What it means to make a show about the LGBTQIA+ community and football

Football can be about friendships, love, connection. PITCH is a show all about that.

What it means to make a show about the LGBTQIA+ community and football
Credit: David Monteith Hodge

Football isn't about the kick of a ball, but a feeling it creates. Just like theatre, really.

For me, theatre's not about lighting or the script or the stage, it's about the sense that what you're seeing is being made in front of your eyes, and it won't be made in quite the same way ever again.

But it feels, at least to me, like the worlds of theatre and football are quite far removed from each other. What Ellie and Nell – who are behind the new show PITCH – have done is merge those two worlds. Here, they describe what making the show means to them. Enjoy.


By Ellie Roser and Nell Bailey

For the past two years we, Nell and Ellie – two queer theatre makers who make work across London and the South West – have been developing a show about football.

The show, PITCH, is about to head on a short UK wide tour and as we prepare to share it with hundreds of new people across the country, we’ve been reflecting on what it means to make queer work, grow friendships and find community where you least expected it.

Imagine. It’s 2022. Summer. The 1st of August.

Sweet Caroline still paused halfway on Spotify, red and white cowboy hats on the backs of chairs, camera roll full of pints at Wembley Boxpark, queer families, queer friends waking up with sore heads, sore hands, sore voices.

That summer we were working together on a project that was due to go up to the Edinburgh Fringe, a queer show, which although completely unrelated to football, was fed on a diet of post-rehearsal matchday pints. We found energy in the Lionesses’ journey to victory and nights out in East London’s queer spaces – new mates we’d made on the dance floor wearing shorts and footie shirts four sizes too big.

401 miles north of Wembley, it’s 7 o'clock in the morning, Edinburgh. First day of the Fringe. We had a show to open. The Lionesses had won the final the night before, but none of us knew the score yet. We’d made a pact, no football until we’d finished our technical rehearsals. One of us had 64 unread WhatsApp messages. It was a nightmare.

We watched the final the morning after because it didn’t come onto iPlayer until then. People were walking to work as we watched Chloe Kelly score that final goal. A group of queer colleagues, shouting at the top of our voices on a bridge in the middle of a sleepy city – a footie match, watched on a smashed phone screen on the way to work. It’s this moment we always talk about when we’re asked what sparked PITCH.

PITCH is a show about football and the queer community. It was made from interviews and informal chats that we had with hundreds of football fans, players and teams across the UK between the end of 2022 and the spring of 2023. We spoke to LGBTQIA+ people who work professionally in sport, we met queer fans, campaigners, journalists and we reached out to people from grassroots spaces, inviting them to chat to us after a Sunday kickabout in the pub.

We joined a team, we played, we even went to our first game together and watched Arsenal Women at the Emirates. Nell had never been to a football stadium before, she loved it so much she cried.

We’ve known each other for about 10 years, having both grown up in Bristol with mutual school mates, but we only got to know each other properly as adults, becoming colleagues, bonding over work and our shared queerness, and then... football? If you told us when we were teenagers that footie was the thing that would really cement the friendship between us we’d probably both laugh – but in actuality that’s what PITCH is completely about.

During our show interviews, we expected to encounter lots of negativity, stories centered in hurt and hatred, the sort of stuff you see in statistics and headlines. Exclusion of queer, trans and other marginalised identities is huge and persistent problem across all kinds of football spaces and everyone we spoke to was extremely honest and generous with incredibly personal stories.

But despite these important realities, we did actually find that the most common thing shared was a feeling of community, and in turn, joy.

From nurturing queer friendships, to finding love at a match, to kicking a ball for the first time in 10 years and feeling good again. This is what we want to bring to our audiences in Manchester, London and Bristol.

We have been extremely lucky to bring together a phenomenal group of artists to perform and make PITCH, all of whom are queer and have varying relationships to the beautiful game. The show tells a story of a fictional team, but features the real voices of queer fans and players, telling their stories with us and with you too.

This is a show by the queer community, for the queer community and anyone who loves footie and wants to know more about how to make your spaces more open. It’s also got Gary Lineker, neon-pink socks and a fish and chip community cup. What more could you want?

You can see PITCH at the National Football Museum in Manchester, The Pleasance in London, and The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol in May and June this year. Find out more about the show and book tickets on the November Theatre website here.

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