Gold Coast Showman

Based upon the life of Arthur Wharton, 1865-1930. This film will tell the untold story of a remarkable Victorian sporting celebrity who was once a household name but who until very recently had been erased from Britain’s sporting history: Arthur Wharton, the world’s first Black professional footballer and 100 yards world record holder. The film will focus on key periods of his extraordinary life. We see his emergence as a 20-year-old sporting prodigy while at college in the North of England studying to be a missionary; playing for Preston North End, the first professional team in the world; as a national amateur sprint champion and as a professional runner.

Through this emphasis on definitive episodes in his life we see the essence of Wharton the unique Black sportsman at time when Black people were assumed to be inferior. We see his proud, defiant and creative approach to his pursuits: he was the goalkeeper ‘with the prodigious punch who would crouch in the corner of the goal until the last moment then spring into action to make a fantastic save’. As a runner he ran ‘like an express train, with full steam on from first to last’.

The story and style draws upon both the raw realism of his mercurial existence in which his public adulation contrasted diametrically with the grief and turbulence of his private life. The script will not be a worthy biopic that follows him from cradle to grave. It will tell of heroism and tragedy, love and denial, achievement and failure.

He was Britain’s first Black (Victorian) sporting superstar. Yet, he died a penniless miner in a workhouse sanatorium of cancer and syphilis in 1930. His burial plot, until 1997, had no commemorative gravestone. The film will bring to life the captivating story of an extraordinary man of colour from a wealthy Ghanaian family who chose to live in the industrial towns and pit-villages of northern of England, becoming part of their folklore and Victorian Britain’s consciousness. It is time his Arthur Wharton’s turbulent life and incredible achievements became, once again, an integral part of our national biography. Gold Coast Showman will be part of that process.