Preston soccer star to be immortalised on the big screen

Pre-war soccer star Lizzy Ashcroft is to be immortalised on film 85 years after she hung up her boots.

By Brian Ellis
Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 9:46 am

The famed Dick, Kerr Ladies' defender will be the subject of a short movie called "Granny" being shot around Preston and Wigan next week.

Lizzy played for the pioneering Preston-based women's side for 13 years from 1923, part of that time as captain.

Now the discovery of suitcases full of her photographs and documents in an attic in Bilsborrow, where they had been undisturbed for 35 years, has prompted a film of her life by award-winning director Francis Castelli.

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Grandson Steve Bolton, who found the battered cases, said: "I can't quite believe they're making a movie about my granny. I'm just so thrilled."

It was Steve's story about his "Granny Bolton" on a website which caught the imagination of Blackpool actress Michelle Crane. She wrote a script and sent it to the maths teacher out of the blue.

When Michelle read about Lizzy she said "Wow, what a story." Three months later a script dropped through Steve's letterbox and he was staggered.

Women's football star Lizzy Ashcroft (centre) in her days with Dick, Kerr Ladies.

"It was beautiful," he said. "It's not a film about football as such, it's about someone of that generation putting all their memories in a suitcase in an attic.

"Then 35 years later her grandson finds it and brings her to life. It's a valedictory story, it's meant to be positive."

Steve, who lives in Essex, has been back to the Preston area to scout for locations for the film and thinks the places the crew have picked will show off the city in all its glory.

"I showed them the monument (at Preston North End), then Moor Park. We went down to the factory (on Strand Road) then onto Broadgate where my grandparents lived.

Steven has built up a vast collection of women's football memorabilia since finding his granny's battered suitcases in an attic.

"We found a cobbled street and then a footbridge across the Ribble. It's cobbled too and there are no modern signs, so that's a great spot.

"We went past the Continental under the railway bridge where there will be kids kicking a can around and Granny will join in. We looked at the steps in Avenham Park and also there will be scenes in the railway station and at the Empire Services Club off Fishergate Hill where Lizzy and her team-mates were photographed all those years ago.

"As I said it's not about the football so much, it's a film about why generations don't talk to each other and lock a part of their life away. It's certainly not a history of Dick, Kerr Ladies."

Director Francis Castelli has described the script as "such a beautiful story." The film, says Steve, will have a musical contribution from "someone famous."

Well-known actress Penny Ryder, who appeared in the 2012 Bond movie Skyfall, will play Lizzy.

Steve said: "They've got a lad playing me as a seven-year-old and then actor Robin Simpson will be playing me as an older bloke.

"We had a meeting of cast and crew and this isn't just me and a couple of mates filming it on an Apple phone. These are all great professionals.

"It's very exciting to think that filming will be next week. I don't know when it will be out, but I would think it will be a few months."

Writer Michelle said: "I saw an article by Steve written for Blackpool Heritage about his footballing granny. I thought it was an incredible story, not just about football - but about history, women’s rights, family and loss. It’s a universal story."

The team have received funding for the production from Avanti Trains and Community Rail Lancashire, but are trying to raise money through a GoFundMe page to help pay the post-production costs. If you would like to contribute go to: