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Sport v Art - A personal perspective and provocation - by Jamie Beddard / 13 March 2011

As arts-practitioner and sports-goer, these respective arenas of ‘blood, sweat and tears’, have both, played significant roles in my 40-odd(!) years on this planet, and are inextricably linked to my lifestyle and identity. If, as I believe, we are born as blank pages, to be shaded by our every experience, much of my biography would be given over to doing art and watching sport. Theatre is my art of choice, whilst Ipswich Town Football Town are my sporting albatross.

In crude terms, I make a meagre living though art, whilst blowing much of my ‘not so’ disposable income watching sport. Unfortunately, it’s not the other way round. I would be a good deal richer, and slightly more refined. However, due to a complete lack of sporting prowess I was destined to inhabit a humble artist’s garret, rather than enjoying the excess and vulgarity of a palatial ‘Hello magazine’ pad.

I try not to think about, or quantify the time, energy and money spent following football for fear that intervention may be required to ‘cure’ me. Watching grown men haplessly kick a pigs-bladder around a muddy field, could well be interpreted as a self-fulfilling desire for disappointment, an eroticisation of the non-disabled form or simply a chronic waste of time. Having undergone a number of unsuccessful and pointless ‘interventions’ in my past – leg-straightening, voice improving, buoyancy aiding - this particular one may actually have real benefit. In the meantime, I shall continue to spend Saturdays traipsing around the country, witnessing sad spectacles I would never contemplate taking part in myself. Where are ‘the men in white coats’ when you need them!

In many ways, it is the apparent senselessness of finding yourself stranded at Doncaster station at midnight following another tepid defeat that keeps me hooked. Sport, and the associated experiences, have an immediacy and transiency that allows us to escape our daily grind or worries, or in the case of Doncaster incident, replace these with a completely fresh set of interesting problems and hurdles. Rather than worrying about money we hurl abuse at hapless referees, rather than upsetting the applecart at work we jump around like 4-year olds when the ball hits the back of a net. We are offered the chance to forget, to shout and to escape, lost in a visceral soap opera being played out in real time, infinite in possibilities. And, of course, we are part of a crowd, a community with all that can entail; collective strength, anonymity, devolving responsibility, hysteria and camaraderie.

Arts too is ‘infinite in possibilities’, but as an artist my work is about making sense of the world I inhabit, saying what is important to me and attempting to impact on the enormous world around me. I am, to a certain extent, controlling the possibilities, picking and choosing the materials and means that will best convey my message. Good art is introspective, soul searching and, dare I say it, brave. It is the individual drawing back from the crowd, putting their marker in the sand, saying ‘this is what I believe; this is what I stand for.’

I have been asked to make theatre about my sporting passions; a marriage made in heaven, enjoyment under the auspices of work. However, despite my best endeavours, I have singularly failed to connect these two passions which fulfil such different roles in my life. They operate in different parts of my psyche – one part needing to be lost in the crowd, the other needing to step away from the crowd. They appear mutually exclusive, and yet equally important and to my day-to-day life. An actor friend has a clause in his contracts stating that he will not perform while Wales are playing Rugby Union. Unfortunately, my relative lack of artistic success precludes such riders in my own contract negotiations.

Whilst writing this article I put a Sports v Arts question on Facebook. In straightforward terms, Art won 12-10, whilst the debate provoked pearls of wisdom including, ‘need you ask’, ‘art is coveted and hoarded as a commodity’, ‘sport divides people into winners and losers….in art everyone’s a winner’, ‘good sport is art’, ‘spart’, ‘each can be uplifting or tedious’, ‘I’d like to hear a gallery crowd singing ‘Who’s the sculpture in the black…’, ‘coffee is better than tea…except for old people’ . Of course, the beauty of the world we live is the subtle shading, interweaving and fluidity of our ideas, identities and preferences. Art and sport are not mutually exclusive, and interact with people on numerous different levels, and play crucial roles in enabling us to make sense, and enjoy the world around us.

Who would ask such a daft question as, ‘Which is better – Sport or Art?’!