Grunts & Grapples

0104 - 09 July 2017

Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery, Doncaster

Curated by design historian Kerry William Purcell Grunts & Grapples profiles the golden age of British Wrestling from the 1950s until the 1990s. Wrestling was a central part of British national life in this period with iconic figures such as Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy appearing in hundreds of UK town halls and theatres night after night as well as featuring on TV. The exhibition explores how the showmanship of wrestling drew on earlier traditions of public entertainment such as music hall and circus and how this informed the development of the cast of characters, storylines and audience participation unique to the sport.

Through posters, photographs, souvenirs and costumes the exhibition reveals the origins of wrestling’s interplay of sport and spectacle and the development of personas. The portrayal of wrestlers as baddies (heals) or goodies (blue eyes) would be combined with prevailing social narratives of otherness and racial and sexual stereotypes. This play of characters across the hundreds of venues that hosted the wrestling and TV screens across the country was a carefully choreographed storyline with long running grudges, feuds, and resentments. They were all stage managed by the wrestling promoter Joint Promotions, who held a near monopoly on the management of the wrestlers, the bouts and their presentation during the heyday of British wrestling.

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