The recent media interest in the possible loss of digitalized memories, whether textual or visual, and the forthcoming publication of Lewis Dartnell’s book, The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World After an Apocalypse did make me think a bit … (What will happen to all this memorialization that lies in the laps of the website providers, rather than in our diaries, scrapbooks or photograph albums? We can’t keep it in the attic.) But his piece in the Guardian on February 17th reminded me of something I had forgotten about Stroud’s recent history: to wit, the British Library’s archiving of selected websites.
One of these websites includes www.footballpoets.org Now, this is something that fills me with pride, and I thought a short piece about how this prestigious archiving came about might be a half decent idea. How did a website cobbled together on the never-never achieve this accolade?
Dennis Gould takes the credit first. It must have been back in November 1995 when I was full of woe in the Duke of York, as I lamented to Dennis that a knee injury had just put paid to my football playing days. He told me to stop moaning and told me to write about the game instead and showed me some of his booklets of football poems. That got me going – and friends duly joined in. We performed in pubs around and in Stroud; Trish had Stroud Football tee shirts produced (now collectors’ items) and within a year, we were performing at literature festivals and so on.
We caught the Nick Hornby zeitgeist, but with a fanzine style left wing anti-Murdoch anti-Sky anti-capitalist ‘People’s Game’ nostalgia, together with a practical collectivist approach to writing and performing, as well as a political and cultural determination to re-appropriate the myth of Englishness from the Right. We were there at the beginning of Kick it Out.
Appearances for Philosophy Football followed at the Festival Hall for Euro ’96 and the 1998 World Cup. We established – much to our surprise and without any deliberate effort – a national media profile. This included, of course, the media frenzy about my dog Basil almost getting the England manager’s job.
All this was under the name of the Stroud Football Poets. But www.footballpoets.org owes its birth to Dave Cockcroft and a meeting with me at the Golden Fleece. Dave gave a lot of his time to establish the website, and as I wandered off into writing No Pasaran! and radio ballad style productions about the history of the Co-op and the life of WH Davies and so on, so Crispin Thomas took over the reins of www.footballpoets.org Crispin deserves the plaudits, alongside Dave, for the longevity of the website, alongside its idiosyncratic brilliance, as well as its archiving as a website which tells a story about British culture in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Well done Dave and Crispin; well done Dennis Gould.