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  • Writer's pictureGayle Rogers

Drawn To Research (Part 1)

Here's an extract from the presentation 'Drawn To Research' that I gave to the British Society of Sports History 40th Anniversary Conference in Leicester (DMU) on 25th August 2022. It was an honour to talk about my research and I met some wonderful people there and heard about some fantastic research happening across the UK and beyond. When the pandemic hit, unable to travel, my outdoor drawing practice stopped and my gallery had to close. I was able to move some things online – but my livelihood was essentially gone. It was a time for adjustment and reflection.

Although I make my living as an artist, in 2017 I had completed a PhD with the International Football Institute – the research arm of the National Football Museum based at UCLan. My PhD considered the commemorative networks of my ancestor Duncan Edwards – a busby babe and England footballer who died from the injuries he sustained in the 1958 Munich Air Disaster. Since completing my doctorate, I have continued as an independent researcher. It wasn’t a shock to discover that very few people read PhDs yet during lock-downs reading and book sales were booming. I had been inspired by Tottenham’s Trojan Horse - A Tale of stadium-led Regeneration, where Dr Mark Panton and Amanda Lillywhite-Panton had, in a graphic novel form, encapsulated Mark’s research on the impact of the area’s gentrification. I consumed over 60 graphic novels during the lock-downs, and one day – I wondered - Could my PhD research reach more people if it was in a narrative art form? I had to find out.

My academic and art practices had operated independently in parallel for over fifteen years. I have always drawn topical or political cartoons but began to do more and collaborate with other comic artists. I attended online narrative art courses and residencies and actively participated and immersed myself in the comics community online community. From that foundation and using my new skills I felt ready to begin the process of re-imagining parts of my academic research.

I created ‘What Time’s Kickoff?’ Stories of Love and Loss Inspired by Legendary England and Manchester United Footballer Duncan Edwards. Its remit stretches across the impact of the Disaster on people’s lives through their individual experiences. The BSSH Early Career Researcher grant that I received funded the support I needed to exhibit my work in progress coinciding with Art of Sporting Heritage Month, it helped fund mentoring and training session from creative industry specialists and to support visits to commemorative events and archives, from which I collected fresh data and made new contacts. Many graphic novelists serialise or test out their stories as smaller zines or comics. It’s an effective way to develop a community around a project and that inspired me to create mini-zines to share my research and develop dialogues. Then I created my latest zine Roy’s Memory – telling the story of the Munich Air Disaster through the eyes of a 10 year old Salford boy.

To be continued...

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If you are a scholar, educator or academic looking to explore comics as a means to increase audiences for your research and work - please get in touch.

Image: Studies for 'What Time's Kickoff?' Dip pen, Qwink ink and wash drawings by Gayle Rogers

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