‘Inspirational’: Alan Shearer to feature in play about heroic World War I women’s football team

Ed Waugh’s latest play will remember the heroic women of Blyth Spartans Ladies.

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Wor Bella is the latest play from South Shields’ own Ed Waugh, a heroic story about a North East World War One football team who’ve tragically been forgotten about- until now.

When the men of Blyth were called up to go to the front after the Somme and Ypres in 1916, women filled the gaps they left and entered the workplace. Blyth Spartans Ladies was started by the young Munitionettes working on the South Docks loading ships with fresh ammunition for the front.

Blyth Spartans LadiesBlyth Spartans Ladies
Blyth Spartans Ladies

During breaks from their dangerous and back-breaking work they kicked a football around on the beach and sailors stationed in the harbour gave them some informal coaching.

In 1917 they officially formed a regular team, supported by Blyth Spartans FC and within nine months they were playing at St James’ Park in the final of the Munitionettes Cup.

Their star player, Bella Reay- an 18-year-old centre forward from Cowpen- managed to score an incredible 133 goals in 30 matches; the Alan Shearer of her day.

Bella Reay Bella Reay
Bella Reay

So to Waugh, it made sense to get the Newcastle United legend on board with the project. Shearer will make his theatrical debut in Wor Bella and has filmed a piece to camera talking about Bella Reay which will be featured in the production.

“The story of the munitionettes who saved the WW1 war effort - working 60 hours a week in dangerous and physically demanding conditions - and still found time to play football for wartime charities, is both incredible and inspirational,” said the former Newcastle United player.

“I’m proud to be part of this excellent project and play.”

Credit: Wor BellaCredit: Wor Bella
Credit: Wor Bella

Waugh’s career spans numerous plays- many created with his co-writing Trevor Wood- largely concerned with forgotten voices around the North East.

“I write stories about forgotten working-class heroes in the North East. These are the stories we try to keep alive because they’re not taught in schools,” said Waugh.

And Wor Bella is no different:

“The women who enjoy football today and make a living from it stand on the shoulders of these women from 100 years ago.”

From the team behind Carrying David, Hadaway Harry, The Great Joe Wilson and Mr Corvan’s Music Hall, Wor Bella is coming to the Theatre Royal 27th & 28th April 2024 and tickets can be purchased here.