Hillsborough: Y.N.W.A.

Recent news, football games and the behaviour of a minority of fans have made me reflect how Liverpool fans are often painted in a bad light, for something shameful that happened amongst their illustrious history.

Maxine Peake is a dazzling actress. She first came to my attention through Mancunian drama Shameless playing the striking Veronica. Some years later her acting has brought me to tears. The gritty subject is the Hillsborough football disaster. Much like that of the Bradford City fire and disaster (11th May 1985), both events cost lives. Both were preventable. Both were injustices and both shameful blights on British and human history.

“the injustice of the denigration of the deceased” – David Cameron, Prime Minister, parliamentary address, 12/9/12

Hillsborough was much more than that though. Liverpool F.C.’s fans were shamefully and disgracefully vilified by national media outlets, the local and national government, the Police and other official bodies. This came but a few years after the atrocities at the Heysel stadium disaster, again blamed on Liverpool fans. That disaster in May 1985 led to many arrests and a London Fire Brigade report being ignored as evidence. The crush barriers and reinforced walls were unsuitable for crowds. The behaviour of some fans, just like Saint-Etienne and Manchester Utd. in 1977 could have happened at any club, anywhere. UEFA and a poor venue choice, the clubs and their inability to direct fans traveling to away ties, and the venue’s poor policing contributed to a disgraceful disaster. Heysel should have been the end point for football stadium deaths. It seemed that more time was spent on banning clubs than investigations and litigation.

“A complete and utter disgrace” – Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester

So, England, the F.A. Cup and another semi-final at Hillsborough in Sheffield. Wednesday’s ground had been chosen for a third F.A. Cup semi-final in as many years. The 15th of April 1989 went down in history for all the wrong reasons. Something that victims of the Grenfall Tower fire may relate to in present day England. 96 fans did not return that day. Around 766 injured fans were reported. Many living souls became haunted and tortured in their own minds. Many years later, in July 2021, a 97th fan passed away from brain damage and related complications. They were only going to a football game!

ITV’s production Anne follows one campaigner, the late Anne Williams. It charts the effect of that day, the aftermath of the stadium disaster, the fate of her lost son Kevin Williams and the subsequent fight for justice. Threaded into the story are the Steffan Popper inquest (1989/91); The Taylor Report (1990); Hillsborough Independent Panel (2012); but falls shy of the Sir John Golding inquest (2014/16) because sadly Anne Williams died of cancer in April 2013, just days after bravely attending a memorial ceremony at Liverpool F.C.’ Anfield.

The four part miniseries focuses on the intense aftermath and shown in January 2022. It was and should be seen by a wider football audience. Just as Bradford City and Lincoln City met in 1989 to raise money for the Hillsborough Disaster fund, and most fans observe minutes of silence and memorials around the country, there are much more important matters to hand. As Factory Records and other musical ties up in northern England came together, London’s parliament conspired and led to a cover-up of the events at Hillsborough. Later the mask was ripped away. Terms such as unlawful killing, manslaughter by gross negligence and failure of duty of care, an unfit stadium, perversion of the course of justice and misconduct in public office, were simply put an understatement for the torture of victims and their families.

Demonisation of football fans at a high time of hooliganism, fenced fronts, railings and pens are no excuse for inaction and lies started at the time of a human catastrophe. Chief Superintendent in his duty of leadership, failed to lead. He failed to rescue. His force, words and actions began the big lie. These injustices have been well documented and shared.

“Open the gates.” – Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, 2.52pm, 15/4/1989.

Liverpool F.C.’s fans have suffered more than most. The epic and continued failure of the British legal system to bring justice and convict those accountable is beyond laughable. 33 years have passed. Hounded by South Yorkshire Police, The Sun newspaper, and dragged through the courtrooms and other places of supposed justice, there is till now outcome. Stadium constructors Eastwards, Sheffield Wednesday F.C. and the local Sheffield council have suffered lightly. They may have lost their names but they didn’t lose family or suffer at the hands of those supposedly there to protect them. Trauma on top of wounds, placed over lacerations with contusions and lesions of abrasion. It has been a completely inhumane process. Anne, gives just a fraction of that taste and it’s a bitter one. One that could have happened to any club or fans, at any older ground in England.

