Paul Heaton (Housemartins & Beautiful South) Speaks To TAL

Paul-Heatonblades2 Paul Heaton – Sharp Blade

Former Housemartins and Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton was a guest in the Green Room, TAL Forum’s interview area, in March 2010, this transcript of the interview first appeared in Issue No.2 of TAL’s Ezine edition, April, 2010.

Paul discussed music, football and politics with us in what turned out to be one of the best ever TAL interviews.

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Will there ever be a Housemartins’ reunion, even for a big one-off gig?

PAUL: As far as the Housemartins are concerned, I don’t go back to wet T-shirts.

Have you ever encountered bias or bitterness in the music industry because of your political views?

PAUL: The Housemartins were removed from Number 1 at Christmas on the morning of the charts, directly in response to something I’d said live on Radio 1 about Margaret Thatcher. 

The Beautiful South had the fastest selling British album ever with ‘Carry On Up The Charts‘, how did you find it so hard to get a recording deal for your latest album with stats like that behind you?

PAUL: Unfortunately history counts for little in the current climate. Otherwise it would just be me and a series of Black Lace / Brotherhood of Man type acts in the charts. Now we’d all want that wouldn’t we?

In regards to bands reforming do you think this has a negative effect on new music? Looking at last year’s Glastonbury line the headliners were almost all older groups Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, CSN, Madness, Specials, Blur, Nick Cave etc. Although there has always been the older crowd puller but now festivals seem saturated by them and it seems to me a lack of ambition in promoting new music over the tried and tested big sellers/crowd pleasers.

PAUL: I absolutely agree with that even though i am what you would call an older artist. There seems no point in going to a festival just to see what you can hear on a jukebox.

Are you a fan of any Spanish, or I suppose more broadly speaking, international groups that don’t sing in English? Maybe when doing international festivals you will have had the chance to see other groups that may not be well known in the UK but are famous in their respective countries?

PAUL: I am a fan of quite a bit of French hip-hop, Rajan and Sajan Mishra, the Spanish band Edwin Moses, particularly their Love Turns You Upside Down album, and of course, Manu Chao.

What bands influenced you growing up and if you could get to duet with anyone dead or living, who would it be?

PAUL: From an early age I listened to Soul and Country and also was physically moved into joining a band by Punk. Any music played well and sung well still inspires me. If I had to choose one individual person to sing with it would involve a time machine and Memphis Slim, the Blues singer.

Is ‘The Rising of Grafton Street’ by the Beautiful South in reference to the Easter Rising?
PAUL: Not intentionally

LOL – but we can claim it for Ireland anyway!

PAUL: You certainly can! 

Can you give us an insight into the lyrics of the song “Poppy” and what motivated you to write it?

PAUL: It was roughly to say any imperial war is always likely to be a case of hoodwinking the working class.

The bands that you’ve been part of have run as collectives with all being equal and getting an equal share, what kind of reaction did you get from record companies and other artists to that kind of socialist approach in a band?

PAUL: I’ve only ever been greeted with bafflement and patronisation when it comes to my politics. Don’t forget during a Red Wedge meeting I walked out because when I suggested that the record business should be nationalised I was shouted down. These are the artists that you thought had a socialist approach.

Are there many/any others who have the courage of their convictions?
PAUL: There are, but their convictions have changed.

With regard to Red Wedge, what do you think of Paul Weller’s politics, was he too close to Labour at that time and has he shifted right or left since then?

PAUL: Paul Weller has always swung from centre-right to centre-left but remained a great writer. He is never going to shift massively either way again, but that’s not a criticism.

Billy Bragg however seems to be moving onto dangerous ground with some of his recent arguments. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_41og4DxBm8 

Any plans to play Glasgow soon and will you be cycling here?

PAUL: Details are on www.paulheatonmusic.co.uk

Paul-HeatonbladesYou were born in Merseyside, ended up in Hull and you’re a big Blades fan, what is the connection with Sheffield United and what is the first match that you remember going to?

PAUL: I moved to Sheffield when I was 4. My first United Match, 5-0 against Villa. All downhill from there!

What was your first steel city derby match and what was the score?

PAUL: Probably Gerry Young testimonial 1970 0-0

Who is your favourite Blades player of all time and current time. and why?

PAUL: Geoff Salmons – style and grace

Have you ever been to a Celtic v rangers match?

PAUL: I’ve never been to an “OF” match, never been to a match in Scotland.

I believe that you have watched football in countless countries, what is your favourite other team, and have you updated your Top 5 detested teams since 2005? If so what are they?

PAUL: Lecce in Southern Italy… As for hated sides that changes every hour of every day.

What got you into Italian football?

PAUL: My Dad got me into Italian football, he had style and grace.

I hear you’re a good friend of Sheffield United’s BBC lads (Blades Business Crew). Did you ever get caught up in any trouble at the football with them, and if so what was the most memorable ‘ruck’ you were involved in?

PAUL: There are those on the coach that tell jokes, there are those on the coach that fall asleep, then there are those on the coach who like to fight. I was the one who told a joke that caused half the coach to fall asleep and the other half to fight. No comment!

Favourite Adidas Trainer?

PAUL:  Any Adidas Yoshimura particularly black ones

What are your thoughts on the state of the modern game of football?

PAUL: Footballers as the work force are surely only the pimple, the beer gut, double chin of what the industry itself is devouring. When those in the upper echelons of this sport ask the lower echelons “why have those representing the game become so bloated?” they have to look carefully at the expensive swill that they have offered as bribes and treats to the already bloated. Ha! Weren’t expecting that were you?

Ha ha! – No, I wasn’t.

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You are quoted as saying “everything is political”, a view shared by most on here. Has it led to many sticky situations for you?

PAUL: No, not at all. I’m proud of my politics, I’m proud of a long line of political argument in this country and all over the world. There is nothing that unites me with a person, stranger or friend like a good discussion argument or fall out over something both those people value.

I read an interview you gave when you were playing in Ireland and you mentioned an instance in your Housemartin days where a man was wearing a ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ t-shirt at the front of the gig, and you and the band took direct action against him. Were there any other notable instances of when the band took direct action against racists and was that sort of thing common at shows?

PAUL: He wasn’t wearing a t shirt he was wearing a badge and i immediately noticed another badge stating ‘kill a commie for mommy’.  He was working as a roadie and I told him that I was a commie and what was he going to do about it? I then made him take the jacket off which he did and turned it inside out, spat on it and made him put it back on again. The only other time we had trouble with the vocal right was when somebody ‘sieg heiled’ at a Northampton gig, whereby I picked up my microphone stand and attacked him.

Following on from that question, as a Marxist and anti fascist, what do you think is the best way to tackle the rise of fascism and the BNP in britland?

PAUL: Firstly argument, secondly the bombing of the press and other medias, thirdly direct physical action.

Following on from what you were saying about tackling anti-fascism… What are your opinions on the UAF and how they are tackling the situation with the ‘EDL’ – right approach, or wrong approach?

PAUL: I would only repeat firstly the argument to them how many Muslims do you actually know? The answer is always none. How many radical Muslims do you know? The answer is always none. Does your suspicion of the community of Islam arise from any first hand experience? The answer is always No. Finally, does your impression of Islam come from anything other than the paper you read and the television station you watch? These people in the EDL are not the people who speak to Muslims they are not the people who socialise with Muslims they are the people who know the least, so why are these people the know alls of the Muslim community? Because they’re fed on the same swill that fed the English masses in the 70’s and 80’s about the Irish.

I’m personally of the opinion that the UAF are giving far too much publicity to the EDL and are taking peoples eyes off what the BNP are doing. I’m also not sure that screaming ‘racist’ all the time helps… Anti-fascists working in the community to build against fascism is the most sensible way don’t you think?

PAUL: Possibly UAF are doing that whilst the BNP thrive, but for the BNP and the EDL to thrive we have to not look at the UAF but to look at the Media and in particular the journalistic notions of the Mail, Sun Express Times Telegraph. Are these to be the establishments we trust with accurate information about racial harmony? My own daughters go to school with every single race you can imagine in perfect harmony. I often walk into the playground thinking, this is a BNP nightmare. If this is to be the one last question I answer tonight, I would say the BNP the EDL the mail, and their right wing cohorts will forever be on the back foot. This next election maybe Blue, but the future is black white and brown!

Speaking of the Irish, what were your own views on the situation in Ireland when the IRA were at war with the British state?

PAUL: My own views were gagged at the time. By that I mean interviews where I mentioned the republican struggle in as positive light ‘disappeared’. Earlier on I was asked about a Housemartins reunion, the last question asked about my feeling on the current climate politically. Lets just say when i look at the financial sector of the city of London, when I look at the baying politicians with their noses in the troughs of working class taxes i say to you. P.I.R.A couldn’t you reform for one last gig, it would be a blast. 

