Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #6

April 18, 2019

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Recreational football in the 1950s

April 29th March 2019

‘More than an inconsequential weekly kick-around’: but what did it mean? Some reflections on recreational football in twentieth century England

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And for the new term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

We kick off (arf!) with Prof Dil Porter of De Montfort University who has chosen to peer below the depths of élite sport and look at what the playing of the game meant for the ordinary man and woman in the street who did that thing in their local streets and parks.

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Recreational football in the 2000s

This is a subject on which I (and many others I suspect) will have strong views; and no little nostalgia. Do come along for will be a fascinating exploration of history from below with one of the nation’s leading historians of sport. An abstract can be found below.

‘More than an inconsequential weekly kick-around’: but what did it mean? Some reflections on recreational football in twentieth century England

Cultural and social historians, if they have reflected on football at all, have tended to focus on the elite game; what happened in and around stadiums, rather than what happened every weekend in the park, on the marshes and in other spaces devoted to public recreation. Yet as Ross McKibbin observed in Classes and Cultures, ‘football was played by more people more enthusiastically than any other game’. The intention is to explore ways in which club archives, local newspapers and other sources, including autobiographies and fiction, can help us connect with and reconfigure our understanding of ‘the people’s game’.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Resto 10 The Clydeside Distillery, Glasgow

April 17, 2019
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This is the still room (not the café!)

After a disappointing experience with Gusto we were determined to find somewhere that celebrated local Scottish produce and boy did we get it. We’d already decided to do a tour at The Clyde Distillery but had an hour to kill before the only one available was due to begin. It seemed natural that we’d do that in TCD’s café, especially given that this stretch of the Clyde isn’t (yet) blessed with other eateries.

The menu is simple – local produce served on platters to share if you want more than a sandwich or a soup. We were happy to pile into a platter and saving our powder for the tour decided to skip the rather tempting whisky flight with matching cheese in favour of a small glass of white each.

On the platter you get a selection of high quality Scottish munchies – salmon cured two ways, oat crackers, olives (?!), meats and the stars of the show, three local cheeses. Of these the Tain Cheddar was an absolute beauty and I want more of it soonest. It could have done with a bit of veg though. Service was excellent and the staff well-trained in explaining the origins of the food and the nature of the multitude of whiskies available alongside.

At under fifteen quid a head it was the perfect warm up for an excellent tour of the distillery with a very able guide (I know a thing or two about such things). Such things tend to stick to a fairly predictable routine but TCD, whose whisky is yet to be mature enough to serve, give it a wrinkle by giving you five classic Scotch samples paired with locally produced vegan-friendly chocolates. With spectacular views up the Clyde it was definitely a highlight of an excellent weekend in Glasgow.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 9 Gusto, Glasgow

April 14, 2019

It’s difficult to live up to the standard that Paesano sets for Italian in Glasgow but it was Friday night and I wasn’t willing to queue half the evening. So we opted for Gusto based on it being the nearest point for curing ravenousness.

The room, a former bank, is plush and we had plenty of space to not feel hemmed in. A pretty extensive set menu means it’s not really worth looking at the à la carte. Or should we have done?

Bruschetta up front was pretty much tomatoes on bread (I know that’s what bruschetta is but it can be more than that) though the calamari alongside it was better.

The main of rump steak was not really pink as ordered (Christ knows what the well done would have looked like) and arrived without chips.

Nae chups i’ Glasgae!

That was scandalous but the courgette ‘salad’ on the side was just a wet waste of jaw.

Enough savagery. The Chablis was excellent, as was the service. In fact Glasgow sets a high standard for service in the UK, from King Tut’s to the Cathedral front of house was professional to the core.

5/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 8 Sacro Cuore, Crouch End

April 9, 2019

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A Soldier’s Song is over. All that remains is a script and joyful memories of working with a talented cast and crew for a series of satisfied audiences. So with the next writing project the altogether (and indeed literally) more prosaic drudge of academic history I turn back to restaurants for a lighter side of writing.

Sacro Cuore is at the end of Crouch End that I usually can’t be bothered to walk to but it was late afternoon and most regular restos were closed. We were greeted by a charming (and ‘hot’ apparently) waiter and had the run of the room. I liked the mural of north London decorating one side of the room, I liked the clutter-free room and I liked the brevity of the menu – wine is either red or white, no fussing.

