Our 30th birthday do: a night to remember

When Hackney WFC throws a party you know you’re in for a good night. When women from across three decades of the club come together for that party you know you’re in for an epic celebration.

And that is what happened on 2 July 2016 at Hoxton’s Motel Studios when a football team, which launched as a predominately lesbian club in Thatcherite Britain – a time when section 28 came onto the statute books, outlawing the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools – turned 30 years old.

Memorabilia adorned the walls, the Hackney: 30 years and counting book waited patiently for buyers and a video projection scrolled through a portion of the huge collection of club photos that the ‘Hackney hoarders’ have been diligently archiving over the past year.

And with that the scene was set for the start of a 4.5-hour celebration to mark the achievements of a club that has stood the test of time, and continues to support two teams in the Greater London’s women’s football league today.

It wasn’t long before the quirky photographers’ studio under the arches – that had been transformed for the night, complete with bars, cloakroom and comfy snugs – was full of Hackney members ‘old’ and new. Check out the arrival shots that were snapped by professional photographer and Hackney B player manager Em Fitzgerald as people sipped on their arrival cocktails.

With everyone dressed in their best and the summer finally bringing us the weather we have longed for, Prosecco became the unexpected drink of choice and it wasn’t long before we were dashing out for more supplies to keep the bubbles flowing.HWFC_30th_20716-075

Each drinks voucher was represented by a different Hackney membership card and it was amazing how quickly people slipped into the lingo: ‘I’ll have a Donna and two Kates please’ soon became the fastest way of ordering a spirit and two beers.

Long lost reunions complete and after hugs-a-plenty it was time to open the ‘show’. MC for the night was ‘Cocktail’ Kate, current social sec and Hackney 30th anniversary committee member. As her Scouse accent cut above the chatter, people were called to attention for a series of speeches that brought to life the early days of Hackney from those who helped shape the club – Jo Clare, Joanie Evans and Helen Holmes. Particular highlights included Jo Clare’s telling of the moment that they decided to ban drinking before matches when Dee ran onto the pitch shouting ‘To the death’! Smoking still remained the half-time ‘refreshment’ of choice for many, however.

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It was the job of Kim Watson and her guitar to get us all in fine voice for a whistle-stop tour through some of the well-loved songs from the Hackney songbook – followed by a spontaneous chorus of ‘Roll me over’, led by Wendy Lewis.

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Fast-forward to the current club and current secretary Heidi Holmes and 2015–16 first team manager Naina Patel took to the stage to share their experiences of joining Hackney.

Despite the generational divide (Heidi admitted that she found Hackney on the internet – an invention still in its infancy when Naina joined) there proved to be much overlap in what had drawn them to the club initially and what had held them there year after year.

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That Hackney’s spirit and ethos was mentioned a few times over the course of the night, in particular being the focus of a speech by long-time member Robyn Vinten, speaks volumes about its enduring importance. These 17 points, outlined in the club’s constitution, ensures that the club’s underlying characteristics (woman-positive, accountability, democracy, fairness etc) remain the same whether you joined in 1986 or you’re playing your first game with us this year. Notably, ‘we seek to win’ is at number 15.

See photos of the speakers in action.

The poignancy of what Hackney has achieved over its 30-year history, serving as a place for lesbians to come together, particularly in the early days when being outed in certain professions carried the risk of being sacked, was brought into sharp focus by a reminder on the night of the tragic events of Orlando.

The montage video of Hackney highlights that followed, accompanied by Jo Ayre’s beautifully sung vocals of gay anthem ‘I am what I am’, emphasised the strength in diversity of Hackney’s community. With the audience encouraged to hold hands with each other as they watched, the wave of Hackney love in the room was palpable.

At the heart of the event was a celebration so it was only fitting that the night ended the way Hackney events always do – with a dance! With tunes provided by current Hackney member, DJ Livicee, the floor was filled for songs including Billie Jean, Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac and current Hackney favourite, Candy by Cameo. Of course, no Hackney disco would have been complete without an enormous end-of-night huddle for the song ‘Angels’.

And with our dulcets ringing out into the night, farewells said and hugs all round, we parted ways. Same time again in 30 years?

Huge thanks on the night must go to Chatworth Road’s Venerdi restaurant which kept our hunger at bay with some hearty Italian fare, not to mention the current club members who helped the night run smoothly with shifts on the bar, in the cloakroom, selling drinks tickets and helping to set up and dismantle the venue.

A book containing articles by various Hackney members and pictures from across the 30-year archive, is still available to buy for just £10. To secure your copy, email hwfc30thticketad207@gmail.com

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