What’s your views in general about politics in Britain at the present time – what choices do the working class have now that every politician from local to national seems to have their nose in the trough and all the mainstream parties appear to have shifted to the right?

PAUL: It’s tempting as a working class voter to feel alienated, desperate and de-democratised, but this has always been the case. Any voter as old as myself or older will know that working class people have only at the very best of times been represented by 5 or 6 people in parliament. The time came a very long time ago, as it has again now, to question parliament, parliament’s existence and the very existence of democracy.

What is you opinion on the current situation in Britain whereby you cannot cross the street, open a newspaper or watch TV without being faced with some ‘tribute’ to or collection for the British armed forces?

PAUL: I’m absolutely gob smacked that the state and their army are blindly controlling millions of people to think that if you give a penny to troops in Afghanistan that they will give a fuck to you when your husband or wife attempts to raise an issue in parliament. By that I mean, when finally the parliamentarians tramp on every civil liberty we ever had, are these troop groups and ‘help for heroes’ going to come to our rescue, or are they going to be propped up from the turrets outside the house of commons?

Can you envisage a reunified Ireland in your lifetime, which is unfettered from Britain? It is for many on this forum the political question of all political questions…

PAUL: Yes I can, for the very reason that if the empire of Britain finds a more pertinent thing to scratch they could easily leave the British in Ireland behind. It’s worth remembering the most disloyal Britons are the ruling class and royalty. They will abandon Northern Ireland, and abandon Britain if and when a new carrot is dangled in front of them.

Thank for coming on to the TAL Forum and speaking so freely to us about music, football and politics. It has been an absolute pleasure and a privilege.

PAUL: Ok, I’ll get going now and I want to thank you for all your questions but mainly wish you all the best in your lives, your conversations, and where those lives and conversations take you. Up the Blades! And bless you all. X

 

  • Thanks to all the Talsters who fired the questions: Sheaf, GRB, Victor J, Talman, Celtic Lhad, Greengo, Karl, Barney, Bandit, Ryanbhoy, Ruahri, Dreenan, GSI, Red Clydeside, Pilgrimbhoy, Big Moog
  • Very special thanks go to Sheaf for arranging the interview with Paul Heaton.

Sean Fallon R.I.P. – Celtic Legend

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Celtic Legend Sean Fallon aka ‘The Iron Man’ has passed away.

The term ‘legend’ is bestowed all too easily on players and managers these days, but Sean Fallon was a true Celtic Legend, serving as a player, coach and scout to the club.

Without Sean Fallon as his right-hand man, it might be argued that Jock Stein may never have achieved legendary status himself, together they were a force to be reckoned with, the duo that shaped the style of play that saw us win the European Cup in 1967 and countless honours since.

R.I.P. Mr Fallon.

We reproduce below the excellent WikiCelts biography of Sean Fallon’s long career at Celtic

Fallon, SeanThis is a featured page

Personal

Fullname: Sean Fallon
aka: The Iron Man
Born: 31 July 1922
Died: 18 January 2013
Birthplace: Sligo, County Sligo, Ireland
Signed (player): 21 March 1950
Left
 (player): 2 Aug 1958 (retired)
Position: Centre-half, Full-back, defence
Debut:
 Clyde 2-2 Clyde, League, 15 April 1950
Internationals
: Ireland
International Caps: 8
International Goals: 0
Assistant Manager: 1962-1975
Acting Manager: 1975
Chief Scout: 1975-1978

Biog as player

“I can never hope to find words to express my feelings at becoming a member of the Celtic Football Club.”
Sean Fallon

Sean Fallon Pics - Kerrydale StreetBorn in County Sligo, Republic of Ireland, Sean Fallon played for Celtic F.C. and became a legend at the club during his playing days from 1950 to 1958, playing as a full-back and centre forward. He made 254 appearances, scoring 14 goals. He also earned 8 international caps with the Republic of Ireland.

A keen sportsman, Sean was captain of the Sligo Swimming Team who regularly took to the foundering Atlantic around Rosses Point deep in Yeats’ country. It would certainly take the hardiest of souls to call such a thing recreation, so the captain of that crowd must have been a bit of a standout, despite his rye concession that he won the Henry Cup twice because he knew where the current ran – which always helped him in quicker than the other lads. He was also a talented Gaelic Footballer, playing for Craobh Ruadh until falling foul of the old “vigilante rule” which dictated that you could not play Gaelic if you played “foreign sports” like that oul Brits game – soccer.

Sean’s Celtic story began quite literally, by an accident. The son of the Celtic legend Jimmy McMenemy (Joe McMenemy)saved Fallon’s sister, Lilly, from drowning at Lough Gill. Fallon invited Joe McMenemy back to his house and the Scot returned the compliment by sending Sean presents of a Celtic shirt and Willy Maley’s book “The Story of the Celtic”. 

Sean Fallon started his football career with St. Mary’s Juniors and also played Gaelic football for Craobh Ruadh. He also played for McArthurs, Sligo Distillery and Longford Town before he arrived at the Showgrounds in 1947 to play for Sligo Rovers. He then joined Glenavon in the north before impressing Celtic F.C. with his performance for the Irish League against the League of Ireland.

Sean continued to play soccer in Ireland, eventually finding himself at Glenavon – where he finally succeeded in doing what he was aiming to do all along – impressing Celtic. He was signed and made his debut in the last game of the 1949-1950 season – when Celtic were still drawing themselves away from the doldrums which had almost saw them relegated. The following year, Sean had helped them to win The Scottish Cup in the McPhail Final against Motherwell. In 1952 he was made Captain of Celtic.

“I was just an ordinary player with a big heart and a fighting spirit to recommend me.” – Sean Fallon.

Within a year of his debut he had helped the team win the Scottish Cup, beating Motherwell, 1-0. Fallon said later: “As I walked off Hampden Park I felt I had got everything out of life I had ever wanted. I had become a member of the famous Celtic F.C. and holder of a Scottish Cup badge all in one year.”

Two years later Sean would also have a cup final goal to celebrate as he scored in the Scottish Cup Final as Celtic went on to defeat Aberdeen in front of 129,000 fans! The 1950’s were a barren period for Celtic F.C., with two major triumphs providing rare moments of joy for the long-suffering support. The first was the double of 1953-54. Fallon suffered a broken collarbone against Hearts in October which kept him out for most of the season. In the days before substitutes were allowed he left the pitch for twenty minutes only to return with his arm in a sling and continued playing.

Despite all of this; perhaps Sean’s finest moment at Celtic begins thus. In Hamilton there sat a wife and young family, the husband and father a professional footballer plying his trade at Welsh Club Llanelli. Jock Stein was looking for a way back home to Scotland. He was brought back by Celtic legend and all-round gentleman Jimmy McGrory, and although the great man has refuted it in interviews – it was widely accepted that he was brought back as a veteran to look after the youngsters, play in the reserves and act as a stop-gap first team centre-half. His return was mocked, according to Fallon, by Charlie Tully – who asked him what Celtic were doing signing and old guy like that. Fallon, who was actually 5 months older than Jock, got his own back on Tully and the other younger members – by asking Stein to be his vice-captain. After that, Stein was off-limits to the critics. As the opening sentiments of this post show – it was an act Stein never forgot.

“My closest friend in the team was Bertie Peacock but I chose Jock over him mainly because I wanted to prove to the others lads that players his age weren’t washed up.” – Sean Fallon


The captaincy of the side, which had passed to him in 1952, was taken over by 
Jock Stein. Fallon was back to full fitness for another momentous occasion in Celtic’s history – the League Cup final victory in 1957, when Celtic beat Rangers 7-1 at Hampden Park. The match has since become known as Hampden in the sun.

Sean Fallon’s performances in a Celtic jersey earned him the nickname of “The Iron Man”.

While injury played some part in the rest of Sean & Jock Stein’s playing days – the men formed a bond, they liked the betting, they liked the cinema – but most of all, they loved talking football. If you were to walk down Suchiehall Street in the middle of the 50’s it would not be strange to pass the window of Ferrari’s and see Jock Stein, Sean Fallon and Bertie Peacock all sitting in, talking players and tactics.

Both men’s careers were eventually ended by injury. Playing careers that is. Fallon was forced to retire in 1958 through injury but his influence and importance at the club continued. Their friendship and mutual respect however were to come together in later years to provide all the faith, training, discipline and self-belief required to lead a troupe of young local players to the immortal European Cup success in 1967.

He became assistant to Jock Stein when Stein took up the post of manager in 1965.

