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:
Led by our new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer (Dr Juliette Taylor-Batty), the Executive Committee of the British Association of Modernist Studies have published a statement on recent events. Over the past month I have been challenged to listen more and speak less. But I also recognise the need to speak. So I am very glad to promote this statement and stand by its contents.
...if you have ever mulled over this question, then panic not, friends! I have a new chapter for that. I am pleased to say that my chapter on Drama in the 1930s has just been published in the new The Cambridge Companion to British Literature of the 1930s. I am delighted to see this in print, alongside chapters from a whole host of illustrious modernists. Rather brilliantly, my chapter is one of those available open-access on Google Books. Do let me know if it inspires any questions or thoughts.
Here is the abstract so you can decide if it worth your reading time:
In 1938, Stephen Spender imagined a ‘revolution in the ideas of drama’, a theatre that could both deal with the complex socio-politics of the decade and take on new aesthetic challenges. The trouble, of course, was what this drama might look like in practice. In fact, in addressing the multifarious artistic and political disputes of this period, drama in the 1930s resists easy critical definition, residing in a liminal sense betwixt and between positions, terminology, and aesthetics. It can be read as highbrow, lowbrow, or middlebrow, with many individual examples flitting between these permeable categories.
I am very glad to say that the second episode of The Grappling Arts is now out. This is Wrestling Resurgence's new podcast in which Sam and I chat with some of the leading wrestlers on the independent British scene about their practice, style and storytelling process. This week we sat down with two of the best - Kanji and Charli Evans - whose Ironwoman match from August last year is still my favourite ever Resurgence match (and the competition for the coveted position is fierce indeed). You can download it from the podcast site of your choice. Here is the YouTube premiere if you fancy accessing it that way. Don't forget to review/star/give it the thumbs up/subscribe/however else you express a positive opinion on the platform of your choice.
As the world, and the US in particular, struggles with its racial history and as folks protest, here is the fantastic The OJMO sharing some thoughts. If you would like to see one of the best wrestling shows (period) I have ever seen then you can watch Roy Johnson/Wrestling Resurgence's 'Everything Patterned' show. All proceeds from the Video on Demand and the 'zine will be donated.
With everything "going on" right now, you might need a little bit of new wrestling scholarship. If so then I got you covered. My new article 'Queer Music-Hall Sport: All-In Wrestling and Modernist Fakery' has just been published my Modernism/modernity. I am still quite amazed that this great journal agreed to publish this article at all! It is the first time I have tried to uncover resonances between the disparate bits of my research. At first it didn't seem that wrestling and modernism had that much to say to each other. Hopefully this article begins to prove this assumption incorrect. It connects the 1930s' history of British professional wrestling to broader modernist concerns about fakery, pretence and lies. There are some fun stories in there, as well as some theoretical stuff, and, best of all, I managed to sneak mentions of Jerry 'The King' Lawler v Andy Kaufmann (1982) and the Parents' Television Council's law 2001 lawsuit against the WWE into the footnotes of the world's leading modernist journal!
Currently you can access the article for free through the journal's own website here. But if a paywall ever reappears then you can find a green-access version at Loughborough University's repository here. The article is published with huge thanks to everyone at Modernism/modernity, Andy Frayn (who managed to solve my framing problem for me), Ben Litherland (who kindly read the article and offered lots of helpful suggestions) and everyone at Wrestling Resurgence for inspiring me to write it in the first place.
COVID-19 has rather scuppered the world of British professional wrestling over the past few months. With shows cancelled and the prospect of socially-distanced wrestling a tricky concept to conceive, Wrestling Resurgence, like every other company, is taking an enforced holiday. However, there are very few things the Wrestling Resurgence team enjoys more than talking about wrestling. This is where the new podcast comes in. 'The Grappling Arts' is Resurgence's very own podcast. It takes a slightly different tack from most other wrestling podcasts, asking guests to reflect on their own sport-art practice by picking matches that have influenced them alongside some of their favourite feuds from their own careers. Resurgence producer Sam West heads up the podcast and I offer a few thoughts along the way.
Our first episode is now out. Sam and I sit down with 'Flying' Mike Bird, one of British wrestling's most respected wrestler-trainers. We had a great (and long!) chat about Bret Hart, the point of chops and the beauty of student v teacher matches (and a lot, lot more). Sam and I will be producing episodes fairly regularly so do subscribe if this is your sort of thing. You can find it here though iTunes.