse, Jaws and Whisky Galore will be screened on Saturday 31 July, while Brave, The Illusionist Whale Rider and Titanic will be shown the following day.

Up to 260 film fans will be able to attend the free screenings, which must be booked in advance and will run from 10am till 10pm each day of “Film Fest on the Forth.”

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