CONIFA: Football For The Forgotten – An Update

Karpatalya v Northern Cyprus, CONIFA Final at Enfield Town FC

Hi everyone,

So I’ve had a couple of people get in touch about my forthcoming book, CONIFA: Football For The Forgotten. A few things have changed over the last few months, perhaps inevitably, so I just want to fill in anyone who might be interested on the detail, especially those of you who have kindly pre-ordered the book (which you can still do here, if you’d like, though as circumstances change – see below – I might have to stop taking those orders – I will make it clear on the page if I do so).

Thank you to all those that have helped out in any way so far, from the dozens I’ve interviewed to those who’ve financially supported this – you’ve really made it a whole, whole lot easier.

First of all, I recognize some of you might not want a big long-winded update, so here it is all summed up in a couple of paragraphs…

In short: My plan was always to self-publish this book. However, I’ve been approached by a very reputable literary agent about working with me to get hold of a publisher. Her previous work includes Rio Ferdinand’s autobiography and a couple of books by Lee Price which explore similar areas of football to CONIFA. The submission process to publishers will inevitably slow down production, so while I’m all but done with my end, I’m going to hold off on publication for now.

The agent and I have agreed that if there are no takers on the book by late November, I will go ahead with self-publishing, ideally in time for Christmas. I appreciate that I had planned to publish in late September, and some of you might have considered that a factor when you bought a copy. This is too good an opportunity to pass up for me, so while I’m sorry for the delay, I have decided to go with it regardless. With that in mind, if you pre-ordered, and would prefer a refund to waiting for a later publication date, I completely respect that. Just get in touch, and it will have your money back with you within a couple of working days. You should also have received an update email from me.

In a little more detail: To be honest, I always anticipated this being an indie book. CONIFA might be growing, and articles are now appearing around tournaments in mainstream publications, but I wasn’t convinced the market was there to go to publishers, and I’m still not, entirely. People have been incredibly open with me, though, both from within CONIFA, and in terms of producing stories around the teams for the book. I think what I have is a genuinely fascinating insight into the organization. It might be a little sports-nerdy and quite political at times, but it also has some unbelievable stories behind it all.

The latest draft is about 65,000 words in length, and has some details that have really surprised me: I’ve learned a huge, huge amount as I’ve gone along. I’m not going to spill it all here, for obvious reasons, but I thought there’s no harm in telling you a bit about what I’m covering.

Punching Up: The Left-Wing Folk of Grace Petrie

Grace Petrie by www.ellylucas.co.uk

BRITISH POLITICS, if we may make an observation across the Irish Sea for a moment, is in turmoil. Barely a day passes without the latest minor movement on Brexit making front-page headlines. The cultural reaction from the arts has been, dare we say, slightly disappointing.

But there are exceptions to every rule. Grace Petrie, like her similarly positioned comrade in arms Billy Bragg, is one of them. Having come around from a very vocal protest against what she saw as Labour centrism a few years ago, Petrie has a lot of love for Jeremy Corbyn and rejects Brexit, her music espousing socially progressive views, and exploring how they relate to her own life.

“It is a thing with being a protest singer, that the situation is always changing,” Petrie explains. “I wrote a song a few years ago about Labour, essentially asking people not to vote for them. I was sick of the way Tony Blair did things. Obviously, I’ve changed my mind on Labour. I’ve quietly retired that song.”

“There is a risk I’m preaching to the converted, but I don’t think that’s a reason not to do something,” she continues. “I learnt a lot from touring with comedians, which is not something I ever really planned, but it kind of happened, one after the other, for years. That’s helped me adapt to playing for an audience. Not everyone’s going to like it, but I throw in a few stories, some jokes and some anecdotes, and that helps get people onside. If they don’t like my views, at least they’re hearing a different voice.”

