Supporting Celtic: Class Consciousness & Political Identity

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Frank Devine is a graduate in Economic and Social History with Politics from the University of Strathclyde and a contributor to the ‘Celtic Minded’ books.  This blog is a transcript of Frank’s contribution to the series of History Talks organised by the Irish Heritage Foundation in Scotland.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity

By Frank Devine

Introduction

This presentation is not about Celtic players, managers, directors or coaches. The focus of this paper will be on the Celtic supporter, on ‘Celtic Fandom’; specifically, I want to examine the Celtic phenomenon in the West of Scotland, particularly within the clubs key supporting heartlands of Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity will examine the local and global dimensions of the Celtic support and, despite the long-standing hostility and antipathy towards the club from many within Scottish football; this stands in contradistinction to how Celtic and their fans are viewed externally out-with Scotland.

Part Two will examine “Celtic Culture and the West of Scotland” and the Celtic supporting fanbase in the clubs historic heartlands while also highlighting the clubs historical and contemporary relevance within the world wide Irish Diaspora.

Part Three will focus on the centrality of the “Match Day” experience to the Celtic support and will highlight why Celtic is more than 90 minutes on the field of play to their huge army of supporters.

Part Four will examine the “Social and Political Consciousness” of the support and what makes the Celtic fan base unique in Scottish and British football, arguing that the supporters unique political, cultural, religious and social dimensions are made unintelligible without a proper and appropriate acknowledgement of the ethnic and cultural roots of the clubs core supporting fan base in Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

The Celtic support, however, does not exist in a vacuum, and profound changes in the Scottish political dispensation have been fully reflected among the Celtic support; indeed, it might be convincingly argued that the support has been a key driver of some of these changes within the Scottish body politic at a popular cultural level.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity

Since 1887/1888 Celtic Football Club has been the sporting champions of the Irish Catholic working class community in the West of Scotland. Beyond being a ‘typical’ or ‘standard’ football club Celtic has an intrinsic political character which is evident in the social and cultural basis of its support in its historic heartland – which is the Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas of the West of Scotland. By the time of Europe’s second biggest football final held in 2003 in the Spanish city of Seville, Celtic’s support demonstrated its magnificence in the shape of a reported 80,000 (45,000 without tickets), travelling from all over the globe to Spain receiving the ‘Fair Play’ of the year awards from UEFA and FIFA for its outstanding behaviour as well as for creating a carnival around the event itself. In the words of FIFA, “For their exemplary fair and cordial conduct at the UEFA Cup Final in Seville”.

“Celtic Culture” and the West of Scotland

Celtic has a huge fan base throughout the Irish diaspora. However, the core of the support continues to reside in the West of Scotland, particularly in the Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas. Bradley in 1995 in his ground-breaking study “Religious and Ethnic Identity in Modern Scotland: Politics, Culture and Football”, highlighted that while there are hundreds of Celtic supporters clubs scattered throughout the Irish diaspora, as well as in Ireland itself, that there are 250 Celtic supporters clubs in Glasgow and another 125 Celtic supporters clubs in Lanarkshire comprised of between 20 and 100 members.

This is not surprising in that the club was formed specifically for this community. Glasgow Hibernian, Duntocher Hibernian, Mossend Celtic, Carfin Shamrock, Garngad Hibernian, Possilpark Celtic, Govan Harp, Whifflet Shamrock, Coatbridge Hibernian, Columba, Dumbarton Harp, Coatbridge Hibernian, Blantyre Celtic and many other clubs are likely to have been the original team of choice of many of the forefathers of the tens of thousands that today fill the various stands at Celtic Park in Glasgow. However, by the end of the nineteenth century the vast majority of the supporters of these clubs, and of the other Irish clubs that had been formed throughout the Irish immigrant communities in Scotland at that time, had begun to coalesce around ‘Glasgow’ Celtic, the most sturdy and successful of all of the clubs formed at that time.

Although it is now well over 100 years since the formation of Celtic the popular culture surrounding the club remains a primary manifestation of communal solidarity and identity among working class Irish descended Scots. Moreover, it is this culture that makes Celtic unique as a football club and as a social institution. It is a particular manifestation of Irishness among the world wide Irish diaspora and, as might be expected from a people deriving its heritage and origins from Irish history the support is marked by an anti-establishment ethos which is often viewed with hostility in Scotland.

