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Amazon Prime to launch doc on gay and inclusive rugby club Kings Cross Steelers

Excl: "I bought a new suit for the premiere but it was cancelled days before due to Covid" recalls director Eammon Ashton-Atkinson of the story of Steelers

2021-03-25

Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: Provided

Amazon is to release a documentary about London-based gay and inclusive rugby club the Kings Cross Steelers next month.

Steelers, directed by Eammon Ashton-Atkinson, will launch exclusively on Prime Video in the UK and Ireland on 16 April 2021.

The film follows the players and coach of the team as they overcome personal struggles and compete against 60 other gay clubs in the Bingham Cup in Amsterdam.



According to filmmakers, Steelers focuses on three players confronting personal issues in their lives, including 'gay female coach and former international player for Wales, Nic Evans, fighting misogyny in a male-dominated sport; Birmingham rugby fanatic Simon Jones is battling his own demons after recently coming out; and aspiring drag queen Andrew McDowell teaches viewers to live as the people they truly are.'

"Frank, honest and uplifting"

Martin Backlund, Head of Content, UK Prime Video, commented: “Steelers is a frank, honest and uplifting documentary that shows how a shared community can provide hope and a sense of belonging.

“I know Prime members in the UK and Ireland will be inspired by the personal stories within and the important issues it tackles.”

Director Eammon Ashton-Atkinson on the story of Steelers

"How did a concussion during a rugby game lead me to make an independent documentary about the world's first gay rugby club, which has just been picked up by Amazon Prime Video UK?

"It first began when I was injured during a match playing for the Kings Cross Steelers. I was ruled out of competing in an upcoming tournament, the Bingham Cup - the world cup of gay rugby. 

"I'm a television journalist and cameraman and was working for an Australian news channel as their Europe Correspondent. I'd never made a long format documentary but it was always a dream of mine.

"So on a spur of the moment, I decided to take my camera to Amsterdam where the tournament was being played to be a fly on the wall as my friends attempted victory there.

"I never imagined what would lay ahead.

"I finished filming - I won't give away spoilers about what happened - and was blessed to get some incredibly honest, heartfelt interviews from my teammates about how gay rugby had helped them with their mental health and identity and finding a sense of community.

"After the tournament I spent a month editing the film and ended up losing all of my work when I reformatted my computer without backing it up. I put the hard drive in a draw and forgot about it. Then when Israel Folau started posting his homophobic Instagram posts, I knew I had to start again and finish the film. 

"After editing 10 hours of footage full time for two months I finally had a first cut. I began submitting it to film festivals and it got selected for BFI Flare and sold out screenings in South Bank. I'd bought a new suit for the premiere but days before it was cancelled due to Covid.

"Flashforward 12 months after playing in more than a dozen film festivals around the world, with the endorsement of the All Blacks and Rugby England, and with the help of some fantastic, talented friends in the club who work in the industry, a distributor picked up the film and it had its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival and was ultimately picked up by Amazon Prime Video UK.

"There were so many sliding door moments along the way, starting with me getting that concussion, that could've easily stopped this film in its tracks. What I've learned through the process is to keep going - because similar to my journey with gay rugby - incredible things can happen when you step out of your comfort zone and give something a try."