Petrie’s latest (and, incredibly, eighth) album ‘Queer As Folk’ has seen the Leicester singer-songwriter’s perceptive music dive headfirst into the issues. She tells personal stories and weighs her tracks with emotion, but she’s not above a comic quip, with the Iraq War, austerity and a lack of funding for the NHS all given a thorough going over.

“It’s a little bit strange watching Ireland now, things seem to be going so well over there, it’s all moving in a good, positive direction,” Petrie says, referencing the Repeal the 8th Campaign and gay marriage vote. “Over here, we seem to be slipping backwards.”

“This will be the first time I’ll play in Dublin, and as a gay woman, I feel very welcome now. I’ve been singing songs about girls since I was a teenager. That’s natural to me, but for some people my entire existence and way of life is political, so I guess it’s easy for me to be to be a very political person.”

The She Street Band: “We have this running joke that we are the seven faces of Bruce”

The She Street Band

A few weeks ago, a tongue in cheek ‘event’ went viral on Facebook,  an ‘ad’ for a gig starring a mash-up band mixing Joy Division and Boyzone. The band were called Boyz Division, and naturally, don’t actually exist. I think it was popular, comedy aside, because people love this kind of stuff. Who doesn’t want to find out, live, what ‘Love Will Tear Me Apart For A Reason’ might sound like.

The She Street Band (who will definitely thank for me that introduction), are only loosely linked to such silly comedy, but there is a common ground to be explored. Like the posited Boyz Division, they take songs and twist them. In this case those songs belong to Bruce Springsteen, and are immaculately reconstructed in a kind of loose-fitting, fiery, female image of the Boss. In their role as ‘the world’s only all-female Bruce Springsteen cover band’, they variously rock, croon, and soar their way through a host of instantly-recognizable but cleverly altered classics.

They’re about to set off on their first one-off tour, having already grabbed a whole load of media love, and they’re dropping in on Dublin. I got on the email machine and asked the seven-piece’s resident Irishwoman, glock player Clare McGrath, about the early life of her London-based band…

How did this project come about?

It came about after Jody (our bassist and one of the vocalists) saw Springsteen at Wembley in London. She was so buzzed after the show that she immediately called some pals and said I have this crazy idea… and the band was born!

How difficult is the process of changing Bruce’s songs – to suit your vocals, or musicality, for example?

It’s actually really fun. It’s quite an experimental process. We don’t aim to sound exactly like Bruce or cover his songs to the note, but more embody his energy and good vibes!

How closely matched is the band to E Street?

It’s the same in the sense that we play the same core instruments, but there is no one Bruce. We each take the lead on different songs and make them our own. We’re all about the band as a whole group rather than one front-woman.

In what way do you most want to be like Bruce?

That ENERGY! He’s famous for how he can just play for hours and hours. Regardless of curfews at venues he just loves his audience and gives them the best night. We want people to leave our gigs with that buzzed feeling!

Revival: Glenn Hughes on his Deep Purple Second Wind…

GLENN HUGHES is a legend in rock circles, a curly haired bassist with a distinctive vocal, one of the icons of the genre. Famed for a substantial self-destructive streak in his prime, the man known as ‘the voice’ was a real manic rockstar, once beset with substantial drug problems as he performed with Deep Purple, Trapeze and Black Sabbath through the 70s and 80s.

Hughes was the bassist and vocalist in the Mk II and Mk III versions of his most iconic project, Deep Purple, sharing vocal duties with David Coverdale. Those were troubled times; he’s turned his life around over the last couple of decades, and thrown himself into musical projects, an air of ‘making up for lost time’ about his work.

“I talk to the Sabbath guys all the time, and I get on well with most of the guys from Deep Purple now” he says of his links with his past. “They’re slowing down with the music, but for me you can’t really stop this kind of life, man. I need to keep going.”

“It’s different, though. I’m a bit of a California hippie now. This whole thing is cathartic, brother,” he says. “I almost didn’t make it, but I’m in a really good place. I’m all about the love, the anger has gone. I’m playing to a mix of generations now. To parents bringing their kids to shows, and that’s really special.”

