That’s what I jokingly stated I would end up playing after hearing I had secured a cast role in the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The bull has been a symbol of the city since the 12th century and remaining incognito might be preferable, as the thought of performing to one billion people was a little intimidating!
My journey to the Opening Ceremony began after a challenging audition, full of extroverts with a capital E and amazing dancers and gymnasts, I entered the first rehearsal (held at a secret location) with trepidation – just what would I be doing to represent my city?
“You’re a bull woman,” one of the choreographers stated with a big grin on his face before getting back to organising some of the 1,500 performers, musicians, dancers and volunteers.
I met up with Carrie Forder, a fellow performer and colleague in our Employment team to share our excitement and nerves. Carrie had the honour of escorting the New Zealand team out into Alexander Stadium in a hand painted outfit.
I also bumped into Frances Stead, from our Finance team, who was one of the key Marshalls, responsible for making sure the crowd enjoyed the parade and energy levels were kept at their peak.
Talking to fellow performers, only confirmed the fact that the Ceremony would be an amazing show to honour the region and the part it plays in bringing about change, to entertain and to welcome people from all across the world to make it their home.
Finally, I met up with my fellow bull women (yes that is what we were called) and heard more about the role I would play, one that has links to both the past and the present.
You may have only heard of Mary Macarthur if you are from Cradley Heath, Staffordshire but she, yes she, was a trade unionist.
At the turn of the 20th century, heavy to medium chains were produced by men in factories, however the smaller chains were often hand-worked by women in small cramped forges in outbuildings next to the home. The work was hot, physically demanding and poorly paid.
In 1910, Macarthur led the women chain makers of Cradley Heath to victory in their fight to establish the right to a fair wage following a 10-week strike. Their success resulted in the women receiving the country’s first minimum wage, changing the lives of thousands of workers across the country who were earning little more than ‘starvation wages’.
The Cradley Heath Workers’ Institute was funded using money left over from the strike fund and if you ever travel to Cradley Heath you will see gardens, statues and schools named after this fearless woman. There is even a Women Chain Makers’ Festival held every year to both remember and celebrate Mary Macarthur and the women chain makers of Cradley Heath, as well as discuss how to tackle the issues facing women in the world of work and wider society today.
My fellow bull women and I brought this piece of history to life at the Opening Ceremony in a dramatic entrance accompanied by a magnificent bull.
So much work and love went into the Ceremony and I hope people enjoyed the music, dance, entertainment as well as learning a bit of history. I know people have fallen in love with our bull!
I thoroughly enjoyed being at the back end of a bull…..