When Jock Stein survived a near-fatal car crash in 1975, Fallon took over as caretaker manager. He was an integral part of Celtic’s success under Jock Stein, when he was the manager’s right-hand man and his powers of persuasion were often called upon to secure the signatures of promising young players who would go on to become Celtic legends – David HayDanny McGrainKenny Dalglish, and Packie Bonner among others.

Biog as coach

Fallon, Sean - Pic

“He phoned and asked me to come over and see him one night Hibs were playing at home to Aberdeen. ‘You know I’m coming as manager,’ he said, ‘and I know you’ll be disappointed. But I want to reciprocate for you making me your deputy by asking you to become my assistant’. ” – Sean Fallon.

While well known as a Celtic legend by all those familiar with his story, Sean Fallon possibly does not enjoy the reputation he deserves among the wider Celtic family. Looking back through his life, it is hard to imagine a man being so smitten with a football team as Sean Fallon is with Celtic FC. 87 years old this year – he still refers to “my Club” with a deference akin to religious piety, at odds to his gravelly Connacht drawl.

After playing they both coached reserve Celtic sides and both impressed then chairman Bob Kelly with how they worked with the players under their control. The next few years have been cause for much speculation and rumour in Celtic history. Some say that Jock Stein left the Club because he thought he had gone as far as a Protestant man could go at Celtic. That may have some truth (although no evidence of such). It may be a more pertinent point that he would not have been content to take a Celtic job which in those times included the inevitable input of the larger-than-life and highly interfering Bob Kelly.

While everyone loved Jimmy McGrory the man, his position as manager was very much ceremonial as Bob Kelly had a major influence by constantly meddling in team affairs. So Stein left Celtic to manage Dunfermline to prove his ability, but Fallon stayed on. During that time Fallon developed what turned into a real eye for a player. Fallon is credited by some with bringing Ronnie Simpson to Celtic, ironically after he impressed at Hibs while under the tutelage of Stein. It is well known that of all the Lisbon Lions, only Willie Wallace was a Stein signing – however it seems likely that Fallon would have had a hand in the choosing of most of the grand number who went on to be part of the Lisbon Lions:

“It was Sean Fallon who complimented the youth policy with a few shrewd signings in the interim between McGrory and Stein – now they were ready to be moulded.” – Celtic: The Official History DVD

When it became time (incidentally the ‘time’ eventually being supposedly decided by fan pressure) for McGrory to eventually be replaced, Stein was the fans’ favourite – however rumour persists that Bob Kelly wanted Fallon to be the manager and Stein to be his second in command. Rumour also persists that this scenario was put to Stein who, knowing what was required, sent the Celtic back to think again. Bob Kelly eventually realised that the fans were right, and came back to offer Jock Stein the job as his and his alone.

Another man could have been annoyed. Not Sean Fallon:

“I wasn’t disappointed but just happy to serve my club in any way I was wanted. And gratified when Jock then said he chose me because he could trust me implicitly. ” – Sean Fallon.

Fallon also claims that in that initial meeting as manager and right-hand-man at Celtic – Stein asked him what he thought of a young player called Davie Hay. Fallon said he thought he was cracking player – but he was off to Chelsea to play for Tommy Docherty:

“Jock told me that if I wanted to stop that happening I should make my way down to the Caledonian Hotel where Davie was with his dad waiting to meet Tommy Docherty. I did, spirited them back to Paisley in my car, and convinced them to sign for us even before we arrived. I don’t think the Doc has ever forgiven me for that.” – Sean Fallon.

Sean Fallon played a pivotal role for Celtic. Fallon was the man whom the players could confide and turn to when needed. Jock was a hard man but also very much fatherly, and this could mean some tough love at times. Sean Fallon helped to compliment him for the first team in coaching and player management.

Sean FallonWhat these men brought about at Celtic is a story that everyone knows. A European Cup and 9-in-a-row to the East End of Glasgow. Winning all of 5 competitions entered in 1967 was an amazing achievement, but typical of the man:

“I’m proud that we achieved something no other team has but it was just all about living the dream with my club.” – Sean Fallon

Together they turned the club into a giant fortress of which we all are in their debt to. Fallon’s part in the club’s success can never be underestimated. Every great manager has a great man to work along with him, and for Jock it was Sean. The problem is that we are all so much in awe of Jock Stein that we have generally overlooked Sean’s part in all the great success. That needs some realignment. Sean is deserving of every plaudit possible.

It wasn’t all good easy. Fallon filled in for Stein after ill-health and a serious car accident in the Summer of 1974 rendered him temporarily incapable of fulfilling his duties – but Fallon could not do the job his friend and confidante did with such class. It wasn’t an easy time, and one man that Fallon couldn’t handle was the precocious George Connelly, who walked out on Celtic for the last time and Fallon didn’t have the strength to tackle him. This season proved the first since Stein’s return as manager that the club’s trophy cabinet remained bare. The task of following on from Stein was likely more than have may have been asked of anyone, especially of the dedicated Celtic servant than was Sean Fallon.

Sean Fallon was replaced as Stein’s assistant in 1976-77 and put in charge of Scouting. He took up his new role with dedication, although has admitted that the demotion “hurt deep in the heart” – but even being interviewed as an 83 year old man in 2005, he preferred to use the platform not to outline his own complaints but rather to orate his still bitter criticism of the way Jock Stein was treated by Celtic in the end.

In his job as Celtic Scout, Fallon went on to prove he had a superb eye for a player – and is credited with the acquisitions of Danny McGrain and Kenny Dalglish among others – he also brought a youthful Packie Bonner to Celtic from Donegal in 1977.

Too often regarded as a peripheral figure, his love for the Club, his abilities as a player, as a coach and also as a scout have had a profound impact on the way Celtic FC has been shaped since his joining. As Celtic fans, we all owe him a debt of gratitude for all that he has done.

In 2002, he was awarded the “Freedom of Sligo” award as a mark of the respect his community has for all that he done.

Through all his days at Celtic, his friendship with Jock Stein remains the most poignant role he has played.

“A week before Jock died we were down south for a game and he was just the same as all those years before in Ferrari’s, telling me this player and that player wouldn’t make it and asking what I thought. I miss those conversations.”

On January 18th, 2013, he passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning at the age of 90. He died a much-loved man, surrounded by his family. He will be must missed by all the Celtic family. We could not ask for any more or any better of a person as we had from Sean Fallon.

Searching For Sugarman – Moving, Uplifting and Inspiring…

sugarman2

Forty-two years ago, the Detroit-born musician Rodriguez, part Mexican part American Indian, released his debut album, Cold Fact. It is one of those albums borne of its time and Rodriguez was obviously affected by what he saw around him in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s; inequality, social upheaval, student protests, hippies and drugs. However, despite the Dylanesque feel of protest to the album and some fine songs to boot, it wasn’t a success. In fact, it bombed, Cold Fact was a total flop… except for one country, South Africa.

Not only was it apartheid South Africa where his music was popular, it was also with a section of society that Rodriguez may not have excepted to affect, white Afrikaans middle-class youth. It is intriguing to note that a generation of young white middle-class Afrikaaner youth were affected by the subversive protest songs of an artist like Rodriguez and those who became devotees of his music also came to hate the apartheid system. They felt cut off from the rest of the world by the oppressive authority and censorship of the apartheid regime. Because of the ‘closed society’ of South Africa his fans were unaware of how far Rodriguez’s fame actually went, they were under the impression that he must be a worldwide superstar on a scale with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones or The Beatles. It was only post-apartheid that it became apparent that Rodriguez’s star shone only in South Africa (and briefly in Australia, although the documentary doesn’t go into this).

A generation of white South African musicians, journalists and the guy with his own record store, who opposed apartheid, took their inspiration from his music. This film is about them and their search for their idol, a musician about whom they knew nothing other than wild and unsubstantiated rumours. It is a wonderful documentary about a man who, once we are introduced to him, inspires only admiration for the unpretentious, unassuming way that he has lived his life. Although this film does not delve deeply into Sixto Rodgriguez’s political views and activism, it is obvious even from small hints, that this is a man who played a full part in the politics of his community. He is from the working class and proud of it. It was refreshing to hear Americans – particularly his daughters and his workmates from the building sites – talk about being from the working class and taking as much pride in their friend and father’s community activities as they did in his music.

Sixto Rodriguez was discovered in a Detroit bar by two celebrated producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They recorded an album that they believed was going to secure his reputation as one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. Despite overwhelming critical acclaim, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, it became a phenomenon. Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation led them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez. This is a film about hope, inspiration and the resonating power of music.

Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul’s heartwarming documentary Searching for Sugar Man is now available to buy on DVD

BLOG FLASHBACK 1: George Galloway MP – TAL Interview, Winter 2003

galloway1This blast from the past is an interview with George Galloway MP, which appeared in TAL Issue 37 from Winter 2003/2004.  TAL’s London Rep. Marxman along with editor Talman met up with the then MP for Glasgow Hillhead who had recently been expelled from the British Labour Party. At the time of the interview a military alliance led by British and US armed forces was an occupying force in Iraq. Other issues that came up for discussion included Palestinian solidarity, the long-term prospects for peace in Ireland, sectarianism and anti-Irish racism in Scotland, and of course, the future of Celtic FC.  

 

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Currying Favour With George Galloway

We meet George Galloway MP for the Respect Party at London’s Euston Station. George suggests going for veggie curry at one of the nearby Indian restaurants. He asks if we want to go to the one with alcohol or the one without alcohol. We opt for the alcohol free place, its nearer and, anyway, we’re on our best behaviour. We’ll get pissed after the interview. To the restaurant we adjourn, paper, pen and dictaphone at the ready. But first there was food to be eaten…

There’s something about the experience of veggie curry served in large dishes for ‘sharing’, in fact, any kind of food served anywhere in big ‘sharing’ bowls is just hippy madness, in my opinion. I know it’s all Buddhist and Eastern to ‘share’, but feck it, when it comes to grub, my plate’s my own. And with vegetarian food, you’re always left feeling like somebody else must have eaten all the best bits – sorry veggies. Marxman, sitting beside me, is a big lad and could easily have devoured the whole bowl himself. So there we were, two starving fat guys from a football fanzine in a highly recommended Indian vegetarian restaurant in London to interview the firebrand left-wing MP and we couldn’t talk for having a silent battle for supremacy over the curry portions.

I don’t know if it’s a Dundonian thing – and who am I to cast aspersions – but given the ample proportions of the company present maybe more than one solitary bowl of curried potatoes to share was in order? I didn’t get a look-in, between the two of them guzzling spicy spuds, I had no chance. I was suspicious that George had plated well over his fair share of curried potatoes. At one point, I considered just going for it and forking a couple off his dish, then I had a momentary flash of John Reid landing on his arse in the House of Commons and I remembered that George throws a mean jab, so I left my belly to rumble and George to scoff the tatties…

After all, the Milky Bars (or at least the curries!) were on him.

In relation to the war in Iraq George Galloway was absolutely convinced of the correctness of his political stance against the US/British invasion and subsequent occupation of the country.

“Everything the anti-war movement predicted has come true. We said that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction and there aren’t. We said that Iraq was not a threat or danger to anyone else, either in the West or even to its Arab neighbours, and it wasn’t. Let’s face it, it couldn’t even defend it’s own capital city for more than a couple of days.”

During the course of the interview Galloway, who has an insight into Iraqi politics that few other politicians on these islands possess, ominously predicted the large-scale resistance to the western military occupation that has become all too real in recent days and weeks. He was also scathing of the reasons given by Bush and Blair for the war, stating as the real reason for the conflict the quest to plunder the rich oil fields of Iraq by multinational corporations allied to the determination of the US political/military establishment to create another bridgehead of political control in the region outside of their client state, Israel.

“ We said that the war would increase rather than decrease Terrorism in the world and it has. We predicted that the level of hatred towards Britain and the USA would increase and it most certainly has. You only have to look at the British Foreign Office’s own website to see that the number of countries now considered to be dangerous for its nationals to travel to has greatly increased as a result of the war.

“And the real reasons for the war were apparent almost immediately as American companies lined up to receive the contracts that would allow them to strip the country of its wealth. All the prime contracts have been sliced up and handed out to the corporate friends of the Bush regime, including among them the Vectra Corporation whose day job incidentally is the privatisation of London Underground.”

He is also pessimistic about the prospects now for an early withdrawal of troops from Iraq given the massive damage that has been done to the infrastructure of the country by the invading forces.

“This is Vietnam all over again. There is going to be no easy way out for them now. They are seriously considering privately the prospect of an occupation force that could be in Iraq for as long as 5years, 10years or maybe even longer.”

We decided to tackle George about the continual criticisms of him in the media for his alleged contacts with the Saddam Hussein regime. Did he think that it was justified for him to have travelled to Iraq and met the dictator in the past?

“I met Saddam Hussein twice. That’s exactly the same number of times that Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Rumsfeld was meeting him on behalf of the US Government to sell him guns whereas I was there to try to persuade him to destroy guns.

“Neither do I buy the idea that just because I met Saddam it somehow means that I supported his regime, but it sometimes amazes me that people are taken in by the tabloid attacks on me. I’ve even had a wee bit of abuse at Celtic Park. I was on my way into the ground for a match and one guy shouted at me, ‘There’s the Tripoli Shamrock!’  A bit of a lapse in geography there. I’ve also been accused of being ‘Gaddaffi’s Friend’ even though I’ve never been to Libya and I’ve never actually met the Colonel!”

The MP for Hillhead is nothing if not philosophical about the tabloids’ view of him. A recent issue of The Sun newspaper ran a headline accusing him of being a “Traitor” and demanding that he be tried for treason.

“Funnily enough, the first time The Sun ran a “Traitor” headline against me was in 1990 when I marched in Dublin alongside Gerry Adams. Their line then was that no-one should be meeting or speaking with Adams.

“What’s better, talking to people in order to reach an agreement and avoid war or having a war where thousands of people get killed?

“If the British government had met the Irish Republican Movement earlier and dealt with the political demands of the nationalist community we may have avoided years of war and violence and many people who are not with us today might still be alive.

“And exactly the same is true of Iraq.”

George Galloway has for many years been a supporter of the cause of Palestine. His solidarity with the Palestinian people goes right back to his early political career in Dundee. It’s an issue that is familiar to TAL readers and supporters and despite the years that have passed and what appears at times to be an almost insoluble political situation he remains passionately committed to the rights of the Palestinians.

“A gratifying development in more recent years for me has been the realisation among many Celtic supporters of the importance of the Palestinian issue; how it’s not something that is foreign to them; that the Palestinians are fighting against the same forces that have so destroyed and stultified Ireland and the Irish people. Forces that have driven the Irish to the four corners of the world, just as the Palestinians have been driven to the four corners of the world.

“I am so happy when I see Palestinian flags flying among the crowd at Celtic Park. I feel a particular satisfaction about that because I have been so involved with that issue going back to the early 1970’s.”

As one of the few MP’s who has consistently campaigned for British disengagement from Ireland he also derives some personal as well as political satisfaction from the current political process that has pushed republicans to the fore in their efforts for a political solution to the conflict.

“It generally takes a long time to be vindicated in politics especially when you’ve taken a stand that is widely reviled at the time you first argue for it. In the case of Ireland, when I was being roundly condemned as a traitor for speaking with Gerry Adams in public, it turns out that all the time Mrs Thatcher and her representatives were speaking to him in private! It just goes to show the total hypocrisy of the British state in this regard.

“I’ve always believed that Britain should disengage from Ireland. For someone from my own background, as the grandson of Irish immigrants, it really isn’t possible for me to have taken any other view. Britain doesn’t have an Irish problem – Ireland has a British problem.”

It won’t surprise TAL readers to hear that due to his forthright views on Ireland Galloway has been a target of hate for loyalists in Scotland. Even the baptism of his grandson Sean managed to create controversy when it was publicised that the baby’s christening was the first Catholic baptism ceremony to be performed in the House of Commons since the days of Guy Fawkes. Despite the threats and abuse he has received over the years, he remains committed to peace in Ireland and to resolving sectarian conflict in Scotland. He imparts some advice to loyalists in the 6 Counties about the choices that they face.

“I concur with the advice given to them by Tim Pat Coogan, that they should ‘cut a deal’ before it’s too late. Essentially that was the conclusion drawn by the whites in South Africa. Unfortunately it’s not a position that has been adopted by the Israeli settlers and you can see the results.

“In the same way that the South African solution enshrined the rights of minorities, even the rights of the formerly dominant white minority, so too must any arrangement reached in Ireland preserve the rights and interests of the two traditions. The interests of all of the people of the island must be guaranteed.

“It would be just as intolerable for the nationalist majority in Ireland as a whole to treat the unionist minority badly as was the reverse in the Northern Ireland statelet for so many decades.

“I’d say to the loyalist population that they should stop fooling themselves that Britain has any interest in maintaining their supremacy. What you share in common with the rest of the people in Ireland far outweighs the things that you don’t have in common.

No-one wants to take away your churches or your orange halls. You can live as you want to, but you must also accept that other Irish people are your equal and they have a right to elect a government of their choice and as long as that government is one that respects your human rights as a community and as individuals. That is the best option available to unionists as a community because the British fell out of love with Ian Paisley & Co a long time ago.”

