Wrestling Politics


Dates for the Diary:
Wednesday, 12th February 7.30pm Carlisle Wrestling Club Junior Points Night
Wednesday, 19th February 8.30pm Carlisle Wrestling Club Senior Points Night

"Rory Stewart, the Wrestler." When I saw these words juxtaposed in the midst of an internet search, I thought that I had discovered a new facet of my local member of parliament, Mr Rory Stewart OBE MP, and wondered whether we could persuade him to join Carlisle Wrestling Club. After a better look at the punctuation and other information, it appeared that he had written a short story called "The Wrestler" about his experiences in Afghanistan for an Oxfam book, "Ox Travels" in 2011.
The wrestler in question was Parwan Aziz who had "won the Afghan national championship in 1963, gaining a broken nose, cauliflower ears, and damaged knees....His speech was composed of boasts and scandalous revelations, interrupted by grimaces provoked by his bad knees. 'I will make your project work'." Aziz was an unappointed community leader who gave crucial support to Rory Stewart's charitable Turquoise Mountain project which revitalised a run-down area of Kabul and set up a centre for the development and sale of arts and crafts.
However, the real wrestler of the title is Stewart himself, struggling with local bureaucracy, pressured by the size of the task and fighting to interest corporations and individuals to invest in the project.
Wrestling and politics rarely mix. In Cumbria we have had two long-serving County Councillors who hiped and hanked in their younger days: Bill Cameron of Maryport, forty years an elected Labour politician used to compete in his local sport, and Jim Bland, another veteran County Councillor, has represented the Lyth Valley for the Conservatives for many years. He was a champion wrestler in his youth and Chairman of the Wrestling Association's Governing Board for many years.

The Great Match - 1813

Other than them I can think of no other examples of political wrestlers...... except that on a wall less than four feet away from where I type this in my writer's garret, is a picture of two substantial politicians-cum-wrestlers. The water-colour is one of the oldest images of our sport, dated 1813, and entitled THE GRAND MATCH, Carlisle Races. As a wrestling print it is a failure as the arms are all wrong for the traditional hold, but as a political satire every detail is charged with significance. The three horses on the old Swifts Racecourse under the wrestlers' bellies carry the colours of the winners of the 1812 General Election in Carlisle. The wrestlers themselves have political ribbons, yellow and blue, which may "suggest that the artist is saying that although an independent MP had won the election 'race', in fact the age-old struggle between the yellows and the blues was continuing as it ever had". (Matthew Constantine).

The politics may be obscure but my picture tells me of the importance of wrestling two hundred years ago when it could be used as a metaphor for the political struggles of the time, and everyone would get the joke.

Written by © Roger Robson ..... Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (2014).

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