StAndrewsCelticBrakeClubMatch Days

On the morning of ‘The Game’ supporters congregate in thousands of houses throughout Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Bank employees, the unemployed, social workers, bricklayers, teachers, production workers, insurance salespeople, shop workers, office workers, as well as a range of other occupations, come together under the one banner: a community is constituted. The vast majority of Celtic supporters, including those that sit in the expensive seats and the corporate boxes at Celtic Park, are working class or no more than one generation removed from a working class lifestyle. Indeed, given the reality of the Irish diasporic experience it would be fair to assert that the vast majority of Celtic supporters have never been to a Celtic match but connect with an emotional pull towards the ethnic dimension of the club.

Before and after matches Celtic supporters crowd into premises popularly viewed as Catholic, Irish or Celtic pubs throughout the West of Scotland. In fact one internet website – celticbars.com – suggests that there are over 1700 of these establishments world-wide in over 70 different countries which is an astonishing number of bars supporting one Scottish football club; however we all know that Celtic is much more, than simply a football club. In Glasgow licensed premises over the years that have attracted Celtic supporters include, Bairds Bar, Traders Tavern, Waxy’s Dargle, The WeeMans, Rosie O’Kane’s, The Sqirrel Bar, The Emerald Isle, The Hoops Bar, The Foggy Dew, Lynch’s/The Old Barns, Mulvey’s, The Tolbooth Bar, The Empire Bar/Costelloes, The Braemar Bar, The Caltonian, Mulvey’s and the Tolbooth Bar, most situated in and around the historic Celtic heartlands of Glasgow Cross, The Calton and The Gallowgate are packed with thousands of Celtic supporters, many of whom have made the pilgrimage from Ireland and further afield as well as from other parts of Scotland. These bars are instantly recognisable to anyone who walks through the Gallowgate district of Glasgow’s East End as well as a number of other places. Some have the Irish tricolour flying from the premises and some are pained in the green of Celtic and Ireland.

The same is true of licensed premises in other parts of Glasgow, for example in The Gorbals, Govan, Govanhill, Blackhill and ‘The Garngad’ as well as in other parts of the greater Glasgow area including Clydebank, Paisley, Greenock, Dumbarton and Port Glasgow and indeed, any number of other areas. In Lanarkshire Celtic supporters have in the past, or continue to congregate in, a huge number of clubs, pubs and bars long viewed as Celtic bars. These include – or included in previous years – such premises as the Commercial Bar – now the Priory Bar – and Finbars – now John Carrigans – and Mick Flynn’s in Blantyre, The Clock Bar and The Big Tree in Coatbridge, Franklyn’s Bar, McCormick’s Bar and Saints and Sinners in Bellshill, Tully’s Bar and the Railway Tavern in Motherwell. Other Celtic supporters will meet up in – or used to meet up in – Kelly’s Bar in Cleland, The Big Shop in Glenboig, the Era Bar and the King Lud in Craignuek, Doherty’s, the Auld Hoose and Hemingways Bar in Hamilton. Carrigan’s, The Hibernian Club, Carfin Vaults and McAuley’s bar in the Celtic stronghold of Carfin, as well as dozens of other pubs and clubs throughout the ‘heartlands’ are packed with supporters. Therefore and this is the important part, the ‘Celtic Culture’ goes well beyond the confines of Celtic Park and into the homes and communities of its historic support. Indeed, one can imagine this community also coming together in bars in Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Toronto and a hundred other places dotted throughout the world. Celtic lives beyond the ‘Fever Pitch’ atmosphere of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or a Wednesday evening.

Some of the bars frequented by supporters often have a Glasgow/West of Scotland based Irish ‘ballad’ band playing before supporters depart for the match – while other bars will have bands booked for after the match. Bands such as ‘The Blarney Pilgrims’, ‘Foggy Dew’, ‘Celtic Connection’, ‘Athenrye’, ‘The Shamrock Rebels’, ‘Galtimore’, Charlie and the Bhoys’, ‘The Wakes’, and ‘Shebeen’, as well as solo artistes like Patricia Ferns, Gary Og, Paddy Bonnar and Gerry McGregor are all well known in this culture that makes Celtic absolutely unique in Scottish and British football. Ballad Bands from Ireland, such as the ‘Wolfe Tones’, the ‘Young Wolfe Tones’ – sometimes referred to as the ‘Continuity Wolfe Tones’ – Spirit of Freedom, The Irish Brigade and Tuam are regular visitors to Glasgow and the West of Scotland and these bands are hugely popular amongst the support and they are regular fixtures at Celtic supporters social events, annual dances and ‘player of the year’ events.

