A look back at 2016, some of the faces and places I’ve encountered in a momentous year of choice, change and contradiction, through the lens of my camera.
Copies of my new book with images from various assignments at home and abroad for the Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers, have arrived! This limited edition compendium is available exclusively through my website for just £7.50 plus p&p and is being brought out to coincide with the papers ceasing publication. Get your here copy whilst stocks last….
With the football season in full flow and gathering pace, I am delighted to announce the launch of a new creative venture in partnership with one of north west England’s finest and most historic non-League clubs.
With the help and cooperation of Marine FC, I have created a special souvenir postcard, depicting the club and its supporters during a match this season against Ilkeston at the Marine Travel Arena in Crosby. The first in a series called Football Landscapes of England, the postcard reflects what I love most about non-League football: intimacy and informality mixed with passion and commitment.
Chairman of the Marine Supporters Association, Dickie Felton, was instrumental in supporting the venture and getting it off the ground. He told me: “We are thrilled to work with such an acclaimed photographer as Colin on this project which captures the unique atmosphere of our club. The images on the postcard are wonderful and they will be a big hit with not just our fans but anyone who loves the beautiful game.”
From my base in the North West, I have covered matches at home and abroad for the monthly magazine When Saturday Comes for the last decade. And although there’s little that beats the thrill and excitement of internationals or Premier League football, non-League football is the game’s beating heart and the environment I am happiest photographing.
A first edition limited run of just 250 postcards costing £2 each will go on sale at Marine’s FA Trophy match against Kidsgrove Athletic this coming Saturday, 14th November, kick-off 3pm. It will be available exclusively at the club shop and social club and the aim of this partnership is to promote Marine FC and my own football photography.
It was a long and strange night. But then, voting in your Member of Parliament often is.
As the 2015 General Election drama unfolded across these islands, a tennis centre in Wirral became the focus of a political mini-drama. A fight-within-a-fight. On an evening when the Labour balloon slowly deflated on a giant television screen in the corner of the counting hall, Wirral West MP Esther McVey became the only Conservative government minister to lose her seat in the UK, as Margaret Greenwood sneaked home for the Labour Party with a wafer-thin majority of 400 after a recount.
The cheers and smiles of the victors masked disappointment that the swingometer in Scotland was looking more like a Richter scale while further south, the Tories were entrenching themselves at Westminister for another five years.
In the end the winner was the loser and vice versa. Funny old game, politics!
Twenty-five-years ago today, I, like tens of thousands of people of all ages across these islands, was making my way to a football match, to watch and cheer my favourite team.
It had been a ritual I had performed year-in, year-out since my early teenage years and nothing on that spring day in 1989 made me think that my routine would ever change. That day, however, would change football forever. We weren’t to know that at the time, as we made our way through to Glasgow as part of the Meadowbak Thistle Brake Club.
Try as I might, I simply cannot recall anything about that particular away day to Partick Thistle. I have scoured the internet and discovered that my team, battling grimly to avoid relegation from the second tier of Scottish football, lost 2-1. I cannot even find the identity of my team’s goalscorer or team line up. And even though I search through my memories of my Meadowbank days, I can recall virtually nothing of what happened before or during that match.
The small details I can recall seemed to have been overlaid subsequently in response to the tragic events south of the border that afternoon at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. Did we receive radio reports of deaths at an FA Cup semi-final as we clambered aboard our supporters’ bus at 4.45pm that day? Or had someone in the crowd relayed to us news of some incident