My art ob­ses­sion matched only by the good old hockey days

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS -

WRIT­ING ex­clu­sively for The Hockey Pa­per as part of LGBT his­tory month, Maggi Ham­bling – one of Britain’s fore­most con­tem­po­rary artists – recalls days spent run­ning around Suf­folk hockey pitches...

I grew up in the coun­try town of Hadleigh and the hockey club fea­tured promi­nently from ear­li­est child­hood. My sis­ter Ann played for Hadleigh ladies and my brother Roger for the men’s. Both played in the mixed and my par­ents, both ex-play­ers, um­pired.

I re­mem­ber freez­ing muddy Satur­day af­ter­noons on the side­lines, the only ray of sun­shine be­ing the seg­ment of orange was given at half-time.

Two play­ers were for me a cut above the rest: glam­orous, fast and dex­trous. For the ladies team, Carol Adams – on whom I had a pas­sion­ate crush – and for the men’s team the stun­ningly good-look­ing Ge­of­frey Mor­ley, who went on to be awarded the MBE for ser­vices to hockey.

Much later in life I found the still glam­orous Carol in charge of Hadleigh’s Chapel of Rest where I had gone to draw my fa­ther in his cof­fin. I blushed. Be­fore al­low­ing me into the in­ner sanc­tum, Carol took me to one side and said: “I I must warn you Maggi. You know your fa­ther al­ways had a twin­kle in his eye? Well, it’s gone.”

My mem­o­ries of play­ing for Hadleigh are vague – I don’t think I was good enough – but I cer­tainly played for Am­ber­field School for Girls and in­deed rose to be cap­tain, as I was for net­ball and ten­nis.

Speed never be­ing a strong point, I de­fended as a right back but pro­gressed to cen­tre half where I could re­main en­tirely sta­tion­ary in the mid­dle of the pitch while or­der­ing my team from end to end. In those days the left-handed lunge was quite a weapon. Ille- gally, we swung from above shoul­der-level, aim­ing, in the­ory, at the ball, but more of­ten land­ing a good thwack on the op­po­nents’ an­kles.

My sis­ter, far in ad­vance of me at any sport, was a selec­tor for Eng­land Un­der18s and 21s. I watched the women’s Olympic fi­nal in Rio, what a fan­tas­tic match and what a triumph. And hoorah for the Richard­sonWal­shs – so en­cour­ag­ing for all gay sports­peo­ple.

Sport and art have much in com­mon. For in­stance, to watch John McEn­roe at close quar­ters on the old, more in­ti­mate No 1 Court at Wim­ble­don, was like watch­ing a Matisse line­draw­ing in ac­tion at the net. For many sports, hand and eye must op­er­ate si­mul­ta­ne­ously, just as in draw­ing or paint­ing. And pas­sion­ate ob­ses­sion is es­sen­tial for both.

But sports­peo­ple must, inevitably, sadly, even­tu­ally re­tire while we artists need not. In­deed some of the great­est artists have pro­duced their great­est work at the end of their lives. So we are the lucky ones.

Maggi Ham­bling’s ex­hi­bi­tion of new paint­ings and sculp­ture, EDGE, is at Marl­bor­ough Fine Art in Lon­don, on March 2April 13.

Pas­sion: Maggi Ham­bling has a hockey back­ground

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