‘Ridiculed’ Manchester women’s football team finally set to become heroes in new documentary 

A pioneering Manchester women’s football club, which was founded in the 1940’s, is to be celebrated in an upcoming documentary.  

Corinthians: We Were the Champions chronicles the fortunes of Manchester Corinthians L.F.C., who defied the FA’s 1921 women’s football ban, winning 50 trophies in 20 years in South America, France and Holland. They even unofficially represented England against Germany as far back as 1957.

Their story film is brought to life by documentary-maker Helen Tither, whose previous work includes the BBC documentary Emmeline Pankhurst: The Making of a Militant. The project is currently being crowdfunded via IndieGoGo and hopes to raise £65,000 by the end of next month.  

Production shot on location filming the documentary

Tither said: “The [club] was ridiculed and ostracised at home and has been quiet for many decades. Recently, they’ve come back into the limelight. They’ve had a plaque put up in Fog Lane Park. I saw the story in the news around the history of the Corinthians.” 

Tither contacted some of the former players and set up a meeting at the National Football Museum, which has championed the story and been an early supporter of the documentary.  

A spokesperson for the museum said: “Manchester Corinthians is a very important team in the history of women’s football in England. Beyond their sporting achievements, their story is also important for its’ wider social story. Their achievements deserve a wider audience.” 

Tither and her team, which includes cinematographer Greg Cheetham and producer Sarah Walters, have conducted ten interviews with former players, including Anne Grimes, Myra Lypnyckyj and Jan Lyons. 

“The film is going to be the Corinthian story entirely in the words of the players, going back to the mid 1950s and up to 1970. The players themselves were the main force in making it happen. We’ve been lucky they wanted to take part in it and spread the word” 

Former Corinthian Margaret ‘Tiny’ Shepherd, as seen in the film

All the interviews were recorded in the changing rooms of West Didsbury & Chorlton Football Club, which is close to The Corinthians’ old home of Fog Lane Park.  

Graham Ellwood from West Didsbury & Chorlton’s media team said: “It was a good fit. We were happy about it; it’s been a good link. We’ve got a really good girls’ and women’s section of our club and this is a further inspiration.” 

Tither’s rationale for filming at West Didsbury was to showcase the women in the setting that should have made them famous.  

“It would have been easy to put these women in a domestic setting, but I really wanted to frame the women as footballers. It really works as a backdrop. It makes the point that these women were footballers, and they should be seen and celebrated as that.” 

Tither set up her very own production company for the film, Films Not Words, inspired by the Suffragettes’ rallying cry of ‘deeds not words’.  

Former Corinthian player Monica Curran, appearing in the documentary

“You come up with a lot of ideas and they don’t always get made, and I think it gets to the point where you think I don’t want to keep talking about this idea, I want to make it.” 

Due to the FA ban and because of the era, there wasn’t much available footage of the Corinthians’ storied career. Tither and her team have come up with an ingenious – and poignant – method to capture their success on the big screen using comic-book style animation.

“The players happened to mention that they read this comic on the coach called Billy’s Boots, and it was a football comic about a boy with some magic football boots that they loved. There’d be no comics about girls playing football at that time. I just thought wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could create a Corinthians comic for these women and give them that thing that they never had? And wouldn’t it be great if that comic came to life to re-enact the adventures?

Comic-book heroes or not, the Corinthians are just happy their story is being told – and they’re delighted with the growth in women’s football, particularly with the Lionesses’ success.  

“Two Corinthians played in the first England women’s team, including Jean Wilson, who’s in our film, so I think they just feel really proud that by sticking at it they laid the ground for what will come later” 

You can donate to the crowd funder here. 

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