These bands perform songs and ballads that have been sung by Celtic supporters for generations; songs such as ‘The Celtic Song’, ‘The Coronation Cup Song’, ‘The Ballad of Johnny Thompson’ and ‘The Willie Maley Song’. The bands also perform a wide range of tunes and ballads relating to the historical and contemporary political situation in Ireland. ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’, ‘Kevin Barry’, ‘Let The People Sing’, ‘The Foggy Dew’, ‘The Merry Ploughboy’, ‘The Broad Black Brimmer of the IRA’ and ‘Sean South of Garryowen’. These are all hugely popular ballads that are synonymous with the Celtic support. Songs such as Sean South of Garryowen has been popular amongst the Celtic support since the 1960’s while the Boys of the Old Brigade has been sung at Celtic Park since the 1970’s.

StAugustinesLangloanCoatbridgeJimmyQuinnBannerBut this rich tradition of folk song goes back much further than the 1960’s. In fact this community singing of Irish songs and ballads has always been a defining characteristic of the Celtic support. The Man In The Know, a highly sympathetic and 100% partisan commentator for the Irish Catholic community newspaper of that time in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, The Glasgow Observer – which had 26 local editions in Scotland – commented in the 1920’s of the Celtic support assembled for a match at Ibrox Stadium that:

“The Celtic brake-clubs (supporters’ clubs) members are reasonable sentient human beings, are models of decorum and possess official testimonials to their blameless behaviour…The Celtic supporters are fond of singing and to this no one could reasonably object. On Saturday the boys sang to their hearts content. They gave us so many rousing choruses; Hail Glorious Saint Patrick, God save Ireland, Slievenamon, the Dear Little Shamrock, and the Soldiers Song. “…. When Cassidy’s goal made victory sure, it was fine to hear the massed thousands at the western end of the Ibrox oval chanting thunderously “On Erin’s Green Valleys’..”

The Man in the Know was far less complimentary about a now defunct football clubs’ supporters from the south side of Glasgow.

“On the Dalmarnock terracing on Saturday there was congregated a gang, thousands strong, including the dregs and scourings of filthy slumdom, unwashed yahoos, jailbirds nighthawks, won’t works, burro-barnacles and pavement pirates, all, or nearly all, in the scarecrow stage of verminous trampdom. This ragged army of insanitary pests was lavishly provided with orange and blue remnants…. Practically without cessation, the vagabond scum kept up a strident howl of the “Boyne Water” chorus. Nothing so bestially ignorant has ever been witnessed, even in the wildest exhibitions of Glasgow Orange bigotry……”

Before games much of the support board coaches organised by hundreds of Celtic supporters clubs. Originally known as ‘Brake Clubs’, they were previously organised throughout the catholic parishes of the West of Scotland. The Catholic parish has traditionally provided the basis for the evolution of many Celtic supporters clubs in the West of Scotland and further afield. The “Garthamlock Emerald”, “Mossend Emerald”, “Commercial Bar No 1 Blantyre”, “Claddagh Blantyre”, “Bothwell Emerald”, “Bellshill and District”, “Bellshill Brigada”, “Starry Plough”, “Son of Donegal”, “East Kilbride Athenry”, “Tom Williams Port Glasgow”, “St Brendan’s Linwood”, “Easterhouse Emerald”, “Garngad Celtic”, “Linnvale Shamrock”, “Notre Dame Motherwell”, “Nine In A Row Motherwell”, “Che Guevara Kirkmichael”, “Whifflet Saint Mary’s”, “Phil Cole Coatbridge”, “Chapelhall Shamrock”, and “Saint Mungo’s Shamrock” amongst them (although supporters clubs coaches have come under considerable pressure in recent years with increasing numbers of supporters opting for private transport to matches).

The communal singing and playing of recorded songs in licensed premises, the coaches of supporters clubs – the Celtic supporters club coach was often the vehicle – pun intended – whereby many young Celtic supporters became socialised into the ‘Celtic culture’ and educated into the songs and ballads of Celtic and Ireland – and in private transport, comes to a crescendo as thousands of supporters from Scotland, and from Ireland, England and beyond fill the stands of Celtic Park. It’s my central argument that supporting Celtic Football Club generates an enormous wave of communal solidarity among the fans, and indeed, that it is this ‘feeling’ of community that assures Celtic FC of the ‘passion of a people’.

Social and Political Consciousness

Given the cultivated evolution of a social conscience within Catholic education in Scotland, the Irish national origins of most of the Celtic support as well as their history of economic, social, religious and political marginalisation that has characterised much of the experience of the Irish in Scotland up until very recently, it is unsurprising that Celtic fans have long identified with Irish nationalism as well as working class and radical issues and causes.

