People Writing about Clubs- a growing group
When I first started writing about clubs, long before this website was a twinkle in my eye, I felt I was treading a fairly solitary path. To begin with, I couldn’t find very much that had been written about clubs. There had been only a few academics who had taken an interest with a chapter here, a journal article there. It was mostly historians, one or two sociologists and a few in-between disciplines.
This didn’t amount to much, I thought, considering that the club movement was a national one involving millions of people in its heyday. It seemed that they had been overlooked as not something worth writing about and I speculated why. Maybe those not from working class backgrounds were unaware of their existence and just not interested? I took on the task of finding out and writing as much as I could, hence this website and my social history book, Order at the Back! The Life and Times of Working Men’s Clubs. (Written but awaiting publication- keep your eyes and ears open!)
Although my journey may have started off as a lonely endeavour, I'm pleased to say that I have been joined along the way by a growing group of people who have dedicated their time and efforts to clubs.
Mostly we have found each other through this website, sending in a tentative email with an enquiry after which we struck up a friendly and interesting club-focused dialogue.
One such person had the fruits of his labour published this November (2011) and I’d like to congratulate him and his team. So, raise your glasses to Dave Angel of Real to Reel Media and all those who helped him. They undertook an oral history project of Doncaster clubs and the final product is now available.
They share my own commitment to preserving the precious memories of what club life was like years ago and also to investigating what is happening now.
Around half of our clubs may have gone, that’s true, but it's not all gloom and doom. The Doncaster clubs book brings us some cheer, some laughs, perhaps a few tears as well. Those from the area will recognise the clubs being written about but those from elsewhere will see the life and times of their own reflected in this work.
Another to look out for is Mick Pickup’s work on Blackburn Trades Club, not yet out but well on the way. He knows the clubs very well as a long term member and from the committee perspective. 'The club meant so much, to so many people, but local politicians wanted it to be conveniently forgotten. I wasn't prepared to let that happen. Writing this book was damned hard work. But what a journey'.
Mick will let us know when his book is available.
I have recently read a lovely little publication called My View of Life in Hinckley 1950 – 2010, by David Abbott. This very personal social history is not specifically about clubs, it’s true, but they could certainly not be left out of Dave’s account of the area where he grew up. (Not that far from my neck of the woods actually)
He writes warmly of clubs on p.20
'Personally I felt the warmth of this wartime spirit in the community singing at the Working Men’s Clubs. Both the singing and lyrics themselves would evoke those strong feelings of patriotism which had served to bind together a people during those years of conflict and turmoil.’
His father, George, was a lifelong member of one such club, The Liberal, ‘now sadly one of those consigned to history.’ He started going to the club from the age of eight until it closed in 2001 (a period of over 40 years). David still has a photo of himself and lots of other children taken outside the club waiting for the coaches to take them to Wicksteed Park for the children’s club outing. This was also one of our club outing destinations!
In terms of sports, the Liberal Club has a claim to fame as it was where Norman Dagley played billiards, ‘the one time amateur world champion at the sport, later to become world professional champion of the same.’ David met him playing at the club in the early eighties and also met Tony Meo, former partner of Steve Davies who together were the World Snooker Doubles Champions.
Hinckley may be a small town but its clubs certainly helped to put it on the map! Many thanks to Dave for getting in touch about his work. I’m saddened the Liberal Club has gone but without people like David writing something about it, it would disappear without a trace. At least we have something documented, on record – this is a point I am very eager to emphasise.
These are just a few examples- there are many more and taken together they represent a growing and substantial body of work.
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