We all took pizza – mine was salsiccie and brocolli with a good dollop of chilli oil. The base was really tasty and crispy with plenty of sausage and veg riding on it. I wouldn’t normally finish a whole pizza by myself but this one was despatched without mercy. A rocket salad on the side was a generous heap of the green stuff with a light balsamic dressing. The white wine did a solid job without being anything spectacular – which is fine for the price.

There was plenty of takeaway action going on and soon a few more diners showed up too. With Italian banter carrying on between the kitchen and the front of house even on a slow Monday teatime it felt pretty homely. My preference is still for Bufala di Londra in this neck of the woods but Sacro Cuore gets the same mark.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Working on ‘A Soldier’s Song’ in the London Library

March 21, 2019

With ‘A Soldier’s Song’ due to première in a week’s time it’s time to pay my respects to the London Library – without the benefits that membership brings I doubt that I would have got the project off the ground.

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The EU flag flies over St James’s Square from the Cypriot High Commission’s balcony

One of those benefits is that it is by far my favourite place to work. Without the woof-ish distractions of my desk at home there are communal spaces or solitary nooks to suit my changing mood. Few nooks have as good a view as the one in the photograph above. Mental pauses can be spent watching the circling taxis, strolling pigeons, and scattered characters in St. James’s Square.

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Mucho Marivaux at the London Library

It just so happens that this desk is where Marivaux likes to hang out. Occupying three shelves of French Lit. you’ll find his novels, essays and plays – as well as critical studies of his work. This allows the translator/adaptor to access a comprehensive range of resources, all in one place.

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Yes, they are real. And they are spectacular.

And not just to access them – since the LL is a borrowing library you can take them away to study on the hoof. Much of the work on Les Fausses Confidences/A Soldier’s Song was done on trains to various cities and towns of the Midlands where I’ve been teaching over the last couple of years. Of course I wouldn’t take a 1732 edition of Marivaux’s work on the London Northwest Train to Marylebone, that’d be reckless! But it’s a nice object to contemplate as one struggles to wrestle marivaudage into the twentieth century.

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The Pléiade edition records the first performance of Les Fausses Confidences in March 1737.

Of course adapting is a more impure task than translation. For translation you require an original text, a thinking mind, perhaps a dictionary. For adaptation you have to imagine the original into another world – whether it’s a switch of genre or a switch of setting or gender. And by setting the action for our play in a house in 1919 London with a military man as the protagonist all kinds of resources that the Library has to offer were useful in capturing the language and feel of the period.

The resources deployed can be obvious – for example using histories of fashion to inflect the wardrobe or military histories to give a backstory to the young soldier, Hector.

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The Bing Boys – Ted Jeavons was a fan

Inspiration can come more obliquely too – Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time was a rich resource, especially the sections where Ted Jeavons reminisced about spending his leave from the front during WW1 in the music halls of London. In the end we didn’t use any songs from The Bing Boys Are Here but part of the joy of rattling round the stacks in the library is knowing that I could go from Uncle Ted’s fictional reminiscences in Fiction to specialist works on the music hall in S. Music Halls &c in two ticks.

And soon the show will come alive – as I said to the cast at our last rehearsal in a local church hall yesterday evening, the play is theirs now and not mine. The final process of adaptation is enaction. The text was once fixed by Marivaux in 1737. Then it was unfixed by the Comédie Italiennes for the King. And once more what was fixed by myself has been unfixed by the Crouch End Players and will become a living creation of their own.

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Actors – you gotta love ’em!

Go to the London Library’s website for a fuller flavour of the benefits that membership brings. Or pop in, they’re a very friendly bunch.

A Soldier’s Song runs from 27th – 30th March 2019 in the Moravian Hall, Priory Road, N8 7HR. Tickets are available now from crouchendplayers.co.uk

 

Resto 7 Lao Café, Covent Garden

March 6, 2019

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The first birthday dinner of 2019 was a leftfield choice. Lao Café is the only Laotian resto in London, possibly the UK. One of us had been to Laos (not me) so knew what to expect – leaning more towards Thai food than Vietnamese but quite distinctive. I was happy to try it out.