“I got myself straight and I’m determined to stay that way, I’ve changed my view on life totally. I’ll keep going until I drop, because I don’t know how to do anything else.”

“I’ll be playing the tunes from when I was in Deep Purple, the ones we wrote, and the ones I played over those years. You’ll get all the classics, and we’re doing a lot with them. They sound huge live,” he explains.

False Heads: Political Noise Rock On The Rise

From supporting The Libertines to being hyped as “young, talented and going places” by Iggy Pop and mentored by former Ramones manager Danny Fields, few up and coming bands can claim the level of hype surrounding Londoners False Heads. Formed in 2016, the trio of school friends produce brutally energetic punk for the masses, and are gathering momentum off the back of a single EP, ‘Gutter Press’, released in 2017, alongside a couple of singles.

Unashamedly political and unafraid to speak their minds, they are nevertheless openly appreciative of the strength of their journey so far. They’re working on putting together the album to back it all up.

I put together a feature version of this interview for the Dublin Gazette, which you can read below, but it was also a rare case of an extremely well-answered Q+A, which I think deserves publishing in full. So here’s everything the Londoners had to say…

The Ramones former manager has been a big part of your early career. How has that helped?

Danny Fields has molded so much of our popular culture, it’s unbelievable. He was involved with Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, The Doors, The Ramones and he was ahead of the curve that he was fired multiple times for not getting a ‘hit’ out some of those artists, artists that went on to shape our popular culture. So, to have that man say the things he does about us, is just humbling and it’s such an honour to have become his friend. He introduced us to Iggy and the support from Iggy has been incredible and he has put us under the nose of everyone he can, we’re eternally grateful and it’s helped incredibly.

How have your earlier bands played into False Heads?

Well, it’s just experience. Barney and Jake being in a band at school is obviously going to strengthen
their relationship as a rhythm section and make it easier to slide into being into a new band
together. Also, I just think more than anything, the experience of being in a band at school makes
you realise how brutal and frustrating the music industry and being in a band can be, and that’s
something that is vitally important.

Joshua Radin: From TV to Your Radio

Joshua Radin is one of those singers that a lot of people know without realising they do. A sentimental, storytelling singer-songwriter known for his living-room-like stage setup and soulful themes, Radin’s found a niche in TV music: the background to heartfelt scenes in medical dramas ranging from House to Grey’s Anatomy, and summer teen outings like One Tree Hill.

The Cleveland, Ohio Native’s biggest album came in 2008. Smash hit second LP ‘Simple Times’, sold close to half a million copies, and he’s been living on the same simple premise ever since.

“All my songs are pretty much journal entries set to music,” Radin tells us. “I think that’s why people respond to them. Because if you’re making yourself vulnerable as a writer, you connect to more human beings”

“I pretty much listen to my dad’s old vinyl collection. A lot of Beatles, Paul Simon, Sam Cooke, Van Morrison. My style hasn’t really changed so much over the years. I am who I am. I don’t have plans to change.”

The TV show appearances have drawn in much of Radin’s audience, and come almost out of the blue, perhaps attracted by the emotional and self-examining content of his music. This pours out in tracks like ‘I’d Rather Be With You’, the video for which was directed by Scrubs star Zach Braff, or the Sunday-morning happy buzz of album tracks like ‘Friend Like You’.

“The TV stuff comes about when I release an album and then get contacted by someone who wants to use a song in something,” Radin explains. “It’s great exposure for someone like me who is completely independent, because I don’t have the label machine pushing my songs on to the radio.”

Imagined Futures: Eight Modern Texts That Gaze Over Time’s Horizons

Ask the deepest philosopher or the cheesiest pop star: we all agree that the future’s yet unwritten. Or, at least, we all accept that we can’t know which of the countless possible futures will come to pass. That said, some fantastic books – whether based in fact, or entirely fictional – try their very best to do just that.

