Fanzines - voice of the ordinary supporter

We highlight Liverpool 'zine 'Through The Wind and Rain' - always a staunch supporter of the HJC and a voice that has kept alive and published articles on Hillsborough throuout the last 12 years. You can read all of their back issue articles about Hillsborough here

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Through the Wind and Rain
PO Box 23
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Through the Wind and the Rain Fanzine Archives

Issue 28 - Reply To "Do They Mean Me"

Plenty's been said, plenty's been written. Perversely, I didn't get all that hot and bothered by it. I honestly expect any better from tevision, it's not a truthful medium in my view.

'Back Up' by all accounts was rubbish, made because the great British public can't get it's fill of police drama. With so many crime shows. you might expect a new one to display some kind of originality - if only to justify it's existance. A later episode featured the tired cliche of someone calling his black dog 'Nigger' when a black man stood nearby - it's been done to death. hasnst it? And it wasn't clever or funny the first time.

The Scouse troublmakers were there simply because the producers were too lazy to think of anything else. They have a thing called exposition - setting out your,characters, their motivations etc. Rather than waste time breathing life into theese cardboard cut--outs, who are only there for the cops to agonise over for 50 minutes anyway, they just gave them Scouse accents and red shirts. 'Ah', says the UK's couch potatoes, .now we're with you'. Lowest common demminator all the way down the line.

It wasn't a slight on Liverpool supporters, who come from all over the country. All the trouble in the show apparently came from Scousers. This is a Merseyside problem. It became doubly annoying when you saw the portrayal of our 'great' rivals in other films around the same time. Ootsie cutesie couples getting married at Wembley or sepia- tinged nostalgia showing lickle boys going to see 'Georgie' at Anfield, only to be enticed into a car by a child- molesting Scouser- Nothing like a bit of balance, eh?

I am fascinated by the idea that TV shapes public opinion, regardless of the quality of the programme. As Brian Reade once hinted in the Fxho, it was a good job Rab C Nisbet from Govan wasn't Ged Nisbet from Kirkby. because we'd really have something to complain about then. And yet I've never thought Glaswegians were like Rab and his pals, I've never thought cockneys were as miserable and gangster ridden as they appear in 'Eastenders' and I've never thought Mancs were witty like they are in 'Corry'. So why is it that the Liverpudlian cliches stick to us much more than people? Because they're true? or could it be because of our home-grown television? When people watch the works of Bleasdale. Redmond, Russell, Lane or Mc Govem, isn't there a tendency for outsiders to say 'Well, they're FROM Liverpool - they must know'? Bleasedale's not too bad. but 'Black Stuff wasn't exactly a big attraction for prospective employers. was it? Nor was 'Scully' or 'No Surrender'; as for 'GBH' and it's 'fictional northern town'. Yeah, right. And don't let's start on the misogyny in 'Jake's Progress'.

I detest 'Brookside' with every fibre of my being. Nearly every last sordid side of humanity has been covered. nearly always committed by Liverpudlians. Who's having the lesbian kiss? Out of towners. Who's going 'yeuuch! Perverts'? Yep, the Dixons - Genghis, Attila, Adolf and Lucretia. The Yuppies? Out of towners. Big business career merchants? Out of towners. Poor, brave, battered wife and poor, brave Downs Syndrome parents? Out of towners. Brave campaigners for Justice? Out of towners. Who's killing his best friend's wife and baby? Scouser. Who's robbing his neighbours to feed his smack habit and ploughing his car into another? Scouser. Plastic gangsters by the truckload? Yep; thanks a bunch, Phil. You're local and proud of it. alright.

Willie Russell is another twat. Every single work has been a complete waste of time; they would play just as well if someone stood on a Liverpool stage for two hours shouting 'Flee! Flee! Get out Liverpool! Now! ' Go and be- a rock star's groupie, go and lie on a Greek beach and get poked by a waiter. Christ, me play even had someone jumping off a cliff rather go back to Liverpool, and one film showed footage of Beirut (I've certainly never seen that area in this part of the world) to show what a dump Liverpool is. You learn some very strange things cutting women's hair.

Carla Lane is past a joke. and incapable of one, therefore not worthy of comment. Jimmy McGovern's work has already been mentioned in theese pages; suffice to say that I still don't think it was right to fight our corner over the Disaster by use of a knife-wielding, skinheaded racist lunatic going round slaughtering totally innocent Mancunians - even if he did know more songs than the current Kopites!

