World Cup Lioness Lotte Wubben-Moy shares how her love of football and creativity collide
To celebrate the start of the 2023 World Cup, we spoke to the London-based footballer about her creative childhood, her undying love for Arsenal, and how football and the arts may be more intertwined than you might think.
For many, the relationship between football and the creative world might not be an obvious marriage, but for Lioness Lotte Wubben-Moy, the two go hand in hand. When she’s not got a football at her feet – playing for her home club of Arsenal or England’s national team – Lotte can be found with a pen in her hand, doodling away or planning her next creative project.
Alongside her increasingly promising footballing career, the Lioness has been at the forefront of a number of initiatives, which includes producing two free colouring books for kids to mark the Euro’s and the upcoming World Cup, and a scheme for young girls in North London exploring the intersections of football and creativity. Lotte’s perception of how ‘creativity’ manifests in the footballing world is one that’s broad and all encompassing. For the footballer, a particularly innovative pass or assist on the pitch can be as creative as producing a physical piece of artwork; both are about expressing yourself in the ways you know best.
In recent years at It’s Nice That, we’ve seen a massive increase in projects that show just how beautiful the beautiful game really is, from Goal Click, a project that tells stories of footballing teams across the world through disposable photography; Caricom, a magazine dedicated to examining football culture “through a Black lens”; to Sebastian Barros’ delightful What’s Good, a photo series depicting the elation of returning to the pitch post-pandemic. In 2019, we even got involved ourselves, commissioning a number of our favourite creatives to create a “minute by minute” illustrated guide to the Women’s World Cup.
“I think art is always about being open minded, being open to exploration, and doing things differently. Often in sport you’re put into a box, and art is very much the opposite of that.”Lotte Wubben-Moy
Keen to find out more about what fuels Lotte’s love for the arts and how it interacts with her footballing career, we start at the beginning. Lotte grew up in the city of London and was raised by two creative parents. Her mum, a seamstress and fashion designer, grew up in Watford before moving to London to study at Central Saint Martins “following the bright lights and excitement”, Lotte says. Meanwhile, her dad grew up in the Netherlands in a family of flower growers, and moved to London to follow his dreams of pursuing carpentry – he now runs his own furniture company. Lotte sees their passion for the arts and their strong determination to carve a path for themselves as key influences, and fundamental in making her the person she is today.
Growing up in the bustling English capital, Lotte recalls spending her childhood making the most of its iconic creative infrastructure, from climbing on the sculptures outside the Design Museum’s original building in Shadwell to family trips at the Tate Modern. “I think one of my earliest memories of art was Olafur Eliasson’s massive sun in the Turbine Hall,” Lotte says. “That was pretty breathtaking. The magnitude of that still takes my breath away.” Lotte’s fascination soon turned into a desire to try things out herself. Whenever she had friends around, if they weren’t outside playing the ball game kerby (“and wrecking peoples cars with footballs”), they would be spending hours at her kitchen table with pens and paper, drawing the day away.
Funnily enough, this image of young Lotte freely scribbling away at her kitchen table doesn’t differ too drastically from how she practises art today. She maintains this carefree environment and sense of openness through doodling, and refusing to take the final outcome too seriously. “People often shy away from drawing or art because they think it’s reserved for people that can quote unquote ‘do it well’. I think doodling is something that has no real box that you can sit in,” she says. “There is no real way of ‘doing it’, and I think that’s why I love it so much, because no one can really judge you for it. It feels like everyone can do it.”
“Football can be so intangible at times, it just lives on the pitch. I want to focus on the tangible side of it, how people can hold on to it, and how it can stay with them for days, months and years to come.”Lotte Wubben-Moy
Being raised in such a creative environment, you could be quick to assume that Lotte’s passion for football came as something of a shock to her family – but this was far from the case. Like doodling, Lotte’s love of football emerged from a young age; she spent most evenings after school taking herself to the cage near her family home, and practising religiously. From then on, her journey into the sport is something she describes as “fluid”. On her parents’ reaction, Lotte says that “It never really felt like a watershed moment. It was more their young daughter doing what she wanted and enjoying it, and I think that was enough for them”. And when things inevitably started getting more serious, with training and matches becoming ever more frequent, they were always by her side. “I think maybe they saw it as creative for a young girl to be going out there expressing herself and doing what she wanted – I think that’s the epitome of creativity in general.”
While Lotte can identify a number of artists she admires – Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt and Gorillaz illustrator Jamie Hewlett – she’s never really been one for “role models”. Instead, she’s much more attracted to the “movements” artists create, and the impressions and changes they make as a collective force. For the footballer, this ethos is reflected in the exponential growth of the women’s game in recent years. “Women’s football was never really visible when I was a youngster, but now it’s becoming more and more so, and young girls now have a number of individuals and teams they can look up to.” 10 years ago, women’s football saw little attention in the media or on the big screen. Now, it’s selling out stadiums and filling out pubs as a formidable player in the sporting landscape. This is partly down to the clear passion of the players like Lotte, who are eager to get everyone involved, forge a community and to celebrate a whole side of football unfairly sidelined for so long.
It was in the run up to the Euro’s that Lotte’s creative and footballing passions came together in a unified project. “The Euros was unbelievable, we sold out stadiums in ways that the men’s game never had,” Lotte says. “This isn’t necessarily to compare, but to put into perspective how amazing it was.” While Lotte may have been excited about selling out stadiums, she was also aware that there would be many young fans who wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend the matches. As such, the footballer wanted to devise a way for young fans to get involved in a relatable and collaborative way, even from the comfort of their own homes. Before long she came up with the idea of a colouring book, one that kids could fill out at their dinner table, or when following the games on the TV. “What excited me the most was that I know as a young girl I would have loved something like that, and if it’s just to be doing it for young Lotte, then that’s reason enough,” she says.