The Celtic support (as well as many of the club’s officials and playing staff), were vocal, not only in their opposition to the detention of Irish political prisoners in the 1890’s but also to Britain’s involvement in the Boer War in the 1900’s. Celtic supporters, officials and playing staff also actively supported the Catholic petition for Catholic schools in the early twentieth century. In 1926 Celtic supporters barracked an opposing player who reputedly ‘scabbed’ on striking railway workers during the General Strike of that year. It is consistent with a Christian and Catholic ethos, as well as a left wing and socialist ethos, a view shaped by a concern for others, that the flags of the Basque Country and Palestine (people also perceived as being ‘oppressed’, are occasionally seen being flown by Celtic supporters on match days. The political and social consciousness of this support has been characteristic of the club since its very foundation. “Rebellion’, arguably, is part of the DNA of the Celtic support.

FRONT - TAL 36-mediumThe politics of the Celtic support is one of the things that make Celtic supporters distinctive in Scotland. In a wide ranging study into the attitudes of football supporters in Scotland in the early 1990’s one writer recorded an eighty-five per cent approval rating for the Labour Party among Celtic supporters. We can address the contemporary transformation in Celtic supporters voting attitudes in a moment. In 2001 up to 10,000 people – in the biggest pro-Irish demonstration in Scotland since the 1930’s – most, if not all of them Celtic supporters – attended a demonstration in Glasgow to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Irish Hunger Strikes of 1980-1981. Similar huge numbers were brought on to the streets of Glasgow for the 30th Anniversary of the Hunger Strikes in 2011. To this very day the environs of Celtic Park on match day are a definite no go area for right wing, racist and fascist groups and Celtic supporters have been to the forefront of numerous attempts to combat the street presence of these groups in Glasgow and Lanarkshire in particular over the past 20-30 years. The anti- fascist and pro Irish republican TAL Fanzine has been distributed among Celtic supporters for decades and remains popular among a militant left wing cohort among the Celtic fan base. Of course, on the negative side there remain Celtic supporters who are ‘sectarian’ just as there are black people who are ‘racist’ whether in Africa, the USA or indeed, any of the countries that make up the UK or in Ireland itself. Racist and sectarian Celtic supporters would find no tolerance from this platform. Just witness those Celtic supporters who corrupt the meaning of Celtic and Irish songs by interjecting abusive or swear words or throwing in rhyming chants that completely distorts what the song or ballad is attempting to convey. It’s my view that the vast majority, as well as the core Celtic support, has always rejected such views.

Even apart from their national origins and cultural and religious make up, it might be appropriate to consider Celtic supporters as constituting an ethnic bloc considering their largely similar views on a range of pertinent political, social, cultural and religious views. This ‘culture of Celtic’ brings together many different people who share in the Irish and working class nature of the club and its traditions.

Contemporary Considerations

republicans-for-indyScotland, particularly Glasgow and the West of Scotland, which is the primary focus of this presentation, has underwent fundamental political, social, cultural and generational change over the past 12 months. Constituencies where the vote for the Labour Party could have been weighed rather than counted have fallen to a re-invigorated Scottish National Party (SNP), which was decisively defeated by a margin of 55 per cent to 45 percent in the Scottish Independence Referendum last year. However, in that vote in September, many of the strongholds of the Labour Party, where the ‘hard core’ Irish descended Catholic, Celtic supporting vote decisively opted for the Independence option, was followed in May by every single Labour Party seat in Glasgow and the West of Scotland being wiped off the face of the political map in the biggest transformation in Scottish politics in decades. This transformation is also fully reflected throughout ‘Celtic/Irish in Scotland’ cyberspace in a huge shift away from the Labour Party and a huge shift towards the SNP and Scottish independence (this despite many of those who opted for the independence option and the SNP vehemently denying that they are nationalists). I spoke to a Scottish Catholic educationalist about this, a man who holds a senior position within one of the biggest Catholic high schools in Glasgow. He claimed – rather vigorously, it must be said – that he no longer supported Celtic and that the Celtic support, particularly the younger element organised around the Green Brigade and other left wing elements of the support, had been ‘indoctrinated by university educated 40 and 50 year old Trotskyist entryists’ who were writing Green Brigade and other ‘Ultra’ Celtic supporters groups statements for them and who were hell bent on destroying the Celtic fan base in the same way that the Militant Tendency had attempted to take over the Labour Party in the early 1980’s. He also claimed that 30 and 40 year old drug taking, alcohol swigging, working class and unemployed ‘don’t give a fuck’ especially male, ‘rebel inclined’ and ‘cultural Catholics’ were the backbone of the SNP vote. It was one of the most disparaging and patronising attacks on working class Catholics that I have ever been exposed to. In reply I expressed the view that I felt his analysis of the Scottish-Irish working class was grossly simplistic and that there was no labelling of an entire working class community in such a manner when they were still supporting the Scottish Labour Party. I said we would need to agree to differ and offered my hand in friendship which was refused because, “You said my analysis was simplistic.”  The conversation was left there.