Strange thing is, Jimmy got a lot of support from bereaved families for that show. Strangest of all, the paper that's 'local and proud of it' has featured all five of theese writers in Merseyside's top 100 people. They also included a few comedians who never tire of pushing the 'Scouse on the rob' business in their act. And yet, let just ONE outsider say anything about Liverpool and it's hysteria time. The Echo's hit-list must be into three figures by now, when the real damage to our image has been done by homegrown 'talent'.

Or has it? I suppose it's a bit ludicrous to expect writers and comedians to 'represent' an area. And any-way; hasn't this thing existed for a lot longer? In his only solo film role. John Lennon played a kleptomaniac. Typecasting? One actor from' Back Up' claimed he couldn't turn the job down because he'd go to the bottom of the list if he'd refused to play a scumbag. He also said he'd like to play a 'nice' Scouser one day.

Another element that mustn't be underestimated is the political agenda. From 1979 onwards, industry relocated from Liverpool at a rate of knots- Once unemployment became so high, the Conservatives (through their lackey newspapers) had to give credence to the belief that these people didn't want to work. In fact, they were having such a wonderful time on the dole that they would run away if you offered them a job. This kind of propaganda was 'confirmed' by Bread, which is what makes Caria Lane's execrable programme so unforgivable. Politics also intervened when Liverpool had the most left-wing council in Britain; the Tories' message to the marginals was 'don't vote Labour - you'll end up like that Northern shit-hole'. Does anyone remember the Express picture of the Liver Building hidden by rubbish? It was strategically photographed from a scrapyard in Birkenhead! Democracy in action.

I'm sure you've heard the old 'chip on shoulder' nonsense. If you're black, you're bound to have heard it a thousand times. Being a Liverpudlian doesn't even begin to compare, in terms of prejudice, but it's not a total bag of laughs either. How could you fail to be annoyed by the varying coverage and perception of two atrocities committed in 1993? The murder of Jamie Bulger was horrific, but then so was the death of poor Suzanne Capper. She was abducted by six adults from Greater Manchester and then terribly tortured for a week. Even then. they couldn't kill her quickly. They set her on fire and she died of her injuries two days later. To me, this was five times more monstrous than the Bulger case (if such things can ever be quantified). (a) it never received a tenth of the coverage (b) no-one in the press ever intimated that this was something that could only happen in Manchester - which is exactly what was written about Merseyside. Maybe there was a greater shock because Jamie was a baby, but how relevant is that? You can be 50 or 60 and still he a baby to your parents. Shoudn't all human life be sacred? Apparently not, and it's no wonder Liverpool feels aggreived at times.

Our chums from other football clubs have had a field day with all this, of course. I must admit to getting a very small glow of satisfaction when someone from Manchester, Newcastle, Millwall, Birmingham or Nottingham rants on about robbing Scousers - because their house or car is probably being 'done' by a Manc, Geordie, Cockney, Brummie or whatever it is that comes from Nottingham ('shithead', if their fanzines are anything to go by - which of course they're not) at that very moment. Statistics (y'know, facts) prove you are more likely to be burgled in these places than in Liverpool. 1991 populations (Pears encyclopaedia); Merseyside 1.3 million, Greater Manchester 2.5 million. Last recorded crimes tally; Merseyside- 100,000+, G.Manchester- 300,000+ half the size, a third of the crime - Work it out.

The football bigotry is often only sparked by the game itself, which is at heart divisive through one's supporting one tearn or another. Interesting to see that in Italy Padova might actually be punished for their fans' comments on others 'likely to incite racial or territorial discrimination' is the, way the charge was worded. The only problem here concerns what the Padova fans did; they put up an anti-nuclear banner at the match saying, "Stop the Nuclear tests in Muroroa - do them in Naples instead" Now I know it's a terrible thing to say, but thats FUNNY and I wish we'd have thought of it first!

I've laughed like a drain when the likes of Frank Skinner, Angus Deayton, Harry Enfield, Nick Hancock have taken sly, malicious,completly unfounded digs at virtually everyone under the sun. I'd protect their right to do it, even if some, (not too much) is at our expense. This isn't to say that you shouldn't laugh at Scouser jokes, just realise what you laugh at in other times and whether that is right. It is the 'factual', stuff, often politically motivated , or 'fiction' from City writers, that is causing the real damage.

