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What is a Smart Gallery

Sick of starchy museums and art galleries that display the ‘usual suspects’ artworks or artefacts?  Elitist establishments that do not engage with visitors? If so this is the exhibition for you!

Smart Gallery (Social Museum and Art Gallery) is a unique collection of works curated by the public. Now is your chance to influence what exhibits are on show.

Anyone can submit something they consider to be worth display whether it is a programme, a self-penned poem, family heirloom or found object. It doesn’t have to be old or historic it just has to interest you. Everything is considered for display and the entire exhibition depends on people’s desire to share their special possessions. Artefacts with a back-story are especially welcome. You will be invited to label and help to display your object, and of course have a photograph taken with it in pride of place in the gallery.

Smart Gallery is the brainchild of Helen Peyton, born in Skipton and since 2011 has been artist in residence at Craven Museum & Gallery, creating linocut prints of exhibits in the permanent collection on the museum’s incredible Britannia printing press that dates back to the 1850s. Smart Gallery is the conclusion of the residency and is an opportunity to invite people to decide what museums should be displaying and what they consider interesting with an aim to create an exhibition like no other.

This constantly evolving exhibition cannot work without the enthusiasm and input of people like you so please donate a piece of history for temporary display.

A Bit about Ref?

Ref! is a play inspired by the life story of the first ever female referee of men’s Rugby League, Julia Lee. Written by Sarah Jane Dickenson, it charts the journey of a girl growing up in the 1980s, who faces numerous challenges to realise her passion for a sport dominated by men and a culture that is intent on keeping her in her place. Alex, as the main character in the play is called, has other ideas and against the odds finally triumphs to be in charge right in the middle of the game.

A universal story of how a woman determinedly proves she is not a victim – but a survivor, thriving as referee and role model.

What is Crossing the line?

Ref! is the catalyst for a far wider project, Crossing the Line, produced by Leeds-based arts and social change charity, Space2. The project works with rugby league clubs across Yorkshire and Humberside, initially, collecting, documenting and exhibiting as yet untold stories of women in Rugby League, from the mum who washes the kit every Saturday to the pioneers of Women’s Super League. We are working with women and fans of the clubs to ensure that women share their stories in their own words, co-curating SMART (Social Media and Art) galleries for display at clubs and on-line. SMART Gallery is the brain-child of Yorkshire artist, Helen Peyton, long-listed for the Turner Prize in 2015.

The exhibits – the stories and memorabilia of women involved in Rugby League – will bring an exciting and unrivalled, permanent contribution to the RL National Museum collection opening in 2021.

The project also includes delivery of the Aspiring Programme, an opportunity for girls and women to work with Julia Lee to build confidence, resilience and aspirations, developing leadership and cultural skills. Julia provides a programme of workshops and one to one coaching to support participants to undertake tasks and activities within their local communities, from hosting fundraising events to creating exhibitions.

The Team

Julia Lee

Julia was the first female qualified Rugby League Referee in Great Britain and Australia and had fifteen years’ experience as a Match Official reaching professional and International honours. To date no female in the UK has surpassed her achievements as a referee.

She began refereeing at the age of seventeen. But after only five years she became a Graded Official, finishing top in the Laws of the Game exam and passing the strenuous fitness test. Within a couple of years, she was refereeing National Conference Premier Division, the elite of the Community Game, alongside the Colts (U19) and Alliance (First Team Reserves). Before her premature retirement, due to injury, she refereed over 500 games with accolades in the Student Game and International Honours in the women’s and men’s games.

She was instrumental in the late 1990s developing the Rugby League Match Official pathway in training and development.

Julia retired in 2000, due to a back injury, and became a Director of Community Projects and Events for Rugby League in 2012. She eventually managed to bring about changes that she could only have dreamed about as a young woman

Julia founded the company Common-sense Initiative (CSI) in 2017, to inspire and empower young people and women to unlock and achieve their potential.

She uses her journey and sporting experiences to engage with young people and women through life coaching, workshops and inspirational speaking. She supports young people to reinforce positive beliefs, and ultimately, provides individuals with the self-confidence to achieve their potential.

Julia recently became the first woman to receive the ‘Lord Lofthouse Award’ for ‘Services to Rugby League.’

For further information visit


Space2 is an award-winning arts and social change organisation, established in 2003.  It pioneers arts and social change practice, alongside programmes of community development to help bring about transformation in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Leeds and the region. As part of this work Space2 addresses issues linked to people’s under-representation and marginalisation to support them to build community cohesion and find a voice.

To find out more go to:

Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson

Sarah Jane is a writer and Head of Department of English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Hull.

Her experience of scriptwriting ranges from working with Graeae Theatre’s to being commissioned by the Goethe Institute to write a play for young people reflecting the 20th Anniversary fall of the Berlin wall as part of an international European project – to gaining an arts award from the Wellcome Trust. Her work has been produced in a variety of settings from small theatres, community centres, schools and prisons, working extensively with large and small casts in participatory and community settings. Her latest plays to go in to print are CBA and That Berlin Moment, both published by Barbican Press.

To find out more go to:

Helen Peyton

Helen is founder and artist in residence of Smart Gallery, the social museum and art gallery, long listed for the Turner Prize in 2015 It offers a unique collection of works, stories and artefacts curated by the public, objects of personal significance that they believe should be saved for posterity in temporary exhibitions and online collections.

Helen is Artist Ambassador at Leeds City Art Gallery and Creative Practitioner at The Hepworth Wakefield who works with lino to create unique and detailed artworks based on the collections in her various museums.

Based in the North Yorkshire Dales, yet nationally regarded, her works are exhibited at the Royal Academy, Scottish Academy, Leeds City Art Gallery and collected all over the world.

More information at

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