Conclusion:

The core Celtic support has an attachment to the club that has political, cultural, ethnic and religious dimensions. In a popular study of the Irish in Scotland in 2003 Burrowes describes what Celtic means to tens of thousands of people and provides a perceptive insight into the culture and ethos of the community that has built and sustained Celtic:

Celtic FC is their greatest triumph and is about showing what a deprived and impoverished community in a new country could, with determination accomplish..

Celtic is a special football club and their supporters constitute a unique, atypical and relatively cohesive component of West of Scotland society. The club is the sporting champion of the Scottish-born Irish descended working class. Since its formation in 1887/1888, Celtic has functioned as repository of cultural, political and ethnic identity for the Irish in Scotland.

NoSheepAtHampden

The people of the Middle East need solidarity not pity…

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By Hal

The solution to the crisis in the Middle East today is not more European involvement but less. The ‘We must do something’ mentality says Europe must be proactive in taking sides in Middle Eastern conflicts on behalf of causes identified as progressive. For example against Assad and in support of the Palestinians against Israel. But this is wrong. Western involvement in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere has exacerbated and prolonged regional conflicts. The longer Western political activists meddle in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the less likely an enduring political solution will be found. A solution can only be found by the adversaries themselves free of outside interference. Playing to an outside audience prolongs local conflicts.

United-Nations-Libya-VoteCompassion is not the equivalent of solidarity. The politics of pity exhibited by Western educated Muslim youth cum jihadi converts is emulated by handwringing liberal do-gooders demanding something must be done to alleviate suffering in the Middle East. The actions of both jihadi converts and liberal interventionists have had destructive consequences. Jihadists joining Isis are no more dangerous or pernicious than the humanitarian interventionists and their quasi-religious zeal to rid the world of bad guys.

Traditionally the vast majority of politically minded Celtic fans and FFAA1supporters of Irish freedom were also committed advocates of the Palestinian cause. But things have changed in the Middle East just as surely as they have changed in Ireland. In the 70’s and 80’s when the PLO and its offshoots were fighting against Israel and its Western backers as part of a wider anti-imperialist struggle expressing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination was a progressive step. The West used Israel as a proxy in pursuing its interests in the Middle East in the context of the Cold War and against Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran.

Today it seems that America and the West no longer know where its interests lie in the Middle East. Western meddling has made matters worse. The Middle East is unravelling before the eyes of the West and Western governments are powerless to stop it. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are bombing Yemen into the Dark Ages to prevent the Shia Houthi’s taking power. UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed declared that “we will press ahead until we purge Yemen of the scum”. Despotism is alive and kicking. However, it is not our responsibility to take sides in the internecine warfare between Shia and Sunnis. Patrick Cockburn in his book ‘Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution’ traces the involvement of the Western backed oil rich Gulf States in the formation of Isis and the sponsorship of Sunni terrorism across the Middle East.

In this wider context the best thing anti-imperialists and progressives can do is to adopt a position of non-interference or the principle of ‘Do No Harm’.

The Palestinian liberation movement no longer exists. The cynical Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has not been a good servant of its people. The Palestinians need to break free from the straitjacket of perpetual victimhood. Similarly Israelis’ defensiveness and sense of victimhood does them no favours. It is a zero sum game. In Ireland Sinn Fein always refused to engage in what Martin McGuinness called ‘whatabouttery’ or ‘the politics of the last atrocity’. Focusing on alleged war crimes either by Israel or Hamas doesn’t contribute to breaking the cycle of violence. During the war in Ireland demands for Sinn Fein to condemn the latest IRA bombing didn’t move the situation forward. Similarly demands for reparations at The Treaty of Versailles crippled the new democratic German government in the Weimar Republic and created a legacy of bitterness which contributed to the rise of fascism. History tells us you reap what you sow.

liberalswelcomeWe should be aware of promoting a politics that feeds into a system of retribution. That is not to say you should not express your support for justice or freedom for the Palestinians or any other oppressed group. But it is equally important to recognise what has changed in the world today. There is a correlation between Western born or home grown Islamic fundamentalists and their eagerness to fight in foreign wars and self-styled Western liberals and humanitarian interventionists eager to ‘do something’ and topple foreign tyrants. The laptop bombardiers have a lot to answer for. The refugee crisis spilling out of the Middle East and North Africa is in large part a consequence of the destabilisation of the entire region brought about by the Western invasion of Iraq.

