IN CELIA'S WORDS
I grew up in the Home Counties in a conventional post-war middle class family withan aspirational mother, herself from fairly humble working class south London roots. Like many others in the forces, she benefitted hugely from the opportunities opened up to women during the war years; she married up, to my dentist father, and dedicated herself to the advancement of her three children through the best education that could be found. She was a 1950s housewife, staying at home by choice and doing occasional voluntary work in the local hospital, for the TOC refugees organisation and as a loyal member of the Ladies Circle. After a stint in his own Staines High Street surgery, my father moved his dental practice to the front room of our Ashford home. We children duly observed silence in the house and played mainly in the garden or an attic playroom.
My college and university years were some of the happiest times of my life and the close friendships formed were long-lasting; representative sport reinforced these social networks and presented me with the chance to travel far and wide, both playing and coaching. The opportunity to study at Cambridge and then Leeds universities took me out of the PE bubble and gave me a far, far wider education than I had previously experienced.
My life would not have been lived as it has unless it was rooted in a family context that was both supportive yet also challenging. The struggles I encountered over my sexual orientation, especially with my parents, together with my sensitisation to gender politics through playing, then coaching and then researching sport, shaped my outlook on discrimination in life more generally and opened my eyes to wider social injustices. Through this I was given a platform on which to develop my values and to shape an approach to advocacy that energised both my personal and professional lives.
With my mother’s ambition driving me on, I won a Middlesex County Scholarship–a ‘free place’ - to attend the Lady Eleanor Holles School for Girls in Hampton where I flourished and loved the structure to each day. The sport and music opportunities were a necessary antidote to the academic rigour of the place; sport, in particular, became my greatest love and, despite the strong disapproval of the Headmistress, led to my career in physical education. I resisted the pervasive religious culture of the school from an early age: sadly, missing from the archive is a short essay written at the age of 11 denouncing Christianity in favour of humanism. Humanism remained a constant but background influence throughout my life.
I had options to continue on to doctoral work in both places– with R H Hinde at the Madingley Animal Behaviour Institute in Cambridge and with HTA Whiting in Leeds – but felt it was time to earn some money and to use my teaching qualification. So, the serious business of finding employment confronted me after five blissful years of study. I was fortunate to find exactly the job I had always wanted, working as an assistant to the vivacious Elaine Taylor in the PE Department at Bournemouth School for Girls. After just one year as a schoolteacher I was headhunted by Bet Mauldon to take a lecturing job at the then-Lady Mabel College near Rotherham. The merger of LMC into Sheffield City Polytechnic, later renamed Sheffield Hallam University, proved a personal epiphany as it located me within a much wider academic and professional community than before. The staff and management development opportunities given to me, both formal and informal, undoubtedly advantaged my later job applications.
My sporting life, as player, coach and administrator, became closely woven into my research. My sacking as national women’s lacrosse coach in 1986 (for not winning the World Cup!) felt at the time like a kind of social death. But, as I moved away from lacrosse and started to become more active in the women’s sport movement and in feminist activism more generally, I found other satisfactions and causes to pursue. More than four years of my career was spent in the USA, coaching or lecturing – a source of a huge and much-valued friendship network.
The story of my research work on harassment and abuse in sport is detailed in the Brunel archive mentioned above: it intersects, of course, with the ongoing development of my personal relationships and, especially with the love and nurturance given to me by Diana. Her humour and intellect captivated me and her insights as a sociologist and feminist, as a senior manager and leader in her own field, nourished my career in unimaginably important ways. I cannot think of a better example of the linkage between the personal and the political.