“Her relentless pursuit of justice for her son personified the unyielding bond of a mother’s love for her child.” – Steve Rotheram, MP

Apologies for the long post. Not sure if this article was a piss take or serious:

Opinion: This is why Liverpool fans boo the national anthem and this is what would stop it (The Independent)

The contrast between Boris Johnson and Jurgen Klopp could not be starker. The Liverpool manager would make a great statesman. He is honest, takes responsibility, cares about people in worse situations than himself and does his best to contribute to a wider society.

The prime minister is the polar opposite.

When Klopp talks politics, it makes sense. When Johnson pontificates about football, it’s more of the same bluster that has characterised his entire career. On Monday, according to certain sections of the media, Johnson “slapped down” Klopp because the 54-year-old suggested it might be worth at least exploring the reasons why Liverpool fans booed the national anthem and the Queen’s grandson before the FA Cup final on Saturday. A spokesman said the prime minister disagreed with Klopp and called the behaviour of the supporters a “great shame”. It takes some fairly deranged spin to see this as a slap-down. Klopp probably hasn’t even noticed that he’s supposed to have been put in his place.

Like Klopp and Johnson, those who booed the anthem and those who were angered by the jeering are unlikely to find common ground. Will there ever be a time when Liverpool supporters embrace the patriotic experience?

The prime minister’s spokesman talked about shame, an emotion Johnson knows little about. He hasn’t any. Or empathy. The Spectator’s attack on Merseyside when under the 57-year-old’s editorship in 2004 is well known. The editorial column said that the people of Liverpool “see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it”. The article went on to repeat lies about Hillsborough.

What is less well known is Johnson’s supposed mea culpa in the next edition of The Spectator. Headlined “What I should say sorry for”, the piece was written from “a cold, damp three-star hotel in Liverpool” after the old Etonian was ordered to travel north to apologise by Michael Howard, who was then the leader of the Conservative Party (and a Liverpool fan, much to the embarrassment of many Kopites).

“Operation Scouse-grovel”, as the author describes it, is as obscene as the previous editorial. Johnson doubled down. He wrote: “Whatever its mistakes of facts and taste, for which I am sorry, last week’s leading article made a good point: about bogus sentiment, self-pity, risk, and our refusal to see that we may sometimes be the authors of our misfortunes.”

Almost every week Liverpool supporters hear the echo of the words of the man who holds the highest political office in the UK. “You killed your own fans.” “Always the victims.” “The Sun was right, you’re murderers.”

Is there a more “bogus sentiment” than becoming emotional about a national anthem? The royal family are the cornerstone of the class system. The idolisation of a dynastic institution that is completely distanced from ordinary people is bewildering for a large proportion of Liverpool supporters, especially those who have a close-up view of the growing poverty in the UK. The Fans Supporting Foodbanks initiative was founded outside Goodison Park and Anfield – it often gets overlooked that Evertonians are on the receiving end of anti-Scouse invective, too. Supporters of club after club come to Merseyside and rejoice in songs that mock poverty. Some Chelsea fans were chanting about hunger on Saturday. The Liverpool end booed institutional, inherited privilege. Guess which one the nation was outraged by? That was two days before the governor of the Bank of England warned of “apocalyptic” rises in food prices.

Hunger is at the centre of the historic perception of the people of Liverpool. The port, once known as “Torytown” and “the second city of the empire”, first fell out of step with the rest of England after the Potato Famine in the 1840s. Millions of starving Irish landed on the banks of the Mersey. Many stayed. The “othering” of Liverpool stretches back to the mid-19th century.

