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Sheffield footballers inspire Black Lives Matter artwork

Cllr Alison Teal and Nick Partridge Director of Libraries hold Black Lives Matter framed artwork

A Black Lives Matter artwork by Sheffield artist Chris Houlton was presented to the Sheffield Home of Football archives collection this week. ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ shows Sheffield United players ‘taking a knee’ at their game against Aston Villa on 17 June 2020, the first Premier League football match after a 100 day mid-season shutdown due to Covid-19.

In a display of solidarity, all Premier League teams replaced their shirt-names with ‘Black Lives Matter’. Before the game began, Sheffield United forward David McGoldrick proposed ‘taking a knee’ to captain Billy Sharpe and they then spoke with Villa’s goalkeeper Tom Heaton and the match officials.

Following a one-minute’s silence for those who had died during the pandemic, all the players, officials and coaching staff knelt for 10 seconds to demonstrate their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. No spectators were allowed at the match but the players’ message about social justice was seen and repeated around the world.

Shoulder to Shoulder artwork 

The artist was commissioned by Sheffield Home of Football trustees to produce the work based on a photograph taken at the match that day. It took many hours to produce the final drawing using only coloured biros and gel pens and is now framed and protected under specialist archive glass to allow it to stand the test of time as part of the Sheffield Home of Football collection.

The oldest football club in the world

In August this year there was another proud moment in the story of Sheffield Home of Football when Colonel Geoffrey Norton and his wife Eileen donated the Nathaniel Creswick diaries to Sheffield Archives team.

Nathaniel Creswick was the founder of Sheffield Football club in 1857, the oldest football club in the world and wrote a passage in his journal on 31 December 1857 to say as much: “Today I have established a Foot Ball club to which most of young Sheffield come and kick."

This was a historic moment for the city and it continues the football heritage and history we are all so proud of.  

Nick Partridge, Head of Libraries, Archives and Information Services and Councillor Alison Teal, Executive Member for Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Parks and Leisure were presented with ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ by the artist Chris Houlton and thanked her for the kind donation into the archive.

Councillor Teal said: “Sheffield United were the first premier league team to take the knee, another example of football history firsts taking place in Sheffield, which is why we wanted to take the drawing into the archive to recognise its significance in the context of Black Lives Matter. Sheffield United as a club were at the forefront in acknowledging the need to take the knee. It’s superb, something to be proud of.”