‘Britannia Herself’ by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

It was the second Rangers away game I’d been to for my, at that time, new project ‘Life In The 3rd’. I wished to follow Rangers FC as they travelled around the country and through the Scottish footballing 3rd Division, taking in the small towns and lesser stadiums of the land. I’d just recently returned from ten years of living in Japan and this seemed like a good way to see the country and get back in amongst a good story to shoot.

The game at Annan was lacklustre, decent for photos, but the football was terrible. Low, laden grey skies weighed heavy on everyone within the small ground. My intention at these games was to photograph the fans and culture, I wasn’t too interested on what happened on the field itself. Annan’s Galabank Stadium was small enough you could move around, get access to different sections, go to where the pies were being sold out of a caravan, and generally find new angles. But during the game itself, as the pitch was so close to the fans, it wasn’t possible to move about, you had a location and you had to stay there. It was then, stuck in my one position for 45minutes, that I first saw the young lady above, wrapped in her flag, in amongst the Rangers traveling support.

Rangers fans exiting Galabank Stadium, after the Annan FC v Rangers FC game, in Annan, Scotland, Saturday 23rd September 2012. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2012, all rights reserved.

She was standing, leaning on a terracing balustrade, wrapped in the Union Jack, and wearing heavy rimmed black glasses. I don’t remember how vociferous she was in her support of her team, or decrying their lack of fortitude that day, but next to her was another young lady of similar age. This second girl, a blonde, had a foul mouth on her, cursing the referee, the linesmen, the players, the football, no one escaped her wrath and cursive language. But it was the girl wrapped in the Union Jack who drew my attention. At that time I thought the two girls were pals together, but in subsequent games where I occasionally saw them, I came to realise they weren’t.

It was the start of a new project and it was interesting to me to see young ladies ardent in their support of Rangers, to see them as the hardcore traveling support. To photograph them fitted well with my aims, for myself, of exploring who makes up the support that follow Rangers at their lowest hour. I wanted to photograph the girl in the Union Jack, but I couldn’t get close as the game was in progress, and then it was over, nil nil.

I was outside the stadium photographing the fans streaming out, a moment I always enjoyed for photos. The fans would depart, criss crossing each other, some going left to cars, some right to the pub, others straight for their bus. There was always a certain energy about the crowds as they left, and it didn’t last long, a minute or two, but it was one of my favourite times of a game. The general mass of people all going in different directions always held the feeling of a battle scene.

And then, just as the crowds were thinning, it didn’t take long as the Ranger support was small in number for this game where Annan’s Galabank stadium can only hold under 3,000 fans in total, I caught sight of her. Miss Union Jack. She wasn’t carrying a trident and shield, nor wearing a Corinthian helmet, and her white robes had been swapped for her Union Jack, but there she was- Britannia personified. Britannia herself.

She was walking fast with some men, and I had to approach her, ask her if I could take her photo. I was surprised by her eagerness to stop, to do a photo. Being a photographer amongst the Rangers fans was sometimes met with suspicion and distrust, so her happiness to be photographed surprised me a little. She stood in the road, and took off her large black framed glasses, and glanced past me, her pale complexion and red lipstick perhaps slightly at odds with her stalwart expression. I shot a few frames, as others passed behind her, and around her. She never asked what the image was for, or for whom I was photographing. And then she was gone, the Union Jack still gathered tight around her shoulders. Rule Britannia.

Jeremy’s photograph, and others from his series, ‘Life In The 3rd‘, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the ‘Seeing Ourselves’ exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition, can be bought via our publications page.

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