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The Beautiful Game
Lewes Football Club’s female players are the stars of a new art exhibition that celebrates women’s contributions to the game. Simone Hellyer speaks to artist Jill Iliffe and discovers that we can all be inspired
Simone Hellyer

This summer saw the England women’s national football team soar to new heights at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with many commentators praising the Lionesses for inspiring more girls to take up the sport.

Despite a lingering perception that football is a man’s game, the community-owned Lewes Football Club is somewhat of a pioneer in gender equality in the game. It is reportedly the only football club in the world where men and women are treated and paid equally. Inspired by Lewes’ women’s team, Surrey-based artist Jill Iliffe has created a series of paintings and drawings featuring current Lewes FC players, future stars and past footballers.

The show, called Women x Football = Art, opens on 11 November at the Depot Cinema in Lewes and aims to inspire women to live their best lives.

By her own admission, Jill is not a “sporty person”, but has long been fascinated by women’s football. In 2007 she depicted two Muslim women playing football for a national exhibition and it was recently purchased by the National Football Museum in Manchester, where it is now on permanent display.

“That reignited my interest in football and, as I was in Lewes at the time, I got in touch with Lewes Football Club because I knew that they have a reputation for treating women equally,” Jill explains.

Lewes FC gave Jill access to past and present players and she set about interviewing the women to find out what drives them to keep pushing against the grain of gender stereotypes.

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November 2019

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