Alice May Williams - Goal Diggers FC
My name is Alice May Williams. I am an artist who is currently working on a series of paintings about the positive impact of women's football on mental wellbeing. I played a little football for a couple of years when I was at school but then abruptly stopped and didn't even touch a ball until 15 years later, when I nervously was dragged along to Goal Diggers FC by a friend. Since then I have completely fallen in love, I now play in 5 aside and 7 aside for GDFC twice a week and also train and play competitive 11 aside for AFC Stoke Newington. I feel like I have found my purpose in life, and won't stop until my body gives up!
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
One of the main reasons my time at Goal Diggers has been so positive for my development as a player (and as a person) has been the coaching. In one of the photos you can see Ciara Monahan planning out our 7 aside formation. Both Ciara and Josh at GDFC go above and beyond to encourage players of all abilities, developing not only their skills but general confidence too. I think particularly coming from a freelance professional arts background where there often is a complete lack of ongoing support and care, the sense of being part of something, being cared about and encouraged, has been completely life changing. I know I would not have attempted many of the bold steps I recently took in professional life without the support of my amazing coaches who gave me confidence in all my abilities, as a player and a leader.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
In one of the shots you can see a very bland looking building which is the changing facilities on Mabley Green, home of Monday 5 aside for GDFC. I live on Mabley St, right next to the green, and prior to playing football I always thought it was a boring little park, the kind you take your dog to for a last minute wee before bed or because you cannot be bothered to walk to Victoria Park. I now see it as the field of dreams! So much joy, so much community, so many battles won and lost here. In the First World War, Mabley Green was the site of the National Projectile Factory, which had its very own female workers team. They were part of the original wave of popular 'Munitionettes' competitive women's football before the FA banned it in 1921! For me, Mabley Green and the Hackney Marshes next door, that is our Wembley.
What is your favourite photo?
A lot of people were surprised when I got a tattoo of a spade on my inside right knee, which I did in honour of Goal Diggers FC. All my tattoos mark important life changing moments or stories and for me, finding football and the family that comes with it is the most important of all. I recently went to the wedding of a teammate and the bride's father said that football had been the making of his daughter. I thought that was a perfect explanation of how I feel. Football makes me feel that anything is possible, every time I look at that spade I think of how much better my life is compared to two years ago, before I joined GDFC.
Are there any good stories connected with the people you photographed?
I think women's grassroots football is still quite an intimate community, so you often come up against the same people playing in different teams and different leagues. I have met so many people from so many places, living such different lives, whom otherwise I would never have had the privilege to get to know. Football really is family.
What are the opportunities for female footballers in London / UK?
I think the profile and respect given to the game has changed so much, even in the last 5 years. When I was growing up, the thought that women's football would be even mentioned in the newspapers, or featured on the BBC?! Unthinkable. There is also a huge amount of work being done by grassroots organisers, men and women, working hard (mostly for free!) to create opportunities at every level. I have so much respect for anyone who starts a team. They change lives.
What role does football play in British society?
I think it is important to acknowledge the ugly side of fans; at its worst, it sometimes violently divides people and reinforces prejudice and difference. However at its best it absolutely dissolves barriers, enabling people to find common ground with each other. I remember during the Men's World Cup last year, there was a huge excitement in the air, strangers were talking to each other in the street about the England score, and it was amazing. I had many arguments with non-football fans that thought that the competition would reinforce ugly Brexit nationalism. But for me, I just thought it gave people something hopeful to believe in. In my opinion people voted for Brexit because they were sick of austerity and having no sense of change on the horizon. I like to think that had England won the World Cup, the wave of euphoria would have given people the FEELING of change and hope they were looking for, and we could have cancelled Brexit...!
What does football mean to you?
Football means everything to me. It is the structure to my week, the fire in my belly on a Sunday, the family who I reach to when times are hard and a friendship network of amazing people, many of them queer, whom I never before knew where to find…
What is the future for UK women's football?
I think we are at the beginning of a really exciting journey, every week I hear of a new local grassroots women's team being set up, participation and enthusiasm is very high. What will be incredible will be to see the girls who have been encouraged and playing since they were small children to come of age, to watch them enter the adult leagues...they are going to blow grannies like me out of the water! I cannot wait.
What do you expect to change after the 2019 WWC?
I think those who know, KNOW that women's football is already amazing, packed full of talent. The difference will be the attitudes of the mainstream, widespread acceptance and familiarity with our Lionesses. I hope we will see grudging acknowledgement from the male football fans, that yes, the women really are worth watching!