We asked George about his perceptions of “sectarianism” in Scotland and what he thinks of the Scottish Parliament’s proposals regarding the banning of marches that are deemed to be sectarian.

“I don’t want to see any marches banned. Where possible we should seek to accommodate all views within communities. Banning marches is not the way to address views that you disagree with or object to. Obviously a slightly different approach has to be taken if a march is proposed to go through an area with the specific aim of provoking trouble – as is the case in areas of the 6 Counties – but even then they are sometimes allowed with conditions placed upon them.

“You cannot equate republican marches with those of the orange order. There is certainly a difference between republican politics and religion. Michael Davitt was Protestant; Wolfe Tone was Protestant. You do not have to be a Roman Catholic to be an Irish republican. Republicanism is not a religion it is a political tenet, one that is shared by a very large number of people. Of course it’s not sectarian to be a republican – it’s the opposite of sectarianism.”

Finally we got down to the issue of football and despite our suspicions that George was in fact a Dundee United sympathiser (he has a soft spot for ‘the Arabs’ from his time in Dundee) he professes a life long affection for The Bhoys. Not surprisingly, as a Celtic supporter, he is as passionate about how our club is run as he is about how the country should be governed.

“I had a disagreement with Fergus McCann some years ago when he came down to London to address our Westminster branch Celtic Supporters Club. I challenged him about his description of the fans as customers. I said that ‘customers’ can choose to change brands if they are dissatisfied with the product but as supporters of our club it’s impossible for us to make that kind of consumerist approach. As Celtic supporters we can’t change to another brand because WE are the club and WE support them through good, bad or indifferent times.

“It’s a cultural thing that means everything to so many people. It’s our lives, so please don’t call us ‘customers’ because it’s an insult. We’re not buying chocolate biscuits – this is Celtic we’re talking about.

“As I said to McCann at the time, ‘This club and its supporters were here long before you and they’ll be here long after you.’ “

George Galloway said a lot more about his ideals for the club and those that he thought would be in the best position to take it forward. He cited his friend Brian Dempsey, as being “Celtic through and through” and expressed disappointment that there is still no place for Dempsey in the structure of the club.  He also expressed agreement with TAL’s position of supporters having a greater say in the running of the club.

“I strongly support greater involvement of supporters at every level of the club. That is ultimately how the club should be run. We need a genuine coalition of Celtic people; the rich ones who can provide the necessary finance and the ordinary Celtic supporters who, come rain or shine, through thick and thin, remain the backbone of the club.”

Love him or loathe him, George Galloway remains a figure of political controversy, but he is also firmly committed to the issues in which he believes. His views on Ireland and Palestine may be more popular nowadays but it wasn’t always so. He has recently helped to establish a new electoral organisation called the Respect Unity Coalition. Our thanks to him for agreeing to be interviewed – and for paying for the curries when the bill came around!

(c) TAL & George Galloway

This Interview first appeared in TAL Issue 37

In Defence of the Green Brigade

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THE  BIGGER  PICTURE

The first TAL Blog of the New Year certainly proved to be controversial due to its questions surrounding the political ‘bona fides’ of the rebel fantasist. There were some near-the-knuckle swipes taken at MacGiollabhain which might be viewed as gratuitous by some and for that reason we amended the blog accordingly. The quips about Phil’s mental health are digs he can take, he gives enough out, he should expect to get a few back. In the meantime, we will park questions about Phil’s political past and personal eccentricities to one side for now, as a reply from him appears unlikely.

We can perhaps shed some light as to why we believe that his and, more importantly, the PLC’s vision of Celtic’s future, despite its allusions to our Irish heritage, will move us farther away from the ideals of Brother Walfrid and the club’s founding fathers than we have ever been at any point in our history.

GLOBAL  CAPITAL  V  LOCAL  AUTONOMY

Phil MacGiollabhain often waxes lyrical about how his grandfather’s people ran with the IRA flying columns and were founders of Fianna Fail in Mayo. Maybe it’s the Fianna Fail’er in him – that preparedness to forego principle in favour of political expediency – that brings him along the well-trodden path of other ‘rebels-turned-rascals’ attempting to politically sanitise and socially cleanse the Celtic support? In his thinly veiled attacks on the Green Brigade, patronising them with false praise in one sentence and then in another implying that the group were associated with drunken anti-social behaviour and fighting at Dundee. This became a rallying point for MacGiollabhain and his merry band of middle-class, holier-than-thou ‘rebels’ and foaming-at-the-mouth anti-republicans and anti-politicos.

There is a method to the madness. Phil has realised that his personal vision of the club’s commercial future is not mutually exclusive to that envisaged by the club itself. Maybe Phil fancies his chances as journalistic cheerleader and PR consultant in the club’s drive to open up new markets in terms of sponsorship and advertising and developing the Celtic name as a ‘global brand’ to rival that of the Manchester United’s and Barcelona’s. That is Phil’s (and the PLC’s) ‘bigger picture’, the global capitalist position, if you like. Any which way you look at it, it’s about the accumulation of wealth. It’s certainly not about widening the club’s fan base, because that is more likely to come as a by-product of wider ‘brand recognition’ as a bigger growing concern getting more media coverage. Our fanbase in the USA and Canada is pretty much rooted in Irish America anyway, maybe its full potential has not yet been reached, but this is about big bucks not loose change.

As Phil so carelessly let slip in one of his less guarded moments (a slip of the keyboard that even managed to draw some sharp intakes of breath from his most fervent supporters) this is about the ‘monetizing’ of An Gorta Mor – the common link that bonds the Irish worldwide – the suffering of millions as the cultural backdrop to a football club’s (and in particular, its board and major shareholder’s) insatiable appetite for cash. Phil MacGiollabhain has embraced the global commercial ambitions of Celtic PLC and the price of this ‘rebel’s’ support is permission to add his own little bit of ‘Irish cultural’ branding to it. Is this really the club that Brother Walfrid built?

The hullabaloo over a bit of Boxing Day drunkenness at Dens Park was overreaction in extremis. Some Celtic fan blogs shamefully aped the tabloid press in their condemnation of the fans. Whilst we are in no way condoning any anti-social behaviour that did take place, a sense of proportion needs to be applied. It should be remembered that there was a total of 4 Celtic fans arrested as a result of these incidents. One Dundee fan was arrested in an unrelated matter. A total of 5 arrests from incidents that the press described as a ‘mass brawl’ and which the Tayside Police called a ‘riot’. At a third division match involving another Glasgow club, there were 8 arrests in what police described as ‘trouble’. At the most recent Dundee derby match, there was a total of 18 arrests. The same Tayside Police – who claimed that a ‘riot’ was going on when they arrested 4 Celtic fans – congratulated both sets of fans for their ‘good behaviour’.

A  POLICY  OF  CRIMINALISATION

There is a concerted effort being made to criminalise members of the Green Brigade and other young supporters of the club by the police, who appear to be getting every assistance and encouragement from Celtic’s Security Chief and the PLC board. The recent statement by a GB member with regard to Dundee gave only a brief glimpse of the police harassment of Green Brigade members. The campaign against the group appears now to include the club feeding misinformation about them to ‘onside’ reporters and bloggers. The deliberate whispering  campaigns against the group included the lie that they are responsible for repeated acts of criminal damage in their section at Celtic Park. That one even got as far as the players, groundstaff and some former-players.

There maybe Celtic fans who will dismiss the GB’s claims of harassment and their claim that they have proof of a wider conspiracy against them that runs from the club board all the way down to the rebel journalist. We haven’t seen the GB’s evidence, but from past experience all we can say is that it rings true to us at TAL. We experienced much of the same treatment by the club and security staff under the stewardship of ‘the bunnet’. For example, during the era of Fergus McCann’s ownership of the club, fan-based anti-racist campaigns were deliberately countered by club-controlled mirror groups. When we set up Celtic Fans Against Fascism, the club responded by setting up Bhoys Against Bigotry, a group that was privately encouraged to target TAL as an example of ‘bigotry’. When we reacted to the murder of two young Celtic supporters and the maiming of another at the hands of assailants with rangers and loyalist connections, by establishing the Campaign Against Sectarian Attacks, the club responded by head-hunting a claimed associate of one of the victims as a front person and funding her in setting up the ineffective but media-savvy Nil By Mouth campaign.

This is the culmination of the ‘if we cant control you, we’ll destroy you’ strategy. TAL was a tiny organisation in comparison to the Green Brigade, which enjoys a popularity among the wider Celtic support that TAL and CFAF could only dream of. The Green Brigade has strength in numbers, but just as importantly, its also has strength in its political autonomy. It is independent of the club and is self-governing, as well as being self-financed. It is this independence and autonomy that it needs to hold onto. The alternative is to be part of a club that denies freedom of expression and freedom of movement to its fans.