Lao Café’s interior is refreshingly modern and zappy with a great big mural on one wall. We had a table in the window. In fact we’d commandeered two tables to cope with the amount of food that we’d ordered, so I felt a bit guilty since there was a queue at the door by the time we left but the owner didn’t seem to mind.

I sucked on a glass of wine while perusing the menu – my interest was immediately piqued by ant eggs. This was a new thing to me. I’d have them as part of a Lao mushroom curry. Alongside that we took a Lao papaya salad and a fish dish for two with some grilled sticky rice.

“You want that spicy?’ enquired the owner. ‘Yes please.’ She looked sceptical. ‘One, two or three chillis?’ I looked at Karen for guidance but she stared back inscrutably. ‘Three, why not?’ ‘You’re sure?’ I sensed a challenge being laid down. I nodded resolutely but ordered a beer just in case.

I definitely needed that beer! The heat was slow to arrive but ferocious when it did. In a good way. At least that’s what I said in between glugging down cold booze by the brace. The fish was excellently cooked – meaty and bony so requiring delicate knife skills. Ant eggs were less of a delight, although the curry they rode in on had an excellent depth of flavour with a high mushroom content that would make it a good lunchtime option. The Lao element to the papaya salad appeared to be hard-shelled baby mud crabs, which I was happy to deposit alongside the fishbones uneaten. I was also less than enamoured of the grilled sticky rice, though that may be due to the fact that I’d had a tooth extracted at the weekend and the hole in my face rapidly turned into a sticky rice mine.

Despite ordering less than the recommended amount of two salads and two mains we still couldn’t finish everything that was brought to us. The service was outstanding – really friendly and quick. I especially liked the feller with the low slung jeans who brought us the wrong bill (lower than we expected) and quite happily admitted his own doofishness about it. Even at the higher rate the bill was reasonable for this part of town for the amount of grub/drink we’d got.

I’ll be back to Lao for curry but without the ants or crabs – this is a place where it’s good to know your way around the menu.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

‘A Soldier’s Song’ visits the Inns of Court

March 5, 2019
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The Devil’s Own recruit from the quality.

‘He’s a devil this boy!’ I didn’t know when I wrote that line for A Soldier’s Song how apposite it would turn out. As part of the research for the production of the show we had a cast visit to the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry Museum in a crepuscular corner of Lincoln’s Inn where the Regiment still has its HQ.

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Appropriatley Dickensian digs for the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry

As you can see from the poster above the Inns of Court are nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Own’ so it seemed entirely correct that our Hector, the dashing World War 1 hero, should be described by his old batman Hobbs as a devil.

Major O’Beirne gave us an excellent tour of the bijou collection of memorabilia and photographs which tell the story of the regiment from its origins in England’s deep past right through wars local and global to the present day.

One sinister highlight was a Nazi flag rummaged from a box in a cupboard rumoured to have been swiped from Luneberg Heath on the day of the Germans’ surrender in 1945. The Devil’s Own themselves had had a tough introduction to Europe, landing in Normandy with instructions to blow bridges across the Orne only to find themselves under fire from some trigger happy American Typhoons.

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The Berkhamstead Boys pose in 1915

Of course we lapped up the tales of derring do but nudged our host in the direction of World War One – what had the IoY been up to between 1914 and 1918? By coincidence it turned out that they’d been based in our leading man’s backyard of Berkhamstead! Looking through the photographs he could pick out the golf course – once used for trench warfare – Kitchener’s Field parade ground, and local landmarks like this church porch.

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Looking through the sepia images of young men being trained for War it really was a most inspiring visit, especially with the wealth of visual detail that we were able to pick up. I only hope James’s moustache can live up to WW1 standards!

#theatre #London #ASoldiersSongPlay

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #5

February 27, 2019

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Monday 11th March 2019

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

After an excellent exploration of the deveopment of the fashion for replica kits in football with Chris Stride we take a radical change of direction for our next paper. On Monday March 11th Luise Elsaesser of the European University Institute in Florence will give a paper on the role of polo in the development of the British Empire in the late-ninteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Not only are we promised some ground-breaking research on cultural transfer at the height of empire, there’s going to be some serious moustache action in the presentation.