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Our Euros Your Colours: Cover (Copyright © Lotte Wubben-Moy, 2022)
“People often shy away from drawing or art because they think it’s reserved for people that can quote unquote ‘do it well’. I think doodling is something that has no real box that you can sit in.”Lotte Wubben-Moy
When approaching the project, Lotte had no doubts of where best to find help and turned to her sister Vita, a graphic designer. Taking control of the technical side, she both knocked down ideas – “as she so eloquently does as an older sister,” Lotte laughs – but also encouraged Lotte in areas she didn’t feel as confident. Together they reached out to illustrators to be part of the project, creating a “starting 11” of artists, referencing the number of players per team who start a match. “I think that was quite a cool idea, directly relating it back to football,” Lotte adds. Originally, they planned to only include women in the project, before getting a number of male artists involved too. Because, as Lotte identifies, “I think we need as many male allies in the game as possible. This isn’t just about empowering women, but also young boys and men to look up to female footballers as well.”
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Our Cup Your World: Cover (Copyright © Lotte Wubben-Moy, 2023)
The resulting book, Our Euros Your Colours, is brimming with energy and full of lively scenes relating back to the women’s game – from pitchside fans, pre-match warm ups to joyful post-goal celebrations. Following such a successful reception (on Lotte’s Instagram you can see heartwarming photos of kids with their colouring books), Lotte and Vita have collaborated on another iteration for the upcoming World Cup: Our Cup Your World. This time, the book will revolve around the theme of breakfast – a nod to the early starting times of matches for UK viewers. It includes a whole host of brilliant creatives including Stella Murphy, Layla Amarchih, Daryl Rainbow and Reuben Dangoor and, in a particularly exciting turn of events, the book also features a page from one of Lotte’s favourite childhood illustrators, Jamie Hewlett. Importantly, both books are free to ensure anyone can have access to a memento of such a momentous time. “Football can be so intangible at times, it just lives on the pitch,” Lotte summarises. “I want to focus on the tangible side of it, how people can hold on to it, and how it can stay with them for days, months and years to come.”
“I think we need as many male allies also in the game as possible. This isn’t just about empowering women, but also young boys and men to look up to female footballers as well.”Lotte Wubben-Moy
On why she chooses to focus on younger generations, Lotte identifies that “any individual would be naive to ignore the fact that kids are the future”. She continues: “We should live in the present and relish the opportunities we have today. But I think it's tomorrow that makes me most excited about women’s football, knowing that we really could go anywhere.” In a move led by Lotte, the Lionesses made the most of the post-Euro’s win excitement to bring attention to the barriers preventing more young girls from getting into football. In collaboration with the organisation Let Girls Play, the team penned a letter to then-prime ministerial candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, asking them to put more funding in PE and female PE teachers. Since then, the government has guaranteed £600 million of funding to ensure a minimum of two hours of PE in school a week, and that girls have equal access to all sports, including football. “I've seen it first-hand living in Tower Hamlets where so many young people don't have the opportunity,” Lotte says. “If I can provide a small opportunity within the space that I have an impact on, I'm going to do it.”
In Lotte’s most recent contract with Arsenal, the club gave its backing to a bi-annual eight-week programme involving Lotte to work with around 20 young teenage girls at the Arsenal hub, helping them to explore football and creativity. She’s keen to impress that projects like these wouldn’t be possible without the support of Arsenal. Not only is it Lotte’s home club, but it’s the team she’s supported since childhood, and one she greatly respects for their dedication to the women’s game. They’ve been one of the few teams to guarantee a number of the women’s league matches to be played at their home stadium and, in Lotte’s eyes, “setting the standard in terms of support for the women’s team”. It comes as no surprise to Lotte that they’re supportive of creative projects, especially following the Emirates recent makeover. Artists (and Arsenal fans) David Rudnick, Reuben Dangoor and Jeremy Deller collaborated with the club’s supporters to create eight new artworks to cover the stadium’s exterior, incorporating archival research into the club’s history and handmade fan banners. “They understand the idea of keeping things within their community in North London, celebrating individuals and the work they do,” Lotte says.
When talking to Lotte about her various projects and goals, it’s pretty hard to imagine how she manages to fit it all in alongside her intensive training schedule as a professional footballer. “I mean the irony of it is that I am extremely busy,” she laughs. “But it actually gives me energy being involved in other projects and exciting things. We’re all a small part of a big moving world – no man is an island and all that. So while it sounds hard to a lot of people – and it would be easy to say ‘I just want to focus on football, I just want to put my feet up and relax’ – but it gives me energy.”
“There is no real way of ‘doing it’, and I think that’s why I love it so much, because no one can really judge you for it. It feels like everyone can do it.”Lotte Wubben-Moy
Could the footballing world benefit from making more of an effort to integrate creativity and its values into its foundations? In Lotte’s eyes, there’s no question. “I think art is always about being open minded, being open to exploration and doing things differently. Often in sport you’re put into a box, and art is very much the opposite of that,” Lotte says. “It’s less about being rebellious, and more about working together and changing people’s minds and ideologies. we’ve seen that art can be a vehicle for change.”
Clearly, Lotte isn’t going to stop until everyone has heard about the women’s game, the movement it’s creating and the joy it brings to so many; whether that’s with her foot or with her pen.
Photography by Wendy Huynh, doodles by Lotte Wubben-Moy (Copyright © Wendy Huynh and Lotte Wubben-Moy 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.