Oh yeah, and the actions of certain Liverpudlians. We sit there and do nothing while these plebs disgrace us. 'Back Up' did not feature too much that I hadn't seen on away trips before. My attitude is always the same as everyone else's; it's not my problem. But it is, and don't forget people like us were saying the same thing in the Eighties when we were awash with ape noises and the Munich chants - something that still stains this club. No matter how welcome the changes since then are. It is very intimidating to confront these people on your own, but is it beyond your powers to go up to a steward or copper and say 'can you have a word with that gobshite?'. Then we're transported back to our class-room years, and the unusual stigma of 'Grassing' - something that only ever helped the scum of the earth behave worse and worse. Sooner or later, you're being led down a blind alley to the likes of Heysal.

I hope I'm not putting across the notion that 'Back Up' was right to do what they did. They were lazy and outdated, no question, but the criticism of a Hillsborough connection was a little tenuous. Later episodes showed deep levels of corruption - hardly 'pro-police'. They just got it wrong on us as we are in 1995. Having said that, I don't want to watch tame, neutered television. TTW&R was pretty harsh on McGovern, but at least some thought and confrontation is evident in his work, and I would rather have that than a thousand ' Price is Right's. (Guess which truth-mangling-racism pandering one- brain- cell-beetween em sponsers that one?)

'Back Up' was annoying. but it was only a minor skirmish. There are bigger enemies and bigger battles to fight elsewhere - and one of them might just be with ourselves.


Letters - Do They Mean Us?

Once again, the non-footballing public has been offered a very negative image of Liverpool supporters and their city. The BBC's drama programme 'Back Up' used the outdated and grotesque stereotype of the Liverpool fan as a plot device for a weak and badly written show.

How ironic that, six days prior to screening, both the Liverpool team and it's supporters were presented with Fair Play awards by representatives of the FA before the Bolton home game. These are the very same FA representatives who could not understand why we were upset about the portrayal of Liverpool fans when we called them to complain the day before the broadcast. The same people entrusted with promoting the game and maintaining it's positive image.

Having trailed the programme for a week with images of skinheads in Liverpool tops rampaging through Birmingham, we decided to find out what was going on. First, we contacted LFC's PR department. They said they were aware of the programme and were considering a statement. We heard nothing back, but they did give us the number of the BBC. The BBC said they had received a number of calls, which had taken them by surprise as it was a work of fiction and not a comment on the club as a whole. This was the same line taken by the producers when we called them. Hovvever, their statement was read out on Radio 5 live; it said people who watched the programme should 'make up their own minds'.

About what?! Are Liverpool supporters actually like this? Talking to supporters of other teams they too found it offensive, but that's little consolation when millions of non-footballing people watched the show and had the opportunity to Hmake up their own minds'. The producers claim it was a story of two men fighting over a woman and not a story about football hooliganism. let's say that's true, for argument's sake; what does a van-load of extras in red throwing beer cans at passers-by, robbing cars or twenty drunk Scousers giving police a hard time at a bus station add to this 'love story'?

It isn't even worth wasting time on it's factual errors, such as the Saturday UEFA Cup tie, but what about the links to the Dublin riot? 'Make up your own mind'? However, one much more important question arises; how did this programme get from the pen of the writer, through the director and production company, up to the controller of the BBC without anyone asking if it is right to use real football clubs in fictional shows? It is obviously going to stir passions. We would suggest that this programme got through that chain because the idea of rampaging Liverpool supporters was considered an acceptable image for every single person in that chain. It fitted their prejudice of us, regardless of the facts.

It's a cliche to say it, but here goes; yes, we do have a few idiots at the club but for a club this size the percentage is negligible. Re- enforcing an old stereotype sets us back ten years. Unfortunately, it is not up to those who don't know to find out how we really are, it is for us to prove it to them. We are, modesty aside, probably the most sporting set of supporters in this country. It's one of the reasons we follow this club - why is it that football knows this, but no-one else? We called the FA again, and they said that if we felt so strongly about it they would try and get the BBC to add a disclaimer at the beginning of the show. In fact, the BBC toned down the trailer and added the message that it was a work of fiction. It was too little, too late. The damage was done.

Robert Lewis & Sophie Wood