Whether these turn out to be the work of a modern-day Nostradamus or have more in common with an author betting on sport, each of these books offer brain-tickling insight, and in that alone we find our value. Some attempt to academically ask “what happens if we all die tomorrow?” Others fictionally examine the role of virtual reality in our lives. With each insightful in different ways, here are my top books examining future’s blank pages…

China’s Future
By David Shambaugh

The future, we’re often told, is Chinese. With the country still formally under a communist structure with distinctly capitalist overtones, however, Beijing’s cultural present can be difficult to decipher for outsiders, let alone its likely futures. David Shambaugh is a leading scholar on the politics of the Eastern powerhouse, and looks mainly at economy and society in this 2016 book, briefly exploring a series of possible outcomes based on the state’s political behaviour.

Debt, the elderly, the environment, banking transparency and regions like Tibet and Hong Kong are just some of the Chinese ‘bottlenecks’ addressed here, and while Shambaugh’s brief text might not come up with particularly conclusive predictions for any of them, it does examine how China could sit in a decade or two, from problems with the development of a less-factory and more service-based economy to the likely consequences of differing support for relatively hardline leader Xi. Written simply but from a place of transparently in-depth knowledge, we’re given a glance at the diverse potential “roundabout exits” – be they trade or conflict – of a country that’s only getting more important.

Homo Deus
By Yuval Noah Harari
Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari is best-known for his beguiling, condensed history of humankind Sapiens, in which he takes us through a ‘greatest hits’ of our years on Earth. In Homo Deus, he allows his mind to break free on a philosophical journey exploring human’s continued direction, however, and that makes for a far darker offering. It’s fair to say Harari is not positive about our path right now: he examines in-depth how our search for perfection – combined with developing technology – might slowly shred the very heart of what makes us human.In Harari’s future, we’re subservient to the technology we’ve created in almost every way. He questions whether the point of no return for human’s posited battle with technology has already passed. This leads to ethical questions surrounding such a concept, be they “what happens when we can no longer delude ourselves” (or, will Google negate the existence of arguments based on falsehoods), or where is the line between human and… well, not. It’s frightening, and feels starkly and shockingly close to reality.

The Ten Best Acts I Saw at Boomtown Fair 2018

Wow, what a festival! I’m hoping to get to a full review of the madness that was Boomtown 2018 later (because a review would only be at most half about music, which is a great sign for a festival in my view), but for now I’m going with what’s become the traditional ‘best bands’ post, which, to be honest, I write as much for the benefit of my ailing memory as anything else.

As you’ll probably gather from the below, I’m not someone who was drawn to Boomtown by its massive beat-driven lineup, though I did enjoy a few non-descript DJs later in the evenings. I found the glory in it to lie largely elsewhere, from obscure tents where 40 people watched gorgeous jazz sets, to comedy guitar northerners playing to mud-splattered courtyards. In fact, I approached this in a different way to almost any other festival I’ve ever been to.

We skipped out on Gorillaz after two tracks, as we couldn’t get close enough to the main stage to hear them at a decent volume (perhaps the festival’s only major flaw aside from uncontrollable weather was the main stage sound). I only saw three acts that appear on the top five lines of the line-up poster (see right). But this was all kind of epic. Here are my highlights, from the obvious to the less so…

Sleaford Mods

Sure, I’m probably telling you nothing with this one – the secret’s long since out – but what a band, despite one of the two of them basically spending the whole set pressing play on  Macbook. Charisma by the bucketload, controlled anger and viciously brilliant lyrics that forcefully takedown culture’s ills. I could watch Sleaford Mods running commentary on British culture unfold for an age, an hour wasn’t enough…

Capdown

I used to watch Capdown play tiny pub back room stages in Salisbury as a teenager and bounce like an idiot, so I headed along to their set on Saturday night largely for the nostalgia trip. Little did I know they’d grown wings, converted the always excellent buzz track Ska Wars (below) into a real belter, and were now able to fill a really quite chunky stage with manic fans. It went off. Class.