IS-FlagSunni militants are a local response to Shia expansionism in Iraq and Syria and now Yemen. Western intervention in the Middle East has exacerbated the bloody conflict between Shia and Sunni. It is an old slogan but it is one that is worth repeating: Hands Off the Middle East! Only today this message needs to be aimed not at old fashioned Western imperialists but at the new crusaders for global justice, the interfering moral authoritarians who arrogantly believe it is within their power to change the world for the better by invading and bombing foreign countries and deposing their governments.

Twitter: @michael_hal

CarolineLucasMP

This is not a migrant crisis…

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By Talman (with thanks to Carter)

The tragic picture of the 3-year-old boy lying dead on the beach in Kos has rightly sparked anger and outrage across the world.

As a result of recent tragedies in the USA many people have been asking how long Americans are going to let gun crime continue without taking action? Well, now we must ask how long are we in Europe going to let people drown in the sea and die in lorries before we do something?

Let’s be clear the ‘migrant crisis’ is one of our own making; that is to say that the current crisis which sees people fleeing from the chaos in the Middle East and North Africa is one that was manufactured by sabre rattling governments in the USA and Europe. The West bears responsibility not only for the current crisis but also in historical terms; a colonialist, imperialist past that has contributed to the massive gap in wealth distribution between the West and the countries people are seeking to flee from; and within those countries between the elites dependent on western patronage and those at the bottom of society.

This crisis is not about people desperate to get here to claim benefits; this is about people living in such abject conditions of poverty and war that there is no other choice than to trek for hundreds of miles, get on a leaky boat, or climb into a death tomb lorry for the chance of a better life.

Our response should be two fold – I believe that the governments of Europe are culpable for this crisis and should accept responsibility distributing the current numbers of asylum seekers fairly and equally throughout the EU and other countries willing to accept an intake of refugees. More importantly, with a view to the roots of the ‘problem’, there must be an increase in foreign aid to those most in need.

There must also be adequate provision for those communities that are expected to absorb new immigrants and refugees. In most cases those seeking asylum will be allocated housing in working class areas with already scarce resources. In order to offset any possible resentment in advance, the government should be providing extra resources that will help with the integration process and which promote community harmony and co-operation.

It might appear to be simplistic to scrap the Trident missile system and use the money to help mend the damage that we’ve done by waging war in recent years, but we need to stop this happening and the only way to do that is to put our hands in our pockets, raise their standards of living and stop fucking bombing them! We need to strive to bring about a change to recent foreign policy which has been the major cause of the flow of refugees into Europe.

Politicians, of both the conservative right and the liberal left, have been taking to the airwaves to lecture tha rest of us about ‘the moral position’. Banners flew in the stands at German football matches last weekend proclaiming ‘Refugees Welcome Here’. These outpourings of liberal sympathy and talk about morality should be welcomed, but it should also be recognised that it takes political will and action to make a difference. Those seeking the most attention and publicity are not always those who are actually making that difference.

Painting a banner and giving a few quid to the Red Cross is noble, but it is the EU and our governments that are best placed to put a stop to these horrors. However, those who hold the reigns of power rarely act in the interests of the majority unless pressured to do so.  The rest is up to us.

At a community level we can fight for the restoration of the cuts imposed under austerity and for an increase in funding to those mainly working class communities that will be expected to Welcome Refugees Here.

TAL Interview: Peter Hooton (The Farm)

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Continuing with the Scouse theme after our report of the anti-fascist mobilisation against the White Man March in Liverpool, we interview Peter Hooton, singer with The Farm, co-creator of the influential fanzine The End… and a lot more besides that, which includes maintaining a keen and active interest in politics and football.

Interviewed by Choppy

adidascollectQ: Liverpool is synonymous with the Adidas growth within the football movement, but what ones were your choice of ‘purchase’ in europe… stan smiths, gazelle or trimm trabb?

Believe it or not I probably bought more pairs of Puma (Menotti/Argentina) and Puma States than Adidas but Stan Smith were my all time favourites. I was more into suede boots/moccasin’s than training shoes anyway mainly because everyone was into Adidas.