What does this have to do with football? A lot. The word “Scouse” is an insult that was reappropriated by those it was used against. In the poorest areas of Liverpool a century ago, the malnourished residents – who were the children of immigrants and who mainly identified as Irish – relied on soup kitchens and cheap street vendors for food. What they were served was Scouse, a watery stew. Scouser was a pejorative term used to mock the poorest. When “Feed the Scousers”, echoes around stadiums it is expressing a deep folk memory that is imbued with anti-migrant and anti-Irish sentiment. Those chanting it may not be conscious of the history, but the driving forces for their behaviour can be traced back down many decades. Nowhere else is poverty sneered at in this way by outsiders. No one sings “Feed the Geordies” or “Feed the Mancs” even though other places have much more deprived areas. No wonder citizens of Liverpool are triggered by the chants.

In these circumstances, it is hard to make a case for Scousers to do anything more than boo the national anthem. And then we get to Hillsborough. Britain should still be in a state of uproar about the 1989 disaster that led to the deaths of 97 people. Senior policemen and high-level politicians lied about what happened, covered up the mistakes of officials and threw the blame at innocent supporters. The national press, by and large, amplified the establishment narrative or failed to provide adequate scrutiny of the authorities. A substantial percentage of the British public still will not accept the findings of the longest, most exhaustive inquests in the country’s history. To cap it all, the policemen responsible for the mass death and the cover-up were acquitted of any wrongdoing – even after some of those individuals admitted their culpability in legal settings. Now the biggest miscarriage of justice in the nation’s history is being reduced to football banter. What a country. Play that anthem again so we can all join in.

The FA got off lightly, too. The ruling body held a semi-final at a ground that did not have a safety certificate. Tottenham Hotspur fans had a near miss eight years earlier on the same Leppings Lane terraces where the carnage occurred in 1989. For those whining that Abide With Me was disrupted, the FA did nothing to abide with the bereaved and survivors of an avoidable catastrophe at one of their showpiece games.

The events of the FA Cup semifinals weekend, this season, illustrated just how toxic the attitudes towards Hillsborough have become. Family members of the dead were abused heavily on social media by trolls who used Saturday’s events as an excuse to harass those who have fought, in vain, for justice. And we don’t want to hear any complaints about Scousers not showing respect. The booing is a cry for justice, for equality, a howl against hunger and poverty. It is depressing that so many in Britain cannot hear that. Klopp heard it. Johnson never will.

You’ll never walk alone.

Manchester Remembers.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

In 2013 Tony Walsh penned the poem, This is the Place. Sadly, following an attack on civilians by an absolute coward and fool in the name of extremism – and one which has nothing to do with Islam, this poem became very well known. It is a poem about belonging and the importance of communities. They need nurturing and through Forever Manchester (est. 1989) they work to inspire and encourage projects that want to see healthier and happier neighbourhoods in Manchester. This is the Place became an anthem for the people of Manchester.

Concert-goers, from the artist Ariana Grande, had enjoyed a love-filled pop concert and filtered out of the packed Manchester Evening News Arena. The very arena at the centre of Manchester that I and many friends have enjoyed sports, music, arts and comedy at. It has held political and social justice events. It’s part of Mancunian culture and has been so since the 15th of July 1995. The Nynex Arena was a place many looked forwards to seeing Manchester Giants dunk balls through hoops and the Manchester Storm and Manchester Phoenix teams slash at pucks sliding up and down ice. It was here I’ve seen Meat Loaf, at least 3 times, Catatonia, Slipknot, Idlewild, the Mighty Boosh, Arcade Fire, and a concert campaigning for a minimum wage (28/4/2001). On either October the 13th or 14th in 2000, I attended Britney Spears tour for Oops!…I Did It Again Tour, with my mate Robert Hanna. It wasn’t that bad. The familiar ways in and out of the weird cuboid shaped cavernous arena are clear in my mind. It was and always should be a place of entertainment and joy.

