Home is where the art is
“It was on a field in Miles Platting, they won 23-0, I think, and big Duncan scored six or so,” said the bearded man with a glint in his eye.
“That was football. You would feel a part of it all, because those lads were just like you, but better players. They’d know your face and ask how you were or you maybe even went to school with them.
“I get that feeling watching FC United now, over 50 years since our lads were taken from us. I feel like I’m involved in what I’m watching again. It’s nice, you know.”
With those words swimming in my head, I watched him down his Guinness and matter-of-factly turn to me and say: “Come on, we’ll be getting earache if we’re not back for tea.”
History may be written and it is often embellished, but real history, like that which my father-in-law, at 75 years of age, possesses in abundance, cannot be bought or manufactured. It is earned and it collates through pain and joy and every emotion in between.
Earlier in the nondescript surroundings of this Harpurhey boozer, we toasted FC United of Manchester’s successful community shares scheme and discussed what the future, just a stone’s throw from where we sat, would hold.
We talked about where we had been and swapped stories about Manchester United Football Club. I couldn’t compete with the tales of Busby’s early days when kids from Collyhurst could still flag down the team bus for a lift to a match, but I could hold my own from the mid-1980s onwards.
At a mere 33, it struck me I also possessed a fair bit of history and my heart still aches. Everyone reading this will possess their own memories and emotions.
It is not just important, it is absolutely crucial that our new home in Moston reflects where we have been, as much as it represents where we are going.
In issue one of AFLM:SPG, we stated our missionary position statement thus: “Every single one pence made by this new publication will go back to the building of that ground in Manchester… We want to be a specific part for a specific reason…”
We hoped that would mean we helped fund the poetic idea of a chimney for the club-house of Ten Acres Lane, but various issues saw that idea quashed.
We therefore needed a new specific outlet for the money we have all raised.
You bought this publication for the first time in 2008 and four years later you continue to buy it, which is a great honour to all of us involved. It also means you took our missionary position statement to heart and backed the idea.
We therefore trust you will be as excited as we are by our new proposal for that extra beacon of love to be placed in the home we have all fought so hard to earn.
Sat in that wonderfully daft bar opposite St Pauli’s ground a couple of years ago, the idea was hatched. As documented by The Colonel in AFL issue seven: “I want a wall of memories that charts the journey that you have all made to get to where we are now.
“From United to FC and all destinations visited in between. I want a wall of ticket stubs representing the combined United history of our support.”
Several other former home-and-away United fans, who would no doubt be called ‘top reds’ if they still attended Premier League matches, nodded in misty-eyed agreement. It was a lovely moment and is a lovely idea.
On the same trip we undertook a tour of St Pauli’s Millerntor ground. Its interiors lack any form of identity or imagination. There was a lesson there for us all to learn.
We don’t want our new home to be just another staid, glass, soulless entity, just as we don’t want our football club to be just another football club. We want our home to be, at least as much as constraints allow, a representation of the beautifully eclectic, artistic, creative and world-changing city that gave birth to us. We deserve nothing less.
Representatives of AFL have held preliminary talks with local artist Charlotte Newson. Charlotte was the artist who created the much-vaunted mosaic of world-famous Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
As described during its spell at Manchester Art Gallery: “Women Like You – a photo-mosaic portrait of the iconic Suffragette, made up of 10,000 individual images of inspiring women sent in by members of the public.”
Charlotte has agreed, in principle, and if the club backs our proposal, to carry out a new art installation for the home of FC United of Manchester, by making a collage of ticket stubs provided by reds and representing the journey we have all made.
In Manchester, we are all immigrants and there are plenty of modern day examples living in the vicinity of our new home. How wonderful would it be for our stub-art to spell out that statement?
MANCHESTER: WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS. A unifying United statement if ever there was one. If the proposal gets the nod, Charlotte is confident of securing funding for such a venture and emailed us recently to say: “I really enjoyed our conversation and would love to look at potential opportunities to represent your fans and the club via a creative project.”
It would be a real honour for us and a real coup for our club to receive such decoration from such a renowned artist. But more importantly, it will be befitting of the club we can hope to be, and a mark of the history which led us to this point.
We have held discussions with the club about what is to become of the as-yet-unplanned-for vacant space, that will reside under what is provisionally being called the home end, of our new home. It is a complicated situation, which will be ongoing as the plans for the ground in Moston continue along their bumpy path, but we are happy that the club is on the same page.
We dream of that space being used to house Course You Can Malcolm, the FC United pre-match tertulia, with the Newson stub-art wrapping its historically, loving arms around us as music, poetry and play bounces around the room.
On non-matchdays this space could be a community facility for the area’s young people. It could double up as a practice space for local bands. Much needed in working class areas, where houses have a shortage of spare space.
It could be a place where all can feel welcome, where snideness, elitism and greed can be left at the door and where we can bask in a warm glow of pride. A missionary position statement of desire to fill the world with love. The possibilities are, indeed, endless.
Your two poundses would be well spent in helping create this space for the good of all. A place where our forefathers can swap tales of yore with our younger reds, with glints in their eyes befitting such a venue.
We could always plant some Manchester poplar trees outside too, as we seek to revitalise and spread our love. The Manchester poplar is a romantic plant, with both variants relying on each other to continue their cottony existence. Another piece of Mancunian history coming with us as we set down new metaphorical and physical roots.
- This is a slightly-updated version of an article that appeared in issue eight of AFL. Click here to see how to get hold of a copy. In the meantime we will continue to update people on any plans that begin to take place regarding the above.