LET  THE  PEOPLE  SING

That one of the Celtic fans arrested at Dundee’s charge sheet included a reference to ‘pro-IRA chanting’ was enough to send the Celtic bloggosphere into a round of furious tweets and articles, falling over each other to issue their messages of condemnation. Notwithstanding that a person is innocent until proven guilty, their haste to jump on the bandwagon of condemnation was less than dignified. And from those little acorns grew the giant tree of the ‘songs debate’ – AGAIN. Celtic fans lecturing Celtic fans about ‘the IRA’ and what they should or should not sing. What appears to have been almost completely missed in the rants for and against, is that the songs issue has been a never-ending one at this club. If Jock Stein, our greatest ever manager, couldn’t convince the ‘rebels’ to stop, what makes Phil MacGiollabhain and the PLC board think that they will succeed where better men have failed?

As always, it was Jeanette Findlay of The Celtic Trust and Fans Against Criminalisation who made the salient points in reply to the dubious claims made by blogger Angela Haggerty:

As a founding member of Fans Against Criminalisation I have evidence of numerous examples of the disgraceful behaviour of the police in terms of trying to criminalise young Celtic fans for singing (or not as the case may be) songs which you may not like, may not agree with and/or may wish not to be sung at football matches, but which would not be criminal in any normal society. I would like to see someone with your journalistic skills investigating the abuse of their powers by the police which is a far more dangerous development than the declining incidence of songs about an organisation which has not fired a shot for 17 years and has not existed for almost a decade. In fact, most of the songs in question are not even about the most recent armed struggle against British rule but about the prison struggle or about the War of Independence which led to the establishment of a member EU state, whose participants have been honoured recently by the British Queen. If you bother to follow this story up I would be prepared to bet that there will be no conviction of the person you mentioned unless he was a young boy who has plead guilty through fear or ignorance. You will note that, at no time, have I called on anyone to sing any song or, indeed, not to sing any song. The key issue facing us is not an internal, friendly debate about what we should or shouldn’t sing but the devastating impact on young people of the operation of one of the most illiberal acts this country has seen in a long time. That is what any journalist worthy of the name should be examining.”

There is no need for a ‘songs debate’ because there is no issue about songs among the core base of the club’s support, which is the 60,000 at every home game and the travelling away support. There are no ‘gung ho’ war songs extolling the daring exploits of the IRA being sung at Celtic any more, and if there are, they are very few and far between. The songs sung these days are more commemorative, about the H-Block Martyrs or victims of injustice like Aiden McAnespie.  Even that popular sea shanty by the WolfeTones that contains the old “Ooh Aah…” chant, so despised by the Uncle Tims, is gradually giving way to a new lyric of “Up The Celts”  to replace the old chant. These songs are certainly not hateful or sectarian, nor do they contain discriminatory language.

It’s an evolutionary process. The ‘rebel songs’ that were sung on the terraces in my father’s time had been replaced by others by the time I was a teenager. The ‘rebel songs’ that I sang as a teenager were dying out 20 years ago and you’ll hear very few, if any, of the ‘rebel songs’ of 20 years ago being sung today, give or take a couple of classics that have survived the generations. Songs evolve and move on with the times, so do the fans. The Green Brigade are proof of the progress of Celtic’s fans. They are a fantastic development within the Celtic support. The club hierarchy and a section of the fans, particularly those with blogband access, don’t know how to deal with them. Yet, broadly speaking, the group’s activities are carried out in the spirit of everything that is good about the club and its supporters.

ULTRAS  NOT  HOOLIGANS

Opposition to the GB comes mainly from the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’, who apparently also have computers, and who are, like Phil, ‘culturally radical’ and politically liberal only in the general sense. They don’t mind being for the working class, just so long as they don’t have to live among them. It is this element who don’t like radical change among the Celtic supporters.

‘What they do not understand they will attack, what they do not control they will destroy.’

A section of our supporters can’t quite get their heads around the “ultras” phenomenon at the club and they wrongly (but in some cases knowingly and deliberately) equate it with the casuals/hooligan scene. This falsehood is promoted, along with their constructed outrage at ‘incidents’ like Dundee, as the ‘last straw’ on hooliganism, or the rebel songs issue, or the Green Brigade, or whichever other issue or group fits the role of scapegoat.

It’s fair to say that the original ultra scene in Italy and Spain pre-dated, but also mirrored the rise of the football ‘casuals’ in Britain. There is a greater affinity between old skool casuals and the original ‘ultra’ than there are links between the modern Ultras phenomenon and present-day football hooligans. Many of these new progressive Ultras groups identify with the politics of the anti-fascist left and other autonomous left political movements. Theirs is not a culture of aggression, however, they are in favour of defensive action against fascist aggression. The progressive Ultras groups are in general terms peaceful and co-operative by instinct. They make banners, organise tifo displays and involve themselves in a range of community and social activities, inside and outside of the normal group activities. Participation is encouraged, it is an open and organically democratic structure. There are of course exceptions and the same cannot be said of every group of modern ultras, particularly those from the political right, whose groups are often run on a strict ‘boss/capo’ system with decisions made and implemented from the top-down. The Green Brigade is, however, one of the new breed of Ultras groups that takes a progressive left stance and is active against fascism, racism and all forms of discrimination in football.

THE  SOCIAL  PHENOMENON

In addition to adding colour and noise to the stadium on a regular basis, the group’s members are also pro-active in a number of other areas of the club’s support; from fanzines and local supporters clubs to the CSA, Celtic Trust, Celtic Graves Society and Fans Against Criminalisation. The group runs an annual ‘anti-discrimination’ football tournament that has included international visitors and teams from all communities. They maintain friendships with politically and socially progressive football supporters groups from all over the world, as well as being one of the founding member groups of Alerta! – The Network of Anti-Fascist Football Fans in Europe. Outside of group activities many of the Green Brigades’ members are active in political, cultural and community organisations.

It is a phenomenon on a par with St Pauli, Livorno, Bilbao and other progressive clubs that include within the ranks of its supporters, autonomous groups of politically progressive fans. The only thing that the GB lacks is the bricks and mortar of its own pub, clubhouse, squat or social centre that the fans of other clubs in Europe have acquired as a base for their activities, social gatherings and fundraising. In every other respect they are a fully fledged part of the progressive ‘Ultras’ movement, in practice and in spirit.

If examining the Green Brigade from a traditional, academic, sociological perspective, the group must surely be viewed as a positive social phenomenon that provides a range of progressive, positive activities for young people, mainly, but not exclusively, centring around their support for and identification with The Celtic Football Club. Viewed from that perspective – and in spite of the club’s desperate attempts to control the group – shouldn’t the club (and even the police) be welcoming the positive work of a youth organisation like the Green Brigade?

The alternative to an organically-democratic, bottom-up organisation like the Green Brigade is a fanbase that is controlled from top-to-bottom by fear; with grassroots fan organisations replaced by arselicking ‘bosses unions’; and ‘official’ club campaigns specifically designed to involve as few people as possible other than the ‘professionals’ employed to run them and hand-picked ‘fans’ to front them.

These are the wider implications of Phil’s and the PLC’s ‘Brave New Celtic’, it is a commercially driven vision for Celtic that puts the accumulation of wealth and power in football before the interests of its supporters. It fears any alternative to the prescribed way forward, which is why the political autonomy of ‘Plebs’ like the Green Brigade is to be undermined and disrupted by both the club and the police, whose approach is based on outdated profiling methods to identify potential troublemakers at football and a public order act that gives them free reign to criminalise a whole section of youth who follow football in Scotland.

WE ARE ALL THE GREEN BRIGADE

Celtic is the 60,000 in that stadium at every home game, Celtic is the travelling away support who will be there in rain, snow or hail to support the bhoys. Celtic is the Green Brigade who enthuse the whole stadium with their banners, tifo choreographies, songs and chants. And it doesn’t matter if you’re watching in Dublin, Belfast, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Sydney, Oslo, Hamburg, Toronto, San Francisco, New York or Boston, the Celtic support is a worldwide family and the GB represent all of us who would love to be there to share in the noise and atmosphere that they create. The many Celts around the world gathered around big screens joining in with their chants and their songs. The ones who can’t be there. The Green Brigade should not be excluded by the club, rather they should be embraced by it, we should all as Celtic supporters be proud of them. They are after all what this club is all about.

“Football,” said the great Jock Stein, “is nothing without the fans.”

Those self-appointed ‘keyboard guardians’ who spend all day long on their computers looking after Celtic’s ‘good name’ and the ‘well-earned reputation’ of our fans would do well to remember that it is the work of groups like the Green Brigade which greatly contribute to that good reputation.

