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Precious Emily

As part of the lead up to the Commonwealth Games and as part of Birmingham 2022 Festival, a touring theatre company Stan’s Café, based in Birmingham, has been commissioned to make 11 shows about weightlifting which approx. 540 primary school students will watch.

The play, Precious Emily, is about lifting up heavy things and is inspired by two very strong British weightlifters: Precious Mackenzie and Emily Campbell.

Precious Emily

Precious ‘The Pocket Rocket’ McKenzie was born in apartheid era South Africa in 1936 and won four Commonwealth Games titles & represented Great Britain at three Olympic Games.

Born in Durban, South Africa, in 1936 McKenzie left the country after they refused to pick him for the Empire Games and Olympics because of the country's apartheid policy. 

He was once famously photographed holding Muhammed Ali on his shoulders. Legend has it that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were late for an official engagement at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch because she wanted to watch Precious McKenzie win his third consecutive gold medal in weightlifting.

He emigrated to New Zealand and settled in Auckland where he won his fourth Commonwealth gold representing New Zealand at the age of 42 at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.

The inspirational and charismatic Emily Campbell was born in Nottingham in 1994, and has had a stellar rise through the ranks in recent years after switching sport from Athletics.

Campbell won her first English Senior Championship in January 2017 competing in Milton Keynes. She would then go on to retain the title in 2018, 2019 and 2021 and has also enjoyed similar success at British level with a maiden title triumph in 2017 at the Ricoh Arena, in Coventry, followed by two more consecutive wins in the years that followed.

In 2018 Campbell won bronze for Team England at the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast.

At the 2021 European Championships Campbell became the first British weightlifter to win a clean sweep of golds across all three disciplines at the European Championships since Marie Forteath in 1988, hitting six out of six lifts.

Emily Campbell also became the first British woman in history to medal in weightlifting at the Olympic Games by clinching silver in the women’s 87kg+ session which saw British and Commonwealth records broken.

She is only the sixth person in British Weight Lifting history to stand on the podium at the Olympic Games and the first since David Mercer in 1984, in an amazing display of strength and determination that inspired the nation.

Between now and the start of the Commonwealth Games Stan’s Cafe are making ELEVEN different versions of this show, with ten partner schools

Each school will be working with a different director, will have a visit from a choreographer to work on the movement, a composer to work on the sound and a British Weight Lifting coach to work on their technique.

Every school will be giving a public performance of their Precious Emily in a venue close to their school. Then, on 14 July, Stan’s Cafe will bring together a scene from each production and combine them in a Gala Performance.

What a fantastic way to celebrate Precious McKenzie’s career and Emily’s most recent success!

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