How Cricket Fans in Nottinghamshire are Making History and Coping with COVID

Words: John Hess
Illustrations: Pete Dredge
Thursday 18 February 2021
reading time: min, words

John Hess of the Trent Bridge Heritage Team provides an update on how the Notts cricket community has been coping with life during COVID...


Towards the end of our latest Zoom meetings, we all smiled…and talked with excitement about the hopes for the new cricket season of 2021.

Since last June, a small group of volunteers with the Trent Bridge Heritage team have been involved in a ‘once in a life-time’ project…gathering a unique collection of interviews, documents and photographs - even face-masks - that record how cricket coped with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of our “Cricket and Covid” stories reflect the personal difficulties many people experienced, but also celebrate the resilience of players, volunteers, and lovers of cricket at all levels in the professional and recreation game.

With more than 120 interviews written up by the end of 2020, the Heritage team could reflect on what’s been achieved. “When we started in June, it was genuinely thought there would be no cricket at all”, said Peter Smith, a retired journalist – like me - who got involved the project.

“We had no idea that several months later, we would still be meeting in our Zoom sessions.”

The initial aim was to create an archive for future cricket lovers and historians wanting to research the impact of COVID-19 on the game. It was also a desire to keep the Heritage volunteers involved while locked down and during an absence of cricket.

The Heritage team had done a project a few years ago on the use of Trent Bridge as a convalescence hospital during the First World War. But Mike McNamara – one of the longest serving Heritage volunteers - had been frustrated at the lack of first hand accounts. So in the middle of the first lockdown, the “Cricket and Covid” project was set up.

“There is a uniqueness to this”, said Steve LeMottee, Trent Bridge’s Heritage Officer.

“No other county cricket club undertook such an exercise, and we are not aware of an equivalent in any other sport,” he added.

“The value of what we have collated and collected will be very significant nationally.”

It quickly became apparent that Trent Bridge means more than just cricket. It also means friendship and a sense of belonging

The archive includes the thoughts of Notts stars – such as Stuart Broad and club captain Steven Mullaney – from the first lockdown to the early glimpse of a return to playing cricket behind closed doors. First-hand accounts by club staff add their unique insight and interviews published by the club’s own website have also been included, together with a selection of social media postings by players.

But it’s the depth and range of personal stories from across the wider Nottinghamshire cricket “family” that is impressive, from the recreational, youth and women’s game, to bat manufacturers and local businesses, who’ve struggled with the lack of the regular Trent Bridge crowds.

And some common themes have emerged, says Heritage volunteer and oral historian Samantha Ball.

“The brief was to ask people to help make history,” said Samantha.

“It quickly became apparent that Trent Bridge means more than just cricket. It also means friendship and a sense of belonging.”

In early lockdown, common themes  - while missing family and cricket - were gardening and watching movies on Netflix.

“But that was followed by story after story of resilience and how cricket can react quickly, adapt and change when it needs to,” added Samantha.

“The interviews and the entire project were done in real time. It wasn’t a case of having to catch up and recall memories months after the event.”

The collection also charts the language of Covid…the bubble, bio-security, hand sanitizing…and the signage and safety protocols that eventually enabled cricket to resume towards the end of last summer.

Some of the interviews highlight initial concerns about the long-term prospects for the game among the recreational players. Finding enough volunteers or players for a Sunday match, and worries about a shortage of revenue, appeared to overshadow a lively debate on Twitter about losing “cricket teas” in between innings. What is also clear from the interviews is a recognition of how the ECB, the game’s leadership and Trent Bridge officials supported the recreational game when it was at its most vulnerable.

The project also touches on personal loss. After seeing his mother die from Covid-19, one of its interviewees contracted the virus and fought for his life in hospital.


The collection includes photographs that illustrate how Trent Bridge adapted. The normal changing rooms were taped off and out of bounds because they couldn’t guarantee social distancing. Instead, the Long Room in the historic pavilion was used by visiting teams, and the Executive Suite was adapted as a changing room for the Notts players, with taped floor markings to maintain personal distance and Covid safety protocols.

“We’ve got a fantastic collection of words and photographs,” added Steve LeMottee. He’s also gathered a variety of Covid face coverings and charity T-shirts that were produced by other County clubs.

“But we’re still looking for some NatWest CricketForce hand sanitizer and disinfectant!” said Steve. “If any club has a bottle left over, even if it’s empty, we’d be really pleased to hear from them.”

But among the Heritage volunteers, their most prized acquisition isn’t a photograph, interview or facemask …but a cartoon that’s now become the “Cricket and Covid” project logo. Designed and drawn especially for this project by celebrated cartoonist Pete Dredge, it illustrates a Notts fielder stretching out to catch a ball…little realizing it’s a giant sized Covid-19 cell with its distinctive spikes. The caption says it all: “Don’t catch it!”

Like so many Notts fans, Pete is looking forward to next season.

Added Mike McNamara:” When something is taken from you, you want it even more. That’s been a recurring theme.”

The next consideration is how to safeguard the collection for future generations. Assuming that current generations would be keen to “move on” once Covid is eventually beaten, the initial idea was to place it in a time-capsule to be kept safe at Trent Bridge, possibly to be opened in 25 years’ time

But as the project has widened and deepened, the Heritage team is looking at how to “future proof” the collection and make it more widely available in the short-term.

“We will need to decide where the collection – or copies of the collection – should be stored and the conditions under which it should be made available,” added Steve LeMottee.

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