Wow, it has been a crazy busy semester so far. There are just so many areas demanding my attention (similar to everyone, I imagine!). But, in the off times, Sam and I have recorded a couple more editions of The Grappling Arts which you can find here. We are really delighted by this podcast and the way it has come together: we have had so many lovely comments about it. Do check it out if you haven't already.
With all the busyness of the start of term, I missed a significant announcement: episode 3 of The Grappling Arts podcast is now available! We had a tremendous time talking to Jetta and Erin Angel, two fantastic veterans of the British wrestling scene. Do check it out if you fancy learning more about women's wrestling, comedy and wrestling, or the difference between coming up via the camps and learning your craft at a wrestling school. These two amazing athlete-artists were so generous in their conversation. Sam and I are delighted to share it with you. Here is a link.
And, while I am here, if you want to know a little more about our new Health and Wellbeing in Professional Wrestling project then Loughborough University put out a press release (thanks to our PR guru Pete for putting this together for us!).
Last November a group of twelve medics/academics/wrestlers met for lunch at the Elite Athlete Centre at Loughborough University. The aim was to have a day-long conversation about some of the main challenges and opportunities for wrestler health and wellbeing. We discussed a range of topics, from the strains placed on mental health to concussion protocol (or lack thereof). It was a fascinating conversation and we left feeling that a larger project that really dug into these issues would be not just interesting but vital. Since then we have committed to applying for external grants to fund this work. And, this week, I can make the happy announcement that the team (that is me, Prof Mark King, Dr Anthony Papathomas, Dr Dominic Malcolm and Sam West) has secured a British Academy Small Grant. We are, as you might imagine, delighted with this outcome, especially in such a competitive funding landscape. For the British Academy to be forward-thinking enough to see this project as worthy of its money is a big deal. So, watch this space (and, in the long run, hopefully, actual physical spaces) for more as 2020 moves into 2021.
A few weeks ago (actually before the revelations of the #SpeakingOut movement) I had the pleasure of chatting to Dr Andy Kesson, the host of the 'A Bit Lit' YouTube channel about all sorts of interesting things. I am still thinking about our conversation, particularly, the way that my work combines thinking and doing, and the way wrestling compels us to think in a different way about touch (a vital inquiry in our COVID-19 world when we literally cannot touch). I talk a bit about how we can move from snarky, standoffish wrestling research to something more holistic, engaged and risky. We touch on the relationship between the live and the mediated, and arguments about class, taste and violence. And we, of course, talk about Trump and the way we can read his rise to power through the excessive theatricality of wrestling.
It was joyful to speak to Andy. This film is part of a week of wrestling-related scholarship and practice on 'A Bit Lit'. These films (and indeed all the films this project has produced during lockdown) are really awesome and I would thoroughly recommend them.
If you enjoyed part one of my interview with Steelchair Magazine then here is part two in which I talk about Ironwomen, Summerslam and silence (and Humza briefly connects my name with JR's: career highlight there!). If there is anything in either part of this interview which takes your fancy or you would like to discuss, then I am always glad to hear from folks. Thanks again to Humza and Steelchair for having me, and taking the time to listen to all the stuff I have in my head! Here is the link.
I’ve experienced standing ovations before, and some worthy standing ovations, but I’ve never experienced, ever, where everyone just stood up as one body to celebrate this moment that they had been a part of. It was just beautiful (on Kanji v Charli Evans Ironwoman Match).
A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of chatting to Humza Hussain about wrestling, scholarship and Resurgence. He has done a magnificent job of capturing our conversation! Part One is now published and, in it, we talk about risks, Butlins, contact improvisation, and a good lot more besides. Do check it out here.
I’ve always imagined the real bodies behind the artwork. I’ve always imagined the way that people perform in everyday life, so I guess I look at the world in a theatrical way is how I would put it.
Back in 2012 I was enjoying (my one and only) sabbatical, and living in a rambling old (probably haunted!) house in the Lincolnshire countryside. I came across two guys - John and Wai - in Toronto who made a wrestling podcast. I listened each week, trying to get up to speed with this new art form that I was now studying. Fast forward eight years and I had the privilege of being on their podcast POST Wrestling with Sam West (Wrestling Resurgence producer) to talk about the project, the future (or otherwise) of British Wresting, and the brave voices of the #SpeakingOut movement. Check out the interview with Martin Bushby here.
In 2017, a wee group of artists, curators and academics decided it might be fun to run a wrestling show. The wonderful Being Human Humanities Festival thought this was a terrific idea and stumped up some cash to support us. It was a sell-out event and started Wrestling Resurgence's journey. Participating in this festival entirely changed my approach and feelings towards public engagement. It was a turning point in my academic career. Here are my reflections on it, written back in 2018.
Being Human has produced this rather lovely film. In it I say something profound(!) about why culture is a vital aspect of our intrinsic humanity. There is also a bit of wrestling. I am really proud to be part of Being Human's history and remain rather humbled by the warmth, support and encouragement of the fantastic Being Human team.
Last Saturday, Sam West (Wrestling Resurgence producer and Loughborough University PhD student) and I led an event as part of Loughborough University Arts Week. This time last year we were hosting a sell-out Resurgence show, 'Angry Dancing', as part of this Week. Obviously there is no live wrestling this year. Instead, Sam and I chatted about the Ironwoman match between Charli Evans and Kanji last year. After a week that rocked British wrestling, talking about two talented women wrestlers who put on one of the best wrestling matches I have ever seen really felt quite cathartic and joyous. Sam and I discussed wrestling scholarship and storytelling, then showed the match, and then answered a bunch of questions. If you'd like to watch this match, and the two lead up matches between Charli and Kanji, then you can find them here on Resurgence's YouTube page, along with The Grappling Arts podcast Sam and I recorded with these two amazing performers a couple of weeks ago. The whole night was a reminder of how wonderful British wrestling can be.
"Fight Forever" Kanji and Charli!
Over the past 24 hours, British Wrestling has witnessed some serious allegations. I have always celebrated wrestling's collegial embodied practices, its diversity, its promotion of health and fitness, the laughter, the joy of cheering and booing. Despite this, I recognise it has, historically, had a seriously dark underside of misogyny, violence and bullying. My sincere, and perhaps naive, hope was that this darkness had been eradicated. Clearly, not yet...
Wrestling Resurgence puts out and stands by the following statement: