WITH the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner, Hartlepool is celebrating the achievements of its sportswomen in a fascinating new exhibition of photographs.
Called 'Inspire', it aims to capture the women's dedication and passion in images which will encourage more women to take up sport.
The photographs have been taken by Hartlepool photographer Lucinda Grange. The 23-year-old has worked with 18 of the town's athletes over the last year-and-a-half to create the images, which show the women in a combination of training, competition and studio settings.
Among those featured are the town's two Olympians - boxer Savannah Marshall and swimmer Jemma Lowe - as well as England and Everton women's team footballer Lindsay Johnson, boxer Amanda Coulson and dressage rider Anne-Marie Perry.
Figures show that, despite the progress which has been made, the number of women and girls taking part in sports activities is still much lower than men, both nationally and locally.
As well as practical barriers such as lack of time or childcare issues, social and cultural barriers can also play a part in deterring more women from pursuing sport.
Yet sport and physical activity is a really enjoyable way to increase fitness and taking part can increase a person's wellbeing, reduce their stress levels and lead to real personal achievement.
Lucinda said: "Some women still see sport as a male-dominated activity and therefore at odds with being feminine. "Nothing could be further from the truth and I hope that my exhibition will help tackle those misconceptions. "For that reason I have deliberately chosen to portray the sportswomen in a way which does not conform to the traditional, more 'masculine' form of sports portraiture.
"I sincerely hope that this celebration of the marriage of art and sport will give more young women the inspiration to take up sport, creating a lasting legacy in this our Olympic year."
The exhibition opens on Saturday 7th July in Hartlepool Art Gallery in Church Square and runs until Saturday 1st September. The Gallery is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 5pm and entry is free.
For more information about the many opportunities for women to enjoy sport in Hartlepool, contact Hartlepool Council's Sport and Recreation Team on 01429 523404 or e-mail email@example.com
For more information about this exhibition and other events in Hartlepool, visit www.whatshappeninghartlepool.com where you can download the events brochure and sign up for our regular events e-newsletter.