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You can find her abstract below …

‘Dashing About with the Greatest Gallantry’: Polo in India and the British Metropole, 1862-1914

The period from 1870 to the Great War was defined by a new and more intensive phase of imperialism. This presentation analyses the impact of Empire on the metropole. In suggesting that the imperial space was not a one-way street the example of the Indian game of polo is used. Unlike most imperial sports, polo was adapted by the British from their colonial subjects, creating the opportunity of a common cultural space. How did polo influence socio-cultural and political power constellations in India and the metropole? More nuance on regional contexts and the effects of sport on specific groups will be provided. Unpacking the resulting interdependencies, ambivalences, and the mutability of polo in a British imperial self-image, the paper does not neglect Indian agency. Polo showcases an interrelation of ideas and beliefs which are used to understand the respective environment as well as the internationalisation of sport.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Marivaux and Berlioz

February 19, 2019

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Rehearsals are in full swing for A Soldier’s Song and now, thanks to the wonderful Nick Kobyluch, we also have our artwork!

After a weekend of Berlioz on Radio 3 it’s also now time to reveal that ASoSo (as it’s become to cast and crew) is itself inspired in part by Hector Berlioz. On reading the original Marivaux it rapidly became apparent to me that the male lead’s romantic obsession with Araminte had a powerful resonance with the real life obsession that Berlioz had with the actress Harriet Smithson.

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Harriet Smithson – Shakespearean actress and Berlozian muse

It’s the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death this year and so there’s a lot of French romanticism in the air. I only hope that I’ve done the crazy old romantic justice and mashed up his life with Marivaux’s plot and my own sprinkling of English Romanticism to make something rather special.

Do come along to the Moravian Hall at the end of the month to find out! Tickets will be on sale from 25th February 2019.

#Berlioz150 #theatre #London

A Soldier’s Song, an original play by Geoff Levett adapted from Marivaux’s Les Fausses Confidences will run at the Moravian Hall from Wednesday 27th to Saturday 30th March 2019.

 

Sport & Leisure History Seminar 2019 #4

February 19, 2019

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Monday 25th February 2019

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Our next paper will be given by Dr Chris Stride of the University of Sheffield who will be talking to us about the fascinating history of replica football kits. Come on, we’ve all got our favourites, although I do hope Vinnie Jones in a Leeds strip isn’t one of them.

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The abstract for Chris’s paper is below … come along for polyester pomp and an analysis of the rise of the replica.

For anthropologist Desmond Morris, writing in his seminal 1981 study of football culture The Soccer Tribe, ‘the adornments of the followers’ were of much interest. However, despite the continuing presence of the scarves, hats and flags Morris described, it is likely that a similar study carried out in the 21st century soccer landscape would relegate them to a mere footnote beneath a single, overwhelmingly favoured item of match day clothing – the replica football shirt.

Child-size football kits had been packaged and promoted as replicas since the late 1950s, and after shirt designs were first copyrighted in 1974, became an increasingly lucrative industry. However, at this point in time shirts were not marketed towards, nor worn by adults. Using both quantitative analyses of data gleaned from 1000+ crowd photos, a similar number of programme adverts, and a survey of fans to model the growth in purchasing and promotion of replica shirts from 1975 to 2000, it is possible to identify the phases of adoption, from the trailblazers, through wider adoption, to today’s ubiquity.

Three key stages of adoption are identified. First,  the wearing of shirts by a small hardcore of fans in the 1980s, inspired by their popularity as cup final fancy dress in the 1970s, wardrobe inertia in those who had worn them in their early teenage years, and social changes in leisurewear, most notably the growing acceptability of sportswear as street fashion prompted by the 70s jogging boom. Wider adoption was, however, suppressed by the threat of violence at matches, a residual sense amongst older fans that football shirts were for children and players only, and the lack of any meaningful distribution network or marketing strategy to adults. Second, a late 80s boom, as the infrastructure for football’s future hypercommodification begins to fall into place, the threat of matchday hooliganism recedes, and the football shirt becomes a fashion item in a brief period of cross-polination between football and music subcultures and the euphoria of Italia 90. Finally the birth of the Premier League and a rapid gentrification and commercialisation of the game sees a new, older market for football shirts rapidly developed and exploited by focused marketing and design.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the John S Cohen on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 


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