Hauling Home Malcolmses
Manchester is, of course, home to some of the country’s leading theatres, cinemas, museums and galleries; recognition that whilst this great city was built on wisdom and back breaking graft, we’re able to create and appreciate some of the finer things in life too.
So, given these cultural riches close to home, it was something of an oddity to find a group of Mancunian football supporters buzzing, instead, off watching a man playing a guitar in a drab upstairs room at a football ground in Bury.
On a grey December afternoon a few years back some of us were fortunate enough to see Aziz Ibrahim, formerly of the Stone Roses and surely one of the finest guitarists of his generation, play for freemans at Course You Can Malcolm at Gigg Lane. In fact it was so good, but don’t tell anyone, that most of the audience even missed the first few minutes of the second half as Aziz, clearly enjoying the occasion as much as those watching on were utterly spellbound by his performance, played an elongated half time set.
That match against Worksop was a rollicking 4-4 rollercoaster ride of a game, yet whilst it’s a fair bet that most of that Malcolmses audience can’t remember any of the goals scored that day, the sight and sound of Aziz in CYCM is probably etched on many a memory. One of many memories from CYCM down the years.
For seven seasons from 2007 to 2014 Course You Can Malcolm took place before each FC United Saturday afternoon home game at Gigg Lane in the upstairs space adjacent to the Manchester Road End and the Main Stand that Bury Football Club called Starkies. During that time this volunteer-run venture raised thousands for our football club yet even the greyest of grey suited bean counters would recognise that CYCM offered much more than a matchday revenue stream.
Variously described as a “club night in the afternoon at the wrong end of the tram tracks”, a “left wing lunatic asylum” and perhaps most beautifully as a South American style “tertulia” CYCM provided match day cultural and culinary sustenance for football supporters who know that football is not just about football.
There was music, poetry, theatre, comedy and more. Everything from death metal to rap to harp music to belly dancers to a city-supporting journalist reading from his latest book; talented people giving up their time on a Saturday afternoon to play or perform for free.
Over several years we were spoiled rotten. Musically, appearances by the likes of the Eccentronic Research Council featuring Maxine Peake, Gideon Conn, Wu Lyf, Slow Readers Club and “the Princess of Cheetham Hill” Josephine Oniyama were highlights for many. But Attila the Stockbroker ranting about asylum seeking daleks and barely a dry eye in the place as Mike Duff read “And John Terry Cried” were equally as memorable. There were plenty more.
All this cultural nourishment was accompanied by local, often homemade, food and bottled real ales and lagers at non-rip-off prices. It was something special, born of a recognition that there are some supporters who prefer their Saturday afternoon football fix accompanied by more than a beer in a chain pub, fixed odds coupons and saturated fat.
Aside from the performers there were other quirks that really endeared the place; the flags and banners including the ever-present “Manchester – We Are All Immigrants” one; each band or musician getting a twenty two minute slot, one minute for each player on the pitch; the veggie hot dogs from a kettle; Margy’s bad jokes; the tater ash from an independent Openshaw bakery, the guest ales from a brewery close to whoever the opposition was that day; and the linesmen getting referred to as the referee’s “little snitches” when the teams were read out each week to name a few.
Above all, it felt warm and welcoming, a red sanctuary imbued with spirit, patience and gentleness; a unique matchday experience from a football club that prides itself on “doing things differently”. And perhaps most unusually all of this happened inside a football ground.
But, sadly, CYCM has been absent from our matchdays for more than two years now. Nothing since we ate jelly and ice cream, played pass the parcel and the Space Monkeys’ frontman Richard McNevin-Duff played for us on the day that David Moyes got sacked in 2014. It’s been missed; the incentive to get to the ground early disappearing for many.
So it’s ace news that CYCM is back this Saturday afternoon and for the first time ever on a match day in the function room at Broadhurst Park prior to the game against Alfreton Town. All credit to the new board for inviting the talented and hard grafting Malcolmses volunteers to bring CYCM back and build on the success of the Friday night Malcolm of Course You Can event in July.
The turns and timings for Saturday are publicised elsewhere and it promises to be a cracking afternoon of food, drink and merriment. Hopefully it’ll be the first of a few this season.
If you’re new to FC United or never made it to CYCM at Gigg Lane then get yourself to that function room on Saturday and enjoy a very special, slightly unhinged and truly unique matchday experience. You’ll be made very welcome.
As Richard McNevin-Duff said at the last matchday Malcolmses back in 2014; “Malcolmses is unique, long may it continue, all the best things in life. Anyone looking to re-affirm their love of football, life, music, should get down to FC United. It truly opens your eyes to what is good in life”. All that and there’s even the promise of cartoon pandas on Saturday too. You won’t be disappointed.
Welcome back CYCM to the right end of the tram tracks. We’ve missed you.