But, on May the 22nd 2017, things could have changed. Things did change. The tool of death was a shrapnel-laden improvised homemade device was filled with pure hate. Twenty-two souls were claimed that horrible and atrocious night. At least 139 people were wounded physically, and hundreds suffered psychological traumas.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable, Ian Hopkins acted accordingly and within the public eye. Millions of pounds were handed to the recovery and care of victims from that night. For many, counselling still goes on. It would be September the 9th before Manchester’s flagship arena would reopen. The patron saint of Manchester, Noel Gallagher held a special benefit concert. Mancunian defiance and love for our city, brought even red and blue together.

Manchester fought back with love. Accommodation and transport were supplied by people to the people. Taxi companies, houses, and companies threw open their doors. The Sikh gurdwaras temples nearby became shelters. A local hotel became a makeshift safety shelter and lost children tent. Underneath Manchester Victoria station was evacuated. The city was swiftly placed into action to check for further dangers and to assess the losses. Whilst repairs were possible to the arena foyer and the railways station, the true loss came in human tragedy.

The victims ages were from as tender age as just eight years old to 51 years of age. All cut too short from life. Ten people died below the age of 20. Two Polish nationals and twenty British nationals, from various walks of life, gone. Young Saffie Rose Roussos died aged 8. The Tarleton Community Primary School student’s parents invited Manchester to mourn with their family. Described as a little girl with a beautiful smile who loved dancing, gymnastics and music, she could be any primary school kid in any nation. Dreadfully and heartbreakingly, she was in the right place at the wrong time. Just like many of us as kids do, we follow – or we push our parents to go to see live concerts. Who does that hurt? Nobody. It never should.

Before that night, I’d barely known who Ariana Grande was. I knew she was a hip sexy popstar and idol of many young and even older fans. Her edgy music was appealing to many. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but it did entice 28-year-old John Atkinson from Bury. He enjoyed a break as a support worker for people with autism. The void left to his family and those he supported is unimaginable.

Halewood Academy’s Megan Hurley’s parents vowed to keep her memory alive. The charity pin, designed by her bigger brother Bradley helped that and now www.meganhurleyfoundation.org.uk supports families due to the sudden and unexpected loss of a child. The legacy of a 15 year-old-girl’s devastating passing keeps her treasured memories for her family whilst offering hope to those in dark, dark places.

Another 15-year-old victim Olivia Campbell-Hardy has a foundation in her honour. Liv’s Trust. It sounds so alive. Liv’s Trust has been set up to help under twenty-fives in Greater Manchester get help and receive education in music & dance. What a wonderful and noble cause.

“People are not born with hate. It is coming from somewhere. We need to integrate all age groups. We need to bring everyone together. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. That is what we are.” – Andrew Hardy, Manchester Evening News (28/9/2017)

Alison Howe (sexual health nurse and mother of two, with four stepsons), 45

Lisa Lees (beauty tutor at Oldham College and mother of two), 43

Angelika Klis (39) and Marcin Klis (42), residents of York, just waiting to collect their kids form the concert.

Martyn Hett, 29 (PR manager, social media star) #BeMoreMartyn

Georgina Callander, 18 (a college student from Lancashire)

Kelly Brewster, 32 (a globetrotter from Sheffield looking to settle down and be a loving stepmother)

Jane Tweddle, 51 (a school receptionist from Blackpool and mother-of-three)

Nell Jones, 14 (“She would not want you to hate because of what has happened, she would want you to love.” – her brother Sam’s words)

Michelle Kiss, 45 (Her widower husband Tony Kiss asked all to support children’s charity Derian House because she ‘she lived for her children’.)

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14 (a teenager from Leeds, robbed of her ambitions)

Liam Curry, 19, and Chloe Rutherford, 17 (a loving couple from South Shields, Tyneside)

Elaine McIver, 43 (served with the Cheshire Police for 19 years)

Wendy Fawell, 50 (a former primary school worker)

Eilidh MacLeod, 14 (from Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland)

Courtney Boyle, 19, and Philip Tron, 32 (from Gateshead, there to pick up a family member)

Off-duty consultant anaesthetist, Michael Daley, was one few medical experts on scene almost immediately. His name is quite rightly on the British Medical Association Book of Valour in June 2017. Sirens blazed throughout the centre of Manchester and the edge of Salford that May 22nd night. The North West Ambulance Service sent 60 ambulances to the wretched incident. Numerous walking wounded received treatment by key NHS workers.

