To round off Lesbian Visibility Week, we’re joined by singer-songwriter Shura for another Football v Homophobia Podcast special; from fond memories of Manchester United’s Treble-winning season to having one of her songs featured in Netflix hit Heartstopper, it’s a conversation we’re sure you’ll enjoy!
Despite the air of melancholy surrounding Manchester United, Shura still finds so much beauty in football.
The singer-songwriter-producer is a lifelong United fan whose gloom at the team’s floundering campaign has at least been lifted somewhat by the recent announcement that Erik ten Hag will take over as manager next season.
She hopes the Dutchman’s connection with his former Ajax charge, Donny van de Beek, helps to ignite the £35m midfielder’s Old Trafford career.
It’s just one topic of discussion on a wide-ranging chat with Shura for a special episode of the Football v Homophobia Podcast to mark Lesbian Visibility Week.
“I feel deep sadness for people who don’t get football,” she tells Sports Media LGBT+‘s Jon Holmes. “It’s like Shakespeare! There’s so much history.”
Fans of the singer will be very familiar with the fact that she was on the books of Manchester City as a teenager, eventually moving away from the youth-team set-up at the age of 16 as her musical talents steered her towards the studio instead.
“My dad hated football but when I started playing and he was forced to engage with it, in a way, he found a way to fall in love with it.
“I can still talk to him about the 1999 Man Utd vs Arsenal FA Cup semi-final replay and Dennis Bergkamp having a penalty saved by Peter Schmeichel and the fact that I had to walk out of the room while that penalty was being taken.
“My dad screamed with delight when United won in extra-time!”
Shura’s music has recently been having a hefty emotional impact on a fresh intake of fans, with ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ featuring on the soundtrack of Netflix drama Heartstopper.
The song, from her 2016 debut album Nothing’s Real, plays when Charlie (Joe Locke) decides to chase after Nick (Kit Connor) despite heavy rain pouring down in the street where he lives.
The lyrics – ‘if you’ve got feelings for me, you just gotta speak honestly’ – are a perfect fit for a pivotal moment in the fourth episode when Charlie acts on instinct.
As a result, she has been enjoying Heartstopper watchalongs with her Discord community, known as Shutopia.
“I agreed for the song to be used nearly a year ago and you kind of forget after that,” says Shura on the FvH Podcast.
“Then suddenly I was getting all these tweets saying, ‘your song’s in this iconic scene’ and I was like, ‘what?! what is it?’ I’d completely forgotten! So then I said, look everyone, we all need to watch it together because it’s gay!”
Her pride at the track’s inclusion in a series that has already been taken to the hearts of LGBTQ+ people worldwide is evident. More so, she sees the soundtrack addition as an evolution for the song.
“The music video itself is similarly set, but in a more US, kind of John Hughes style.
“But what was really lovely was to see the song have a new life in a different type of scene, and in a British show as well.
“Growing up, that was more my experience than the music video was. And I love the two lesbians [Tara and Darcy] in their year! We were laughing about it on my server, saying ‘I wish my school was this gay!’
“And the fact is that, of course it was – but it just wasn’t spoken about or people didn’t know yet.”
The WSL is well known for having plenty of positive LGBTQ+ representation and even though Shura is a devotee of the Man Utd men’s team, she’s been getting more into watching the top-flight of the women’s professional game too, with Arsenal her chosen WSL club.
Being able to celebrate the star players who also happen to be women-loving women is a welcome bonus for Lesbian Visibility Week, she feels.
“As a queer person and as a fan, I love the images of players kissing and embracing their partners after a win. I love that that happens. I almost feel like crying just talking about it, it’s a really special thing to see.
“It also fills me with slight sadness that we can’t see that yet in the men’s game. I understand why, and I really hope I live to see it. Of course, we’ve had men who have come out but I’d love to see it at the same level as we see in the women’s game.”
Later on the podcast episode, Shura discusses the happy family she’s a part of at Goal Diggers FC, the London club for women and non-binary people that she joined a couple of years ago. It was at one of their training sessions where the image of her kissing an FvH rainbow football was taken!
Meanwhile, Shura also talks about cosplaying as some of her favourite video game characters on her Twitch stream, on which she has also raised around $2,000 in donations for The Trevor Project.
Listen out too for Shura reflecting on an uncomfortable interview experience from 2015, and an incident that occurred on public transport while travelling to a match that left her feeling unsafe – an important reminder of an element in the culture of men’s football that still needs to change.
On a much more upbeat note, there’s a mention for one of Shura’s favourite moments when her worlds of music and football collided.
“Randomly, I went to an Arlo Parks gig, and Leah Williamson was there with Carly Telford. They told me that there are some of my songs that are on the pre-match playlist – can you imagine tiny nine-year-old Shura brain being told by England women footballers that songs they have made are on a pre-match playlist?! I nearly cried!”
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