Next February, ENG-ER-LAND, an exhilarating and vital new play exploring the connection between football and national identity written and performed by Hannah Kumari, directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair MBE, will tour the country to over 15 venues from 16 February to 2 April 2022.
ENG-ER-LAND blends storytelling, dance and music with 90s nostalgia and tackle’s themes of racism, identity politics, lad culture & working-class masculinity. Hannah’s very personal story follows her own experience of racism as a football fan and her struggles to be accepted into a historically white, male, working class world.
The National Tour kicks off in the City of Culture in Coventry’s Warwick Arts Centre and will be staged in a variety of theatres and in unconventional spaces with the aim of reaching as many communities and football fans as possible. The mix of venues also includes Slung Low’s Holbeck in Leeds, which also has its own football club Holbeck Moor FC, Frome Town FC, the National Football Museum in Manchester, Lighthouse in Poole, Plymouth’s Barbican, Exeter’s Phoenix and The Wardrobe in Bristol.
Hannah says: “I wrote ENG-ER-LAND in June 2020 in the wake of the BLM protests and seeing supposed football fans acting in a very aggressive and anti-social way. It made me sad and angry that we are still in this position, and I felt compelled to reflect on my own experiences at football matches as a mixed raced teenager growing up in the 90s, and now as a woman.”
Hannah adds: “The play is also an exploration of my mixed-race identity, and the idea of Englishness – what does it mean to be English and who gets to define that? I wanted to write a play that was fun and uplifting, whilst also confronting big issues.”
This timely tour, supported by The Football Supporter’s Association (The FSA), follows in the wake of shocking increases in the levels of race hate and homophobic abuse, around football matches and across social media – in spite of the season being put on hold for several months due to Covid-19. Findings by Kick It Out, the English football’s equality and inclusion organisation, noted in 2019/20 an 53% increase in reported racial abuse in the professional game between this season and last. Even more alarmingly, Kick It Out received 117 reports of abuse based on sexual orientation compared to 60 last season – up by 95%. (*refer to the report summary in the Notes to Editors section below).
Anwar Uddin, a former pro footballer, FA Council Member and Campaign Manager for The Football Supporters Association’s (FSA) Fan’s For Diversity, a campaign which works to promote inclusivity in football adds: “I hope that, through empathy and shared experience, audiences around the country can really connect with Hannah’s play in a positive way and are encouraged to reflect on their own behaviour and more likely to stand up for others.”
ENG-ER-LAND is touring from 6 February – 2 April.