Rugby League Play Set To Hit West Yorkshire Theatres

It tells the story of the world's first female referee of men's Rugby League.

A new play, inspired by the true story of Huddersfield-based woman Julia Lee, who survived and thrived against the odds to become one of the first women to referee men’s Rugby League, will be touring Featherstone, Batley, Castleford and Hull in February.

Ref!’, produced by charity Space2, is a fictionalised, heart-warming account of Julia’s life, written by playwright Sarah Jane Dickenson.

It follows the story of a girl called Alex as she tackles the status quo in order to prove that she is as good as, if not better than, the men she works alongside.

The play is part of a larger Space2 and Commonsense Initiative project called ‘Crossing the Line’, which aims to uncover and share the stories of women connected to Rugby League.

The project will work in partnership with Rugby League Clubs and Foundations, based in Hull and West Yorkshire, taking the theatre performance and interactive community workshops into those communities.

Julia, who recently became the first woman to receive the ‘Lord Lofthouse Award’ for ‘Services to Rugby League,’ is quietly proud that her story will finally be told: “I’m excited because it enables me to use my own experiences to support other women to build their confidence and skills to overcome barriers to succeed.”

“I’m not just a survivor - I thrive on what I do and I want them to as well.”

Julia retired in 2000, due to a back injury, and became a Director of Community Projects and Events for Rugby League in 2012. She eventually managed to bring about changes that she could only have dreamed about as a young woman.

“Telling my story will allow me to reach out to women who still experience discrimination in their everyday lives, and help them realise that they are in control and can realise their true potential,” she said.

Dawn Fuller, Strategic Director of Space2, said: “The performances of Ref! are a catalyst for meeting and chatting with women who’ve been involved with Rugby League in Hull, Batley, Castleford and Featherstone over decades, bring their rugby league stories to the wider community and support positive development with local women."

The play will be linked to workshops where members of the public will be encouraged to bring along stories and memorabilia relating to Rugby League.

All the stories and memories that people share will be part of a wider collection of artefacts and archives at Heritage Quay and the National Rugby League Museum due to open in Bradford in 2021.

In addition Julia will work directly with a group of local women who will receive workshops, one to one coaching and help to record stories for the museum collection.

Ref!’ is suitable for ages 15 and above and will be performed at the following venues:

  • 7pm Thursday 7 February – LD Nutrition Stadium, Featherstone, WF7 5EN
  • 7pm Friday 8 February – Mount Pleasant Stadium, Heritage Way, Batley, WF17 7NZ
  • 7.15pm Friday 15 February – Phoenix Theatre, Crewe Road, Castleford WF10 3JU
  • 7.30pm West Hull Community Park, North Road, Hull HU4 6JP

Tickets cost £5 in advance or £7 on the door – you can buy them here.

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