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…
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