I’M writing this in a Dover ferry queue, where myself and my band Barnstormer are at the beginning of our latest German tour. But we’re currently delayed due
to adverse conditions in the Channel, as opposed to the situation in a
couple of years’ time when we UK musicians could be held up all over the
place due to adverse conditions on the other side of the Channel.
I really hope the Musicians’ Union campaign for free post-Brexit movement
of musicians is successful because I am not looking forward to the return of
carnets, customs checks and the rest of the bureaucratic bollocks we had to
put up with 30 years ago.
We’re off to St Pauli in Hamburg, via Bielefeld and Gutersloh, to
support radical Glasgow folk-rockers The Wakes at their 10th anniversary
gig. Fantastic place, St Pauli, heart of the German alternative scene and
of course home to the most famous anti-fascist, beer-sodden punk-rock
football team in the world.
I’ve been performing there ever since the mid-80s and can remember when
Volker Ippig, an anarchist from the nearby Hafenstrasse squat, became their
goalkeeper and ushered in a brave new world at the club as the alternative
community turned out in force to support him.
They haven’t looked back since, and despite a few sneers about “radical chic” and “commercialisation” stand as a beacon of radicalism in the world of
football and an example to the whole world. I’m looking forward to seeing
loads of old friends again.
Last Saturday I was at the final British festival of the summer, Something Else
in the Dean.It's one of several small independent events run by the
indefatigable and lovely Gail, who runs things as they used to be. Dogs are
allowed — as long as they are on strings — beer and entry prices are cheap
and the line-up eclectic and radical.
I had to get back early, though, because the following day Brighton had a 12 o’clock kick-off at the Emirates against the mighty Arsenal — our first away match ever against one of the “big six” in the Premier League.
We lost 2-0 after a brave performance but ended the game in full voice
with heads held high. And that phrase “in full voice” was the catalyst
for these thoughts on my first experience of the atmosphere at a top
club in the modern football era.
From my experience, it isn’t really accurate to describe The Emirates stadium as a library. I have taken part in many library-based performances and things
can actually get quite noisy if you put your mind to it.
It was more like a dentist’s waiting room, to be honest. And there were
thousands of empty seats in a theoretically sold-out stadium.
I presume the empty seats were season ticket holders from miles, or
continents, away who didn’t fly/drive/train it in from wherever because it
was “only Brighton.”
Given that there are thousands of local long-term Arsenal fans who have had to give up theirs because they can no longer afford them, that is an insult. It’s also an insult to the thousands more Brighton fans who would have come given the chance.
There is a modern football ethos that money trumps everything, that it’s
fine for a vastly overpriced season ticket only used half the time to keep
a lifelong Gooner from watching his team, that ultimately we fans are mere
extras now anyway, with our match times changed at ridiculously short notice at
the whim of the great god TV.
As a lifelong lover of the game, whose team has reached the supposed
pinnacle of our sport, I feel like someone who has kept a pet goldfish all
his life and cares about it as much as ever but can’t stand the water it
is swimming in now.
My favourite Brighton chant at Arsenal? “We support our local team.”
Says it all.
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