Tull by Phil Vasili, Octagon Theatre, Bolton
The Octagon Theatre presents the world premiere of Tull, the remarkable tale of real life World War One hero Walter Tull – a talented officer on the battlefield and the first black outfield player in the First Division in Great Britain. Like the Octagon’s last great football play, And Did Those Feet, Tull is inspirational, dramatic and moving - proving that through perseverance and a sense of community, divisions can be overcome.
Tull’s exceptional talent as a footballer led to him being signed by Tottenham Hotspur in 1909. His achievements on the pitch, both as a sportsman and a gentleman, soon became recognised in the national press. One journalist, reporting on a match against Bristol City, stated “Tull is so clean in mind and method as to be a model for all white men who play football whether they be amateur or professional.”
When the Great War broke out in 1914 Tull signed up and soon demonstrated a natural flair to lead and inspire. Despite military regulations forbidding "any negro or person of colour" becoming an infantry officer, Tull’s heroism in battle was rewarded in May 1917. Overcoming racial prejudice and military rules he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and became the first black officer in the British Army.
Tull remained unmarried however the play explores his relationship with suffragette Annie Williams, his landlady and close companion, with whom he found a kinship despite the many restrictive social conventions they faced.
Phil Vasili, author of the biography Walter Tull, 1888-1918: Officer, Footballer, has worked with David Thacker to develop the play following years of research into the life of Walter Tull. With a campaign to decorate Tull posthumously for his war efforts reaching parliament and the recent outbursts of racism on and off the pitch, Walter Tull’s story has never been more important.