As football legend Bill Shankly once said of the Celtic Football Club, “It’s a form of socialism, without the politics of course.”

CASUALS – Author Phil Thornton Speaks To TAL

philthorntonPhil Thornton – Author of Casuals First came the Teds, then the Mods, Rockers, Hippies, Skinheads, Suedeheads and Punks. But by the late Seventies, a new youth fashion had appeared in Britain. Its adherents were often linked to violent football gangs, wore designer sportswear and made the bootboys of previous years look like the dinosaurs they were.

They were known as scallies, Perry Boys, trendies and dressers. But the name that stuck was Casuals. And this grassroots phenomenon, largely ignored by the media, was to change the face of both British fashion and international style.

Casuals recounts how the working-class fascination with sharp dressing and sartorial one-upmanship crystallised the often bitter rivalries of the hooligan gangs and how their culture spread across the terraces, clubs and beyond. It is the definitive book for football, music and fashion obsessives alike.

 

 

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  Casuals: Football, Fighting & Fashion:

The Story of a Terrace Cult

 

We’ve been sitting on this interview for a while waiting for it to be published in the Ezine. Out of courtesy to Phil, and the lads at TAL HQ who put together the questions, we felt that it would be appropriate to share it on the blog. It’s ten years since Phil published his brilliant chronicle of terrace culture, Casuals. A special tenth anniversary edition of the book is now available. Phil’s prolific blogs about the state of everything from football to politics, written from his own working class perspective are also not to be missed. Phil rages against multinational capitalism, the mainstream media and the powers that run football.

You’ll find his ravings on Yer Know The Dance and Swine Magazine

Perhaps an obvious one to start with, what team do you support?

Man United – it’s a long story though. I live in Runcorn which is a new town and in the ’60s and ’70s loads of scousers moved here. I was brought up a Liverpool fan and used to go to Anfield in the early ’70s with me dad but once we started fighting with scousers in our teens it became a problem to support Liverpool, especially as the scouse Liverpool fans hated ‘wool’ supporters. I started going to United with a few mates in the early ’80s and it went from there. I know this must seem heresy for Celtic fans but, to be honest, I know of loads of lads who flitted between different teams not only Liverpool and Everton, United and City, even some London clubs and Leeds during that era. Some of it was based on seeking an identity for yourself and some of it was just down to which team you could get into the most ‘kick offs’ with.

In your opinion, where did Casual culture start?

Well, we never called it ‘casual’ but the styles developed in the late 70s. Cockneys will say they had the first casuals in ’75 and I think there was a definite clubbing look you found not only in London but the smarter northern soul venues but this was never a terrace look. I think it was definitely the scousers who brought that original ‘scally’ look onto the terraces in large numbers in ’78, ’79. It then went to Manchester and all the towns in-between within, say 6 months, and then we noticed other mobs wearing the same type of gear in the next year or so, It probably spread throughout the country within a year and by ’81, ’82 most clubs had a mob of dressers.

Do you think there is a difference between being casual and being a football hooligan? Can you be one but not the other, or is it a package?

I don’t think the two as being mutually exclusive, but certainly you didn’t get any other tribes involved in fighting after 82’ish. There were no skinheads or rockabillys involved so it was just lads dressed the same. That’s not to say every single person who dressed scally or casual was a hooly but 99% were if they went the match, or at least pretended to be. There were still some old school 70’s bootboys about at the beginning but they soon melted away.

Is being Casual still acceptable in this day and age?

I don’t know what you mean by ‘acceptable.’ Acceptable to who? If you mean is it OK to walk around in a Fila Bj top and pair of Diadora Borg elites when you’re in your late 40s and have a massive ale gut and a baldy head then obviously not, but I don’t think of casual as a karaoke revival fashion, it’s something that has evolved over 30 years. It’s all about aesthetics, style never goes out of fashion and has no age restrictions as far as I’m concerned.

Do you think that the far right preyed on the early casual years?

Not really, They might have in London or some London clubs like West ham and Chelsea but politics was never really part of the scene. I was very left-wing and there were a lot of lads who were involved in things like Militant or Red Action but then again there were also fascists and BNP/C18 types.

Did Stone Island ruin the Casual, or did Casual ruin Stone Island?

Neither. Stone Island was and is a great label and casuals appreciated Massimo Osti’s designs and fabrics. It did become a bit too ubiquitous in the 90’s and 00’s but that’s not S.I.’s fault. What I object to is SI and their PR people denying that British hoolies were instrumental in their popularity and they earned millions literally of backs of casuals but try to pretend that it ever happened.

Favourite trainers?

I suppose like many I’m still an adidas head. I don’t wear trainers that much any more but in terms of classic designs my top 5 would all be adidas; Jeans, Gazelle, Kegler, Spezial, Stockholm.

Do you think there’s always been a link with music, clothes and football since the casual scene started?

Not really, I would go to clubs like the Hacienda and there wouldn’t be any scallys or dressers in there, but you still had those old ‘suit and tie’ rules and gigs weren’t really high on the agenda. I remember going to see a few bands in the mid 80s and there was always a few scallys about but not in any numbers really ’til the Mondays and the ‘Madchester’ thing kicked in. Leeds fans were very much into Liverpool bands like Shack and The Farm and they were probably the most into music and also a lot of lads were into northern soul so you’d see lads at all-dayers or all-nighters.

In the north west at this time did you call it casuals in the first early days?

Casuals was never a word we used, it was felt to be a cockney thing or a media thing. I still wouldn’t use that word to describe myself but as it’s the one that has stuck, I suppose I’ve got used to it now.

How much influence did Boys Own fanzine have on the early terrace scene and was it sold at certain football grounds?

Boys Own had no influence on the early terrace scene as it only became well known round about 87, 88 when the acid house thing was taking off. The End fanzine in Liverpool was crucial to documenting terrace fashions but they took the piss too and there was always an element of humour rather than taking it all dead serious.

Top three house tracks?

mister fingers – washing machine, t coy – carino,  10 city – that’s the way love is

Best club nights from the 90’s you played at?

We put on our own party’s called pow wow – no-one would employ us to dj as we were hopeless and always got twatted, but we had good tunes and I suppose were ‘balearic’ with a small B.  We’d play owt and the best one we did was in Mello Mello in Liverpool and we played Story of the Blues by Wah as the last song and Pete Wylie was in there, so that was a nice touch.

Were Casuals rebelling against Thatcher’s Britain or were they simply a reflection of Thatcher’s Britain?

I think there’s a load of shite talked about casuals as some kind of manifestation of Tory individualism and social climbing. This idea that we wore clothes to ape the toffs is pure bullshit. Barbour was worn because it was nice clobber, and the pockets were good for grafting. You wore tennis, golf, yachting, ski wear, not because you were portraying this jet set image, but because the clothes were nice. Scally clothes were mostly low cost and labels and looks were transmitted entirely by the lads and girls themselves, especially in the early days, with no-one directing it from above. It was entirely self-sufficient and no-one understood what was going on, never mind promoting it or even understanding it.

The lesson of “Celtic Fans Against Fascism” and racism in football – a few thoughts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is from the excellent FOOTBALL IS RADICAL blog. One distinction that we would make is that we were not alone among Celtic fans to take a stand against racism after Mark Walters of Rangers was racially abused when he played for the first time at Celtic Park in 1989. The club condemned the racism meted out that day and the fanzine Not The View was even stronger in its condemnation of those who embarrassed the Hoops. Many fans responded to the racists by effectively self-policing and it is this fan-based approach that still stands as an example to the fans of any football club with a racist problem.  It was, however, a tipping point for the small group of Celtic supporters who went on to found TAL FANZINE and form ‘Celtic Fans Against Fascism’.

 

CFAFTALThe lesson of “Celtic Fans Against Fascism” and racism in football

“The formation of TÁL and Celtic Fans Against Fascism was really the culmination of our reaction against the racism of our own supporters towards Rangers’ signing of the Black English player Mark Walters in the late 1980s.  In the first game that Walters played for Rangers at Celtic Park, many of our fans made monkey chants and threw bananas on to the trackside.  That day was one of the most depressing for the militant anti-fascists and republicans among our support…

The Irish in Scotland were themselves the victims of racism and discrimination.  Therefore, it was hypocritical, to say the least, for the second and third generation of that immigrant community to be the perpetrators of racism…

The most important aspect of all that period is that we won the political argument with the majority of fans as well as any physical confrontations with racists that resulted.  In the end, it really became “anti Celtic” to be a racist, with our fans now taking a pride in their progressive attitudes to politics and struggle.”

Excerpts from an interview with the editors of the TÁL Celtic fanzine, published in Class War in Winter 2007

This is by no means positing an answer to racism in football, but I thought the excerpt above is really interesting and useful in how we think about tackling racism as football fans and wanted to share some thoughts on it.

