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Fig By Four

Away From The Noise

Sarah Statham is Leeds-based multi-instrumentalist Fig by Four, also seen recently as the bassist for Crake and drummer for Living Body. On the cusp of releasing her first solo record Capture Reveal, Sarah likes to work off her excess energy on the pitch. 

“When I think back to growing up in the mid-to-late 90s, the first image that comes to mind is a photo of me sat on the low branch of a tree at the park near my uncle’s house, holding his dog Sallie and wearing a red Manchester United shirt. It’ll have either been last season's kit or a knock-off, but I didn’t care. I was proud.   

It was my Uncle Kevin who took me to Old Trafford and ignited my passion for the club game. By the time I went to see a ‘proper’ match I was already kicking a ball around at school and swapping sticker book shinies in the playground. It was the classic scenario of being the only girl in the mix, but the boys were cool with it; they usually are.  

Unlike other sports, there’s a certain spontaneity about football that sets it apart. No lack of knowledge about the rules or positions gets in the way of a kickabout. It’s really charming. Open space, alleyways, campsites. A 10-year-old approaches you with a World Cup replica ball and you don’t say no. Others follow, and there it is: Game on. I've heard people liken goalkeepers to drummers - setting the pace at the back of the team/band, deciding how to affect a pause in the flow of a game/song. I think about this when I’m holding the match ball standing on the edge of the box, ready to boot it back into play. Drop the beat. 

When my P.E teacher was marking out the team in year 9, I didn’t state a preference. I’d have been happy to play any position, but she put me in goal. To her logic at the time, my die-hard enthusiasm for the game maybe meant I’d care most about not letting goals in. Or maybe Miss Harvey saw something in my DNA. Since then, I can’t deny that between the sticks is where I’m supposed to be at 2pm on a Sunday. It’s nuts, to be honest — willingly positioning your body as the only thing preventing a solid sphere from hitting its target is a pretty wild thing to do. But if that’s what you’re made of, it’s the most cathartic thing ever.  

A couple of years ago I joined the Leeds Hyde Park Women+ team. After a long gap without football, I got a second chance at playing the beautiful game. What’s more, I’ve become part of a growing group of the most amazing people I’d very likely have never met otherwise.  

My teammates compliment my goalie characteristics (protective, intuitive, a bit weird), with their wing-back quick wit, on-point strikerly observations and the kind of wisdom and insight amongst them that would render anyone a candidate for captain.  

I feel pretty lucky to have rediscovered a place I thought I’d left in the past, and I timed it really well, with the excitement that is building around women’s football at the moment. Here’s to the 23/24 season… 

Fig by Four’s debut album Capture Reveal is out now. Follow Sarah on Instagram @fig_by_four and @leedshydeparkwomenplus

Fig By Four

Words by Sarah Statham

Photography by Andrew Benge

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