I didn’t know any of these people, but I could have. These were everyday people going about their lives in a place of relative security and safety. Aside from the 1996 IRA bombing of Manchester and the events of World War II, Manchester has been like almost every other city, its fair share of unfortunate crime and hate, with trouble here and there. But, on the whole Manchester has and always will be a place of togetherness and inclusion. It doesn’t accept hate or perversion of any race of religion. It bounces back.

One Love Manchester was one high profile benefit concert event on the 4th June 2017. 55,000 people rocked up less than two weeks after the terrorist attack. Ariana Grande was graceful and full of strength and many stars took to the stage to offer a huge two-finger gesture to those who wish to destroy our everyday lives: you will not win. Following it, our Ariana Grande became an honorary citizen of the city. We look after our own and those who we claim as our own.

The British Red Cross received over £17 million of donations following the One Love Manchester concert. 50 countries around the world broadcast it, ensuring the people of China, Australia, Peru, and the listeners of Capital Radio Sierra Leone could share the love. Legend of popular music Stevie Wonder belted out Love’s in Need of Love Today and Marcus Mumford of a similar named-band played Timshel. As I watched YouTube’s livestream of Ariana Grande and Coldplay performing an Oasis number, even from the comfort of my sofa, Don’t Look Back in Anger rung very true. Liam Gallagher swaggered onto stage and sang Live Forever, and do you know what, as a Mancunian born and bred, I properly hope that none of those who died that day are forgotten. I trust and I hope that like then, now in these horrid COVID-19 times, that we as Mancs, born here, or raised here, or headed here (for good or for a day out), keep the flag waving for peace and love.

“…the City of Manchester was the Hero.” – Scooter Braun, manager of Ariana Grande to Billboard magazine.

Community and courage arose from the ashes, and for those lucky enough life went on. But, we didn’t forget our lost, our visitors who never travelled back, our guests our workers, and their losses. No, we remember. Manchester remembers.

爱与和平/Peace and love

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Need further inspiration?

The bomber’s name won’t be written here and even now his brother is imprisoned on twenty or so counts of murder. Both attended Burnage High School for Boys (now Academy), a school once bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War 2. Just as Hitler shouldn’t ruin the name of Austria, Burnage should be seen in a better light. It’s motto is ‘Be The Best That You Can Be’. I’ve got friends and met many people from Burnage, and they’ve all lived to that motto. The school has a rich history. It offers chances to escape Manchester. Darren and Jason Beckford (Manchester City), Busby babe Roger Byrne, Wes Brown and Peter Coyne (Man. Utd.) make up the footballing graduates. Bass players Guigsy (Paul McGuigan) of Oasis and Dale Hibbert (The Smiths) attended there – as did Simply Red’s Aziz Ibrahim (he was also with Paul Weller, The Stone Roses and Ian Brown). There have been some big former students. Motivational speaker Brian Sterling-Vete, American football player Menelik Watson, and Jim O’Neill (Baron O’Neill of Gatley) was a government minister. Even a bloody bobsleigh competitor, Lamin Deen, made it out of Burnage to bigger things. It is unfair that the bomber’s name taints the school’s long-standing name and a place that 1966 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor Alan Badel attended.

Author John Hutton attended Burnage High School. His novels are 29, Herriott Street (1979) and Accidental Crimes (1983). The latter received a Gold Dagger Award from the Crime Writers’ Association. My favourite Nepali film, Sherpa, was co-produced by John Smithson. This former Burnage student was also notable in his involvement in a huge list of hard-hitting dramas and documentaries. Toughing the Void, 127 Hours, and Deep Water. So with all the above, Burnage has created far more great people than the one mistake that the media highlights.