Q: What was the toughest away ground during the halcyon days, when cctv didn’t catch your every move and hoods were a rarity and for avoiding rainfall?

Most grounds were dangerous back in the day. The worst trouble tended to be at the obvious places like Leeds, Birmingham, Boro, both Manchester clubs and most London clubs. I was kicked unconscious at Spurs but never held a grudge against them as it could’ve happened anywhere. One of the worst episodes actually happened at Villa when a lot of Liverpool fans were put in hospital after being slashed etc. The worst away ground has to be Roma though after the European Cup Final – we beat them on their home ground and it was like a war afterwards.

Spirit-of-Shankly

Q: You’ve been involved in Spirit Of Shankly (SOS) and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, but, how do you feel about the regeneration of Anfield and the houses that have been demolished as a result of the need for expansion by Liverpool FC?

Mixed feelings really – the problem with most traditional stadia is that they were built in the community they come from – houses basically surrounded Anfield. Many years ago a couple of old ladies in Kemlyn Rd held up the expansion of one side of the ground because they simply didn’t want to move whatever they were offered. The most recent expansion had other issues and some of the residents felt they weren’t being offered enough compensation for the disruption etc but it was resolved in the end. I just wish the club took on board within reason the complaints made against it.

Q: With the chat about regeneration and stadium expansion at Liverpool. could you ever share a stadium with Everton?

There has been talk of a shared stadium since I was a youngster but I don’t think it will ever happen and in all honesty I don’t want to see it happen. Both clubs have different needs so it would be impractical anyway. I think clubs need to keep their identities anyway – it might make some business sense but football shouldn’t always be about business we have got to take into account traditions and identity.

Q: What was your favorite Peel session?

If you mean The Farm probably our first one – we were so excited going down but it was so different to how we envisaged it. Our producer was Dale Griffin who had been Mott The Hoople’s drummer and he appeared disinterested but we later found out he treated everyone like that. The recording of the tracks seemed to get in the way of his telephone calls arranging his social life. He wasn’t impressed by the condition of our drummer’s kit and our drummer in turn wasn’t impressed with his ‘attitude’ – we had to talk our very own Keith Moon from putting the snare drum over his head!

end-magazineQ: We’ve been reading the rest of The End Fanzines from the book that came out. Where and how did the idea for the Fanzine come from?

I was going to concerts at the time as well as football matches but I didn’t feel there was a publication/fanzine that catered for both. Music and football had always been separate in fanzines but I had a feeling that you could unite them. A lad I knew Phil Jones was doing a mod fanzine called Time For Action during the Mod revival and he was only 17 so I thought if he do that maybe he could help me start this crossover mag. An anarchist mag that was available in Probe Records one of our indie shops also inspired me. It was scathing about the Royal Wedding and I just thought we need a mag like that which pulled no punches. It was hilarious but I just thought only a few punks will read this and we need this cruel humour directed towards Jimmy Tarbuck, Cilla Black and Stan Boardman amongst others.

Q: On the Casuals Documentary we get to confirm the culture’s origins being very different to say modern day hooligans and the perceived right wing politics. Do you think the casual culture perhaps got hijacked by the late 80s?

Yes I think it probably did- right wing politics were associated with skinhead culture at that time but the early casuals were a lot more savvy than that and skinhead culture was viewed as been archaic. Both Merseyside/Manchester clubs had no significant right wing elements from my memory although I’m not pretending some elements didn’t exist and the first London club to dress like ‘casuals’ as far as I can remember were Arsenal and they were very multi racial.

Q: Also on the Casuals Documentary it confirms the terrace culture roots to be in Liverpool although there wasn’t really music attached to it, would you say a lot of the early good Liverpool bands had an influence? China Crisis and OMD, Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes?

Not really it was influence much more by Bowie. The first Liverpool band that had a following at the football I would say was Deaf School. You would often see Deaf School t-shirts and badges at the match. The Bunnymen had a bit of a following at the match but nowhere near the likes of The Jam.

HJC_badgeQ: At TAL we’ve always been supporters of the Hillsborough Campaign. Now that the campaign is finally being taken seriously by clubs across the land and the work done by the various movements is appreciated, how confident are you that justice will be finally served after 25 years and the families can accept it?

When it comes to the British establishment you can never take anything for granted but now some of the most important political figures of the time have passed away I think there is more of a chance but what type of justice only time will tell.

Q There is an annual memorial service for the 96, do you think there should be a more football related event other than the service itself? Perhaps a friendly match?

