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  • Writer's pictureGayle Rogers

Never Forgotten: Football History


EXHIBITION & WORK IN PROGRESS UPDATE

Supported by an Artist Bursary: Artist Information Company 2023, I have been able to access the mentorship, training and networks I needed to progress my practice, culminating in a new exhibition of my work starting May 2024. ‘Never Forgotten’ at the Workers Gallery, South Wales presents my graphic novel in progress alongside published cartoons and comic strips.

Image of a goal posted painted on a brick wall with a wooden slatted fence above it. and roof top behind. In a red monotone pencil effect.
Never Forgotten exhibition poster

My practice is centred on drawing as a tool to engage audiences with complex social issues. It is informed by my research of the ‘how, where and why’ we commemorate our dead. Uniquely my memorialisation discourse has been situated within football history, due to my ancestral connection to a sporting hero and the disaster in which he died.

Drawing narrative art, comics, zines or cartoons, I visually explore and represent challenging discourses around death. It sounds ‘niche’ perhaps but death is a fact of life that affects us all and football, well football, it is everywhere.


A question that has dominated my recent research is: ‘Can I miss someone I never even met - who died before I was born?’


the word sometimes written in slanting handwriting in front of a detail of a girl holding flowers looking down on a vase of flowers. also in the same red.
Chapter title page for graphic novel by Gayle Rogers

MEMORY PRESERVATION

I am a blood relative of Duncan Edwards a revered footballer and Busby babe. He grew up in Dudley in the West Midlands. My mom (his second cousin) Loraine Rogers (nee Daniels) knew and remembered Duncan. It is her recalling her memories of Duncan that has inspired much of my ongoing research. Over the years I have taken on the ‘second generation commemorator’ mantel to become a ‘memory preserver’. Preserving memories of those who knew Duncan whilst simultaneously considering what that loss means for a descendant like me, who never knew him. I began recording interviews with Duncan’s relatives that had never gone ‘on the record’ and then tracked and analysed commemorative activity on social media, in publications and through shared recollections many by long-distance emails.

As a youngster I visited family graves at the local cemetery. Duncan’s grave was always covered in ‘offerings’ from ‘strangers’ and that made me curious. My fascination with commemoration and memorialisation grew to become a lifelong project.

In 2017 I completed my PhD ‘The Commemorative Activity at the Grave of Munich Air Disaster Victim, Duncan Edwards: A Social and Cultural Analysis of the Commemorative Networks of a Local Sporting Hero’, with the research arm of the National Football Museum at University of Central Lancaster, Preston. I was proud of my years of work smartly bound as a collection of thousands of words, I soon realised hardly anyone would ever read it.

The pandemic came and set many of us in a reflective mood. I thought about how I could make my research more accessible. Could the personal stories buried within my PhD be voices that might be accessible and audible if I presented them in another way?


COMBINING ACADEMIC RESEARCH & ART PRACTICE

I had never combined my research and art practice – but in 2019 I began exploring the potential to translate the commemorative activities of others and my academic research into zines and a graphic novel. I had become a prolific reader of graphic novels and comics and big fan. I understood their power to engage and their ability to reveal worlds and thoughts in creative innovative ways.


GRAPHIC NOVEL IN PROGRESS

My artistic journey then led me to a welcoming community of graphic novelists and comic creators. I have found it a community of genuine camaraderie that makes space for newcomers like me, to share their work and have a voice. That - quoting the strapline of the newly formed Comics Cultural Impact Collective (CCIC) – ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ runs through all I have experienced by being part of this unique creative network.

I have learnt that graphic novels take a long, long time to make. I am grateful to have my first chapter out in the world now – even in its ‘draftiest’ form it feels like real progress. Without the artist bursary that would not have happened for a long time. Now the work is on the gallery wall, I can already see where I can improve certain pages and I am sure visitors will help me to further understand how I can refine my work to truly be impactful.

I feel that the chapter conveys the intimate and personal relationship I have with a cousin that I never met, whilst considering how that relationship might have been if he had lived. There is a specialness by association that I have because I am a blood relative of a person revered as one of the greatest footballers of all time. Yet my role as his memory preserver sometimes feels far less special, than having been able to share with him those ordinary and mundane moments that make family life precious. I imagine how his life and mine would have been without football.

Football changed everything and it defines and dominates who we both are to each other and individually.


Further Details     

Never Forgotten

The impact of the life and death of sporting hero Duncan Edwards

By Gayle Rogers

Exhibition: 22 May – 27 July 2024 Workers Gallery, 99 Ynyshir Road, Ynyshir, RCT, Wales CF39 0EN www.workersgallery.co.uk for opening times. Free entry.


Gayle will be speaking about her research on

Sunday 2nd June Wal Goch Festival 2024, Wrexham

Friday 7th & Saturday 8th June International Football Conference 2024, Cardiff


She is a regular contributor of comic strips to the publication https://international.wales/

  

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