A really important part of this excerpt, to me, is that whilst it’s an encouraging piece about concrete anti-racist action at football in solidarity with immigrants, it also refuses to shy away from the fact that racism does exist in many football clubs – regardless of radical reputation.

When you love a football club with all the hypocrisies and split feelings that can conjure up, the first reaction is to be defensive when accusations of discrimination are levelled at a fan base.  You know that it isn’t representative of a whole fan base, but there can often (not always) be an illogical knee-jerk reaction based on loyalty.

Our club would never behave like that”.  ”It’s just a few idiots”.  ”You misheard what they were chanting.”

We’ve all heard, or maybe even made, those kind of excuses before.  As a result, it can be more convenient to ignore discrimination and save collective face rather than confront it and do something about it because of unswerving allegiance.

Reminded me of a sad time away at Millwall (I know they probably get more than their fair share of negative press so I’m not picking on them, this is just my experience) two seasons ago.  A man in the home support was openly doing monkey impressions and pointing at two black QPR fans a few rows ahead of us.  The desired victims of the abuse were livid and were held back by police and stewards as a load of us surged to the front in their defence.  One fan demanded the police do something about it – they said to “ignore it”.  From my privileged position of being a white football fan who’s never had to deal with that kind of abuse, what made it particularly fucked up to me was that the guy doing the monkey gestures was surrounded by fans who did nothing.  In front of kids, police, other fans.  He obviously felt that even completely on his own, he could behave like that in front of his own fans without any censure or retribution.  He was right, in that sense – no-one around him so much as batted an eyelid.  For the record, I have Millwall supporting friends who are all decent people who were as appalled as I was so it’s not a condemnation of the whole club and it’s support – but nonetheless, this whole incident went on with no interference from the home fans in that particular area.

Pointing out the irony of the pitch being sided with “Kick it Out” campaign boardings is a bit of a cheap shot, but it’s not surprising either.  Campaigns like this are well meaning but perhaps also foster complacency.  It’s something we can all point to and feel good about ourselves – and to some extent it is positive in that these kinds of campaigns normalise the idea of racist behaviour as abnormal, if not necessarily as unacceptable as it should be.  These campaigns rely on big gestures and the encouragement of fans to inform on others to the higher echelons of football.  Whilst this does occur sometimes, it is worthy of note that for better or worse, as a general rule, football fans do not tend to react positively to this approach.  The first thought in negative situations like this is not to run to the club or an anonymous phone line when things I do not agree with happen in the stands, and that’s the same for any other fan I’ve talked to about this kind of thing.  I’m not saying that isn’t a legitimate course of action, of course it can be – but from my experience, I wouldn’t say that notifying an FA campaign or the club direct is the first port of call for most supporters.

Why that may be is a whole debate in itself and there are many factors at play, and it isn’t something I can claim to answer.  In some sense it’s perhaps the idea that your club’s supporters are fundamentally “yours”.  I.e. you can disagree with some of them, be embarassed and offended by them, but they are still your supporters.  It’s maybe a bit like being at school – your mates may do something out of order, but in most cases, you’ll keep your mouth shut, even though you know it’s the wrong thing to do.  It doesn’t mean people do not do anything about it and don’t speak out or take action (although of course, this frequently is the case) – but fans don’t tend to go through the “official channels”.

For evidence of that, you only have to look at messageboards after violence between two clubs – both may have behaved as bad as eachother, but for all the condemnation of violence, there’s always that underlying subtext – “well yeah maybe some of our fans acted up, but we weren’t as bad as those animals from X club”.  Or how players seen as bastards one week become “your bastards” to many fans when they play for you.  The same people who booed Joey Barton or Marlon King or Lee Hughes etc. can be singing their praises when their shirt design changes.  We may try and ignore it but so often, club loyalty and fear of alienation of other supporters both play a role in how we tackle any issue in football and it shouldn’t be ignored.  It’s all well and good to say “I wouldn’t stand for this” if you’re radically inclined but football stands are, by their nature, a big mix of people and opinions. We should not underestimate the fact that many fans simply want to support their team, regardless of what is being said and done around them.

All too often, people will be offended but do nothing.  For fear of retribution from the person being discriminatory, or of “making a scene”, or just wanting to ignore it and get on with watching the game.  More fundamentally though, the perpetrators of discrimination are often as much “part” of the fanbase as you or I are.  It’s convenient for us all to shrug our shoulders and say they aren’t proper fans and be blasé about it because we and our friends aren’t the ones doing it.  They are in our stands, supporting our team and are therefore our problem.  You can’t just ignore it – the hate exists whether we turn our nose up at their fan status or not.  Whilst it might make us feel better, it certainly doesn’t address the problem and in some senses it makes it worse.  For example, for a football fan in England who is white, heterosexual and male (like me), doing nothing more than asserting my (assumed) non-discriminatory status as a ‘real fan’ is simply an expression of the privilege that discrimination rarely affects ‘people like me’.  It relegates racism to something far less serious.  It makes racism an issue of offending sensibilities and ‘fan status’ rather than a serious problem that breeds hate, excludes others and all too often leads to violence and persecution.

My point with this ramble, and that excerpt from the TÁL editors above, is that fundamentally anti racist action has to come from the fans themselves.  Celebrity, liberal anti racism campaigns do achieve a level of normalisation for not accepting racism, but it sits above the fans rather than being “of” the fans.  No different to the “Respect” campaign – well-meaning as these campaigns can be, it is telling supporters what to do, rather than supporters themselves deciding what is and is not acceptable in the stands.

Celtic fans witnessed racism in their ranks and autonomously dealt with it – through dialogue with fans, through starting a fanzine to spread the word and through confronting racists en masse in and out of the stands to draw the line that racism is not acceptable.  Crucially, from within the fan base, not from UEFA, or the SFA or whatever – but from the people you share the stands with week in and week out.  

It’s an over-simplification of course, but fundamentally, a tannoy message and a celebrity telling a racist that monkey chants aren’t acceptable doesn’t make them sit down – it’s too external.  As well intentioned as “Kick it Out” is, it ignores the relationship with the fans – it’s being expressed by the same people who fuck with our kick off times, who allow sky high ticket prices, who instruct stewards to kick people out for standing and so on – the super structure of football.  You cannot safely predict that people who are reticent, angry or ambivalent about an FA mouthpiece most of the time to sit up and take notice of the same mouthpiece when it talks sense now and again.  Legitimate or otherwise, I know from myself that football supporters are not always the most logical – risking relationships and your job to lose your voice as you watch your team lose in the rain in Hartlepool is par for the course.  It’s not to say that fans don’t necessarily care – but an important campaign can be lost in a sea of complacency and routine.  Playing the same old recorded message about abuse from the stands can just fall into the same sonic landscape of a bad tannoy system telling you not to stand or that the match ball is sponsored by a local car showroom.  It gets lost in routine and people become detached from the message.  Anti racism ceases to be about active dissent – it falls helplessly into the audio and visual spectacle of detached fan compliance.  Fundamentally, whilst campaigns like Kick it Out could be better (perhaps with UEFA actually taking racism seriously, for starters), there is not much above that that they can do.  But a majority of fans drowning out such abuse, confronting it in numbers and winning the political argument from within the stands – that tends to be a different story.

We can’t be complacent and rely on liberal campaigns, the only way to really tackle racism is for fans themselves to take responsibility for what goes on in our stands.  When people hear something at the ground that offends them and feel too nervous to speak out (confrontations at the best of times can be very intimidating, and no less so at the football), all too often nothing but an awkward silence follows.  People may not realise that they are potentially surrounded by dozens of other people in earshot who feel just as offended – but just as intimidated.  But how would they know if we don’t talk about it?  That’s why, even if you don’t think your club has a problem, that talking about discrimination with your friends in the stands, on the messageboards, in the pub and so on, is so important.  When and if something like this happens, you can know that it’s not just you – but that other supporters feel just the same way and that can make the difference between keeping your mouth shut or standing up and doing something about it.  And that’s not just at your club – people may be over-zealous about the idea of “fan community”, but actions and words spread.  If you and your friends make a stand at one game, it can inspire other clubs to do it too.  Share your experiences online or pre/post match with fans of other clubs – you’ll be surprised just how many people are interested but felt too isolated and/or needed the inspiration to do something.

Drown it out with other chants, confront the perpetrator, boo – anything to make sure that the person realises that they are disgusting and offending their own fans.  People they may see every week and love the club just as much.  It’s a first step.  So don’t assume that everything’s ok – get talking and discussing!  Create a fanzine!  Make a banner with your friends!  And that means, me, you and anyone else who enjoys going to the football – because we are all responsible for our game.