New children's book is inspired by Preston's Dick, Kerr Ladies football team and it's trailblazing stars
A new children's book inspired by the story of Dick, Kerr Ladies is set to hit the bookshelves this summer.
Our Beautiful Game, by Lou Kuenzler tells the tale of 12-year-old Polly Nabb, who is desperate to play football and works in a munitions factory during the First World War.
The story is set in the fictional Lancashire town of Kerston (a mix of Kerr and Preston), and covers the trials and tribulations of Polly and her teammates from the Sparks as they reach for glory, set against the backdrop of war and the dangers of manual work.
The story also leads up to the 1921 ban on womens football by the Football Association on member grounds, which lasted for 50 years. The book coming out on the 100th anniversary of that decision is something Lou says is a timely reminder of how attitudes have changed and what women sacrificed.
"I stumbled across the story", said London-based Lou. "But as soon as I heard it, I thought 'that's a children's book waiting to happen".
She added: "I couldn't get it out of my mind, the story really inspired me and with characters like Lily Parr, who was so full of punk and zest, I was desperate to write about her."
Lily Parr was one of the stars of the Dick, Kerr team, scoring more than 900 goals, having started playing at the age of 14. Lou has based her character Polly loosely on Lily, but has also woven in aspects of other team members who are less well-known.
>>>Click here to read about Lily Parr.
Lou added: "Young girls at that time made huge sacrifices. My readers are aged 10, 11, 12, and I want to make them aware of the sacrifices of women, it's important they know that part of history.
"They probably have heard of the Suffragettes, and that's an important part of history, but there are grassroots stories that need telling too.
"These young women were putting themselves in danger working in munitions factories and exposing themselves to all kinds of life-changing lung diseases.
"I don't go too much into that, and for this group it was also joyous, because football allowed that. They found other girls to play sport with, and they were allowed to wear appropriate clothing such as trousers, rather than having their skirts tucked up."
She added: "The book's about feminism and friendship. It was so much fun to write. I had that real story and then I took a leap and wondered how I would merge all these wonderful facts.
"Even though I couldn't get up to Lancashire because of lockdowns, I have been many times before and I did lots of research, because I am aware that family members of the Dick, Kerr team are still around and I didn't want to get anything wrong.
"This isn't a depressing book, it's a story of resistance, war spirit, and handing on the baton to other young girls."
Alice Swan, Faber Editorial Director, said: ‘This is undoubtedly a story that needs telling – incredible to think that women’s football was as big as it is today one hundred years ago, only to be shut down by those who didn’t like the idea of women on the pitch.
"Lily Parr and her fellow football legends were sparkling, powerful forces to be reckoned with, and Lou Kuenzler’s fictional story, inspired by their legacy, will encourage today’s readers to stand up for what they believe in."