Women and Sport: The ChangeMakers
Professor Celia Brackenridge OBE
Scholar | Sportswoman | Activist
Celebration of Celia
At a special event at Wembley Stadium in October 2018, Celia's life was celebrated by family, friends, former colleagues and those who had been positively influenced by her work and advocacy.
Launch of ChangeMakers
The ChangeMakers site was officially launched in July 2017 with an event at Surrey Sports Park, Guildford, hosted by England Lacrosse. The event coincided with the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup – a sport for which Celia represented England for thirteen years and coached the national team to the 1986 World Cup.
Mark Coups (CEO of English Lacrosse) opened the event by acknowledging that the sport holds a huge debt of gratitude to Celia. Many of Celia’s close friends, work colleagues and senior figures from organisations impacted by Celia’s work were in attendance. They saw Lucy Piggott and Lombe Mwambwa (AWF Scholars and Project-leads) demonstrate the website and reflect on their admiration for the advances Celia has made for sport. Social media responses since the event continue to highlight the reach of Celia’s impact on people around the world. Professor Elizabeth Pike (co-founder of the AWF) read a quote from Celia to demonstrate her passion for scholarship and activism:
"Science and knowledge and educators are so crucial to the Women and Sport Movement. You have to have good science, it's no good being polemical or writing angry pieces in newspapers. If you provide the evidence, that is an unassailable position ... for the ideological changes we want to achieve".
Professor Diana Woodward, Celia’s civil partner, closed the event by reading a letter from Celia outlining her pride that the website had been completed and thanked her friends and colleagues for their support with her work.
Dr Mark Mason (Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Chichester) stated he was proud of the AWF and the University of Chichester for being at the forefront of the Women and Sport Movement to educate and develop the next generation of women and sport leaders, particularly bringing attention to the life and work of a preeminent sportswoman, scholar and activist such as Celia.
There are three carrier bags full of several hundred cards, letters, printed-off e-mails and other messages which arrived after Celia’s diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia in February 2016; during her treatment; when she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sunday Times in December 2016; immediately after her death in May 2018; and after the Celebration of Life event at Wembley Stadium in October 2018. They came from a very wide spectrum of people including old school and college friends, former students and colleagues, fellow lacrosse players (people she had played with or against, in the UK and the USA), people she had met through her political activism in sport (in the UK and world-wide), delegates at academic conferences, or participants in sports policy/practice and training events in which she had been involved, as well as members of the amateur orchestra she played in, and fellow members of the local Labour Party, as well as many other friends, relatives and neighbours.
Letters came from all over the UK, from France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Cyprus, the USA, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. This is a selection of what they said. The same words and phrases recurred, about Celia’s strength of character, her tenacity, her willingness to spend time helping other people who showed commitment, her generosity, and her capacity to play the long game – to wait for developments to turn her way, meanwhile exerting pressure on sports governing bodies, and running relevant conferences or training events for the sporting community.
Compiled by Prof. Diana Woodward (January 2020)