wor bella

Bella Reay Remembered on Stage at Wor Bella

The incredible story of women’s football during WW1 will be brought to life on the Newcastle Theatre Royal stage in Wor Bella

The incredible story of women’s football during WW1 will be brought to life on the Newcastle Theatre Royal stage later this month (Sat 27 & Sun 28 Apr), in a heartfelt play penned by local writer Ed Waugh, whose other works include Hadaway Harry and Carrying David.

The North East of England was the home of women’s football during World War One. Like the rest of the country, women’s football teams were there to raise money for wounded soldiers, widows and orphans.

After the introduction of men’s conscription in 1916 and the entry of over one million women into the factories to support the war effort, hundreds of women’s football teams emerged, and thousands attended matches.

The Munitionettes Cup was unique to the North East and the top team in the region was Blyth Spartans Ladies (Northumberland dock workers), who defeated Bolckow Vaughan (a steel works from Middlesbrough) at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, in May 1918, in front of 22,000 people.

Blyth’s hero of the team was Bella Reay, who scored 130 goals in 33 matches and was the ‘Alan Shearer’ of her day. Now her story is back on stage at Newcastle Theatre Royal.

Wor Bella – A One-Woman Show

A one-woman show, starring Catherine Dryden and directed by Russell Floyd, Wor Bella is about WW1 women’s football through the eyes of Bella and the spontaneous rise, and tragic fall, of these heroic football teams who would attract in excess of 4,000 people to their charity matches.

Chief executive of Newcastle Theatre Royal, Marianne Locatori said:

“We are happy to welcome Ed back to the theatre with Wor Bella. Following the success of Hadaway Harry a few years ago, we are proud to host another North East drama; it is wonderfully inspirational and fully deserves the accolades it has received. We are sure that our audiences will like the story, and we are proud to once again, be putting North East talent onto our stage.”

Wor Bella marks a return to Newcastle Theatre Royal for Ed Waugh, whose regional classic Hadaway Harry proved popular with audiences in 2017.

A total of 53,000 spectators attended the women’s football match on Boxing Day in 1920 and the Football Association feared women’s football would detract from men’s football which they controlled.

The FA banned women’s football on December 5, 1921, viewing support for workers in industrial battles as political.

The women’s game remained banned in England until 1971.

According to FIFA more than 29 million women and girls now play football worldwide, bringing with it the quest for greater skills, professionalism, struggles against sexism and the battle for equal pay.

Wor Bella plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Sat 27 & Sun 28 Apr. Tickets are available here or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.