An exhibition of photographs taken by City fans with a learning disability as part of a Leeds Beckett University research study was unveiled at the Coral Windows Stadium this Saturday.
City's Chief Operating Officer James Mason was on hand to officially open the 'Being A Bantam' photography exhibition ahead of the Bantams' Sky Bet League 1 home fixture with Swindon Town.
The series of 25 photographs will be permanently displayed in the main concourse of the JCT600 stand at the stadium. The launch was part of the club's programme of activities to coincide with Level Playing Field's Weeks of Action.
Members of Bradford Disability Football Club and Swindon Town Community Foundation also took part in two special games played simultaneously on the main pitch at half time on Saturday.
The 'Being A Bantam' project is the idea of Dr Kris Southby, Research Officer in the School of Health and Community Studies at Leeds Beckett.
As part of his PhD research, Dr Southby worked with football fans of a number of different clubs, all with a learning disability. His project aimed to explore the benefits of football fandom for people with a learning disability, celebrating the diversity of football fandom and de-stigmatising learning disability.
Dr Southby explained: “Many football clubs have a disability team, and so I approached several clubs’ community contacts and asked to be put into contact with players that were also fans of their club who would be interested in speaking about their experiences of going to games. I had a total of 15 participants, all with various types of learning disabilities. We spoke about being what a football fan meant to them and I attended games with them to experience what is was like first-hand. Some people with a learning disability can also struggle to fully explain their thoughts; so I decided to use photography in my research, getting them to take photos and then use these as prompts in conversations.”
The photographs displayed tell the story of some of the key elements of being a football fan that are important to the Being a Bantam participants.
Dr Southby added: “The idea is that viewing the pictures will convey a message about the positivity of fans with a learning disability, the inclusivity and diversity of the football crowd, and de-stigmatise learning disability.
“My research shows the diversity of football fans with a learning disability - all the people that took part engage in different activities in their lives. I found that there are many benefits of being a football fan to the people I interviewed: there is a strong association with developing a positive social identity and feeling of belonging for people who might otherwise be quite isolated and detached from social interactions. Football acts as a good opportunity for them to meet new people, especially as it is such a popular sport in England: it extends beyond the game. Being a fan creates opportunities in real life to interact with other people and to become more involved.”
Dr Southby worked on the project alongside staff from the club and Bradford City Disability Football Club.