For the first time since 2019, St Andrews University will be hosting in-person graduations. To mark three whole weeks of graduations – covering not only graduates from 2022, but from 2021 and 2020 as well – many high-profile names will be receiving honorary degrees.
Sir Kenneth Dalglish MBE will be one of them, receiving an honorary degree on the 21st of June in the Younger Hall in St Andrews.
Kenny Dalglish was one of Scotland’s greatest footballers, achieving great success at both Celtic and Liverpool in the 1970s and 80s, he then went on to manage both clubs. Aside from his glittering footballing achievements domestically and internationally, he is also known for his charity work, most notably founding The Marina Dalglish Appeal to help raise awareness and money to treat cancer.
With the excitement of graduation and what the future holds for our graduates, the University of St Andrews Boswell Collection of Contemporary Scottish Art offers a look back to the 1980s – to Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool and Scotland heydays.
As the title of this artwork suggests, Edinburgh-based design company Atelier E.B. – artists Beca Lipscombe and Lucy McKenzie – were influenced by Dalglish’s Scotland career and of the male-dominated footballing culture of the 1980s. At the same time, by putting their own mark on the famous Scottish strip, it becomes markedly more striking as a commentary on gender, fashion, and representation.
Replacing the traditional shorts with cream silk shorts offers the viewer to think about the disjunction between womenswear and football wear, and how this plays an unconscious role in the suppression of women’s football from the cultural norm. By only very slightly turning one item of clothing, it turns ‘strip’ into ‘outfit’, ‘kit’ into ‘costume’; it instantaneously removes its male-dominated sportily function, rendered useless by the viewer’s unconscious bias.
In addition to this, the pixelated badge is a subtle yet intelligent way of casting light onto the censorship of women’s football in Scotland and in the UK in general through the 20th century.
From 1921 until December 1969, women’s football was banned by the FA. In the space of two years after the ban lifted, UEFA realised the pace at which women’s football was growing (much thanks to the efforts of England in the 1966 World Cup), and its governing bodies voted to create official status of women’s football in national associations (voted 31 for and 1 against, the sole vote against by Scotland).
Since 1971, the FA has reluctantly been handing over more opportunities, money, and interest into the women’s game – a sentiment of reluctance that reached into popular culture with the 1980 movie production of Gregory’s Girls: a naturally gifted striker who outshines her male counterparts despite the sexist misgivings of her coach.
Thankfully, the women’s game has come a long way since then, but there is still some distance to go before it reaches the popularity and fame that footballers such as the famous Kenny Dalglish – King Kenny – experienced as a player.
He remains a beloved figure of Scottish football, recognised for his achievements and charitable efforts on and off the pitch, and on the 21st of June with an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews.
Written by Struan Watson, Visitor Services Facilitator and Collections Assistant with University of St Andrews Museums