Spend it like , arry

About KEITH DIXON on his role in a show Birm­ing­ham City West Mid­lands foot­ball – and why are the work­ing-class club…

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Red­knapp to shake up the Blues

BACK in June, I came off stage at the Birm­ing­ham Reper­tory The­atre hav­ing fin­ished my in­volve­ment in the stage pro­duc­tion of Sta­dium.

The show was about the pas­sion of the sup­port­ers of the three West Mid­lands clubs with a Birm­ing­ham post­code: Birm­ing­ham City, West Bromwich Al­bion and Aston Villa.

The two-hour pro­duc­tion by Mo­hamed El Khatib, ac­claimed di­rec­tor of “I, Corinne Da­dat” and “A Beau­ti­ful End­ing”, brought to­gether real fans to talk about their love of their team.

Each of the eight per­for­mances was sold­out, that’s an au­di­ence of 1,200 dur­ing the run.

It sur­prised me that so many peo­ple would be pre­pared to pay to wit­ness a pro­duc­tion pro­fes­sion­ally pro­duced and di­rected but per­formed by well-mean­ing ama­teurs.

The con­tent ranged from a Blues v Villa game played out by dis­abled wheel­chair play­ers to a num­ber of videos of fans de­scrib­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences as a sup­porter, from a wrestling match be­tween the match day mas­cots of the three teams to me, pre­tend­ing to be a mem­ber of the au­di­ence, who sud­denly speaks out about the state­ments be­ing made on screen.

Cameo spots were pro­vided by a Villa song­writer, a blind West Bromwich Al­bion sup­porter with his “singing” guide dog, a flag­wav­ing per­for­mance from an­other Bag­gies fan and a talk on foot­ball stat­ues by an­other Vil­lan.

An eclec­tic mix by any­one’s stan­dards but well re­ceived by the au­di­ence and the crit­ics:

Brian Dick, of the Birm­ing­ham Mail: “Sta­dium is set in Brum, it’s about Brum­mies, per­formed by Brum­mies - and for Brum­mies. The split city is some­thing that char­ac­terises Birm­ing­ham and di­rec­tor Mo­hamed El Khatib cap­tures that sen­si­tively.”

The Guardian: “Sta­dium is in­clu­sive, in­tel­li­gent and mov­ing. If fans of any club are as well en­ter­tained next sea­son, they will be lucky.”

My in­volve­ment was to ar­gue with Birm­ing­ham celebrity his­to­rian Carl Chinn about his claim that Aston Villa are the work­ing­class club in Birm­ing­ham, not the Blues.

After shout­ing out my protests from my place in the au­di­ence, I was in­vited by the host, Dim­itri Hat­ton, to join him on stage and ex­plain my­self.

My state­ment was never scripted and there­fore var­ied ev­ery show and was al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by a few “heck­les” from the au­di­ence. My protest: That’s enough – I can’t lis­ten to any more of this – It’s just not right – typ­i­cal Villa. I don’t un­der­stand why Carl Chinn is so adamant that AVFC are work­ing-class, why do they need this ac­co­lade after spend­ing 24 con­sec­u­tive sea­sons in the Premier League and win­ning the Euro­pean Cup in 1982? From the stage I then make the fol­low­ing points: “In com­par­ing my­self to Carl Chinn, I am not a PHD or an MBE and I am cer­tainly not a celebrity his­to­rian on the City of Birm­ing­ham. “My cre­den­tials are that I have

been on the planet ten years longer than him and I have writ­ten eight books on the his­tory of my beloved Blues, and it is on this ba­sis that I take is­sue with some of Carl’s state­ments.

“It’s a fal­lacy to say that Villa are the work­ing-class club, true they have work­ing-class fans, but Blues are un­doubt­edly the work­ing­class club and we are proud of that sta­tus - and I can prove it!

“How can Villa be work­ing-class when Villa Park was built in 1897 on Aston Park which houses Aston Hall, a mag­nif­i­cent 17th Cen­tury Ja­cobean stately home which was once the home of Sir James Watt, the man who in­vented steam and pi­o­neered the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion – very work­ing-class?

“At the Blues we had Small Heath Park and the only iconic build­ing we had was the Wim­bush bak­ery –now that’s work­ing-class!

“Ap­par­ently, lo­cal foot­ball club ri­valry is based on one of three fac­tors: re­li­gion, war and so­cial.

“Well, both clubs orig­i­nated in churches so it’s not re­li­gion, there’s never been a war be­tween the two clubs so it can only be so­cial and the di­vide was es­tab­lished long ago - if you stand on the Wash­wood Heath Road fac­ing the City, the left side is Blues and the right side is Villa, who I am happy to call the high-sta­tus club.

“This so­cial di­vide be­tween one high sta­tus club and one work­ing-class is repli­cated in English foot­ball at Liver­pool, by Liver­pool and Ever­ton - the only dif­fer­ence in Birm­ing­ham is that Blues carry the name of the city and not a sub­urb!

“On a lighter note, Villa’s celebrity sup­port­ers are Prince Wil­liam, heir to the throne, David Cameron, ex-PM, and Tom Hanks, Os­car-win­ning ac­tor - hardly work­ing-class chaps!

“The Villa fan at the end of that video shoots him­self in the foot by call­ing Blues the lumpen­pro­le­tariat. Karl Marx, the cre­ator of mod­ern-day so­cial­ism, was very clear in his def­i­ni­tions on this mat­ter – pro­le­tariat were ‘salaried work­ers’ whilst the lumpen­pro­le­tari- at were ‘the poor­est of so­ci­ety’. I rest my case.

“In the 1870s be­fore each club was formed, Birm­ing­ham was ter­rorised by two gangs, the Peaky Blin­ders based in Small Heath and the White­house Street Gang based in Aston.

“The BBC never made a TV se­ries of the White­house Street Gang so how con­ve­nient it is that Carl, a de­clared Villa fan, chooses to con­duct tours on the Peaky Blin­ders, for­get­ting their Blues con­nec­tion which is con­firmed as they were based in The Gar­ri­son pub with St An­drew’s about 200 yards away!

“Carl needs to un­der­stand more about the Blues so I will send him a copy of my lat­est book ‘Blues In­sider’ which costs £12.99 and is avail­able in all good re­tail­ers.”

Whilst the ex­pe­ri­ence was ex­tremely re­ward­ing, I have no de­sire to ‘go on the stage’ as it re­quires so much time in terms of re­hearsal plus it re­quires a lot of courage to get on stage and per­form.

Al­most as much courage as it takes to be a Birm­ing­ham City sea­son-ticket holder!

It re­quires a lot of courage to get on stage and per­form – al­most as much as it takes to be a birm­ing­ham city sea­sonticket holder!

Mak­ing his point: Keith Dixon

Ri­vals: Aston Villa and Birm­ing­ham fans on stage Pic: Graeme Braid­wood

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