Here's the second and final 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. I met some great people there and heard about some fascinating research happening across the UK and beyond.
My current research project What Time's Kickoff?' considers the impact of the Munich AIr Disaster on the lives of fans and family left behind. 24 people were killed as a result of the crash in February 1958 (including several Manchester United players- my ancester Duncan Edwards included).
I felt it was important to root my graphic novel and zines in ordinary stories to convey the feelings of love that those left behind felt for the lost. For Roy's Memory I used the story of a boy who lost many of his heroes in one afternoon in that crash.
The words belong to Roy Cavanagh MBE a lifelong Man Utd supporter. He is a semi-retired training consultant who has written 30 sporting books. His extensive knowledge of Manchester United’s history means that he is often asked to talk on the subject. I transcribed and edited an after-dinner speech he made at a Munich memorial event. - the rhythm of his words changed with his emotions, and I try to reflect that through the sequencing of the text to help readers to hear Roy’s voice.
I found the footage of the news that Roy had watched as a child sitting on his living room floor. I drew him sitting close to the TV set gazing up intently to show his eagerness to know more of the fate of his heroes. By watching the footage of newsreader Kenneth Kendal reading out the list of the Munich dead and injured on the evening news – I could imagine myself in Roy’s place.
In interviews Roy then told me extra details around each part of the story. He described his school uniform and that the player Eddie Coleman, who sadly died in the crash, had lived nearby - in the street that was used in the original opening titles of Coronation Street. I was able to find the visual references so as to add an authenticity to the visualisation of this scene. He had no pictures of him at that age as no one in his family could afford a camera. So for some details I had to use my creative skills-extracting a younger Roy from the face of the man now in his 80s.
The response to Roy’s Memory has been overwhelming one of the readers feeling connected to the subject matter and sensing the vulnerability of and feeling compassion for Roy. Being able to connect with readers in this way transcends fan rivalry, engages those not interested in sports history 'per se' with sports history. This small zine seems to have captured readers attention but also inspired a response or in some cases a need to interact with me as a researcher and creator. Some readers have been inspired to share their own stories not only of their memories of the Disaster but also their memories of love and loss on a wider context. Some felt compelled to tell me they didn’t like football, but they felt a connection to the story which surprised them.
These responses embody the potential for the graphic novel and zine genre to engage new audiences with academic sports history research, to give unexpected results for scholars but also to inspire interactions. Comics and zines are a unique format with great potential for the sports historian or researcher.
If you are a sports history scholar, educator or academic looking to explore zines and cartoons as a means to increase audiences for your research and work - please get in touch!