Not really but I do think it should now be moved to one of the Cathedral’s. I don’t like the way it has gone over the years with the players turning up to photos and applause – I think it should change but obviously that’s up to the families.

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Q Liverpool seem to be going through another pre-season of transition. Who’s the one non-scouse player you’d bring back into the club.

It’s a hard one but for me it would be John Barnes I still think he’s got a lot to offer even though Celtic fans might not agree.

Q Your favourite player of all time?

It’s a toss up between John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish

Q Have you ever been to a Celtic v Rangers match?

No but I’ve been to quite a few Celtic games over the years. When we were at school we came to Glasgow to play football and we met Jock Stein after a tour of the ground then went to a Celtic v Aberdeen match the next day, it was a great experience even though our matches in Glasgow weren’t a very good experience. We played on those red shale pitches but our ‘priests’ made us wear our boots with studs – it was like playing on ice. That’s when I challenged the infallibility of the church.

Q What bands influenced you growing up?

Many groups influenced me but I would say Bowie, Sparks, Cockney Rebel, The Clash, The Jam, Joy Division, XTC, The Ramones, Kraftwerk and Devo made lasting impressions.

Q The theme socialism, brotherhood and football has this a connection to the track All Together Now?All_Together_Now

Yeah that was the idea behind it. I hated all the militarism surrounding the armistice ‘celebrations.’ I had read about the unofficial truce in the First World War so I wanted to publicise it. Now it is fairly well known especially after the Sainsbury’s advert, which I thought, was crass and insulting but at the time I wrote the song it was fairly unknown.

Q The Farm found ‘fame’ from ‘Spartacus’, but for me, pastures old and new, and in specific hearts and minds, is a more intelligent and well thought out. Who were the influencing for you on pastures old and new, as the sound was not really the ‘in’ sound at that time?

It came out of love for The Specials and The Clash – John Peel didn’t like us doing ‘reggae’ style tracks so it made us even more determined to do them ha ha

Q Due to The Farms political leanings were the band ever held back in the music industry?

I’m not sure. We found it hard to get Love Sees No Colour play listed on radio a year after All Together Now but maybe our ‘sound’ had been overtaken by Nirvana and the likes.

Mark E Smith once said to me shortly after Spartacus was No 1 – watch it Peter they will be out to get you because of your politics. I was taking the music press to places like Robert Noonan’s grave in Walton (author of Ragged Trousered Philanthropist) – talking about opposition to the poll tax and against the first war in Iraq. I never really though much about it but after a few months the Melody Maker started vicious attacks against us because of the way we looked and our politics. They were predominately privately educated journalists who mocked our roots and called us bricklayers/plumbers etc – they could easily be working for the Daily Mail or the Express – they were probably just Tories who hated our attitude/politics.

Q The band has worked with some of the most influential producers in British music, but which one for you was the one who gave you the biggest scope and direction?

Probably Suggs because he helped us when we had very little – he put us in the Madness studio on the Caledonian Rd in London and gave us the confidence to carry on.

Q How do you view the rise of the far right in Britain and how would you tackle it?

Education education education – it’s funny how far right groups condemn the people trying to get into the UK via Calais but most of them are only trying to get here because they speak English because of the legacy of the British Empire – oh the irony!

Q Due to Thatcher’s legacy on Merseyside, are the Tories still hated in Liverpool as they are in Scotland and how can we mount a fightback against them?

On the whole they are despised which is remarkable as Liverpool was Tory dominated up until the 1960s. This was because of sectarian politics though. Labour was viewed as the Catholic Party and that split the working class vote in favour of the Conservative & Unionist Party and later in the 1970s the Liberals. In the 1920s Liverpool even had a Irish nationalist MP and there was a Protestant Party until the 1970s with members on the City Council. I think you can see a fight back has already started as Corbyn mania is sweeping the country. Nobody saw it coming either a bit like punk and house music. Everyone witnessed what had happened in Scotland and thought that could never happen here but it has. I went to the meeting in Liverpool and it was like that scene in the Life of Brian – there must’ve been 1200 inside the hall and hundreds outside trying to listen – people were desperate to hear him speak but the one’s outside like me were struggling to hear even though they had put speakers pointing out into the foyer of the hotel. ‘What did he just say? …… Blessed are the cheese makers!’

Q Are you doing any work in the Community at the moment?

I’m working with a couple of homeless projects at the moment – with the present governments policies this will become an even bigger problem in the next few years. I’m also thinking of setting up a music project with another community group but this is just in the planning stages.

Thanks to Peter Hooton  for doing the interview.

(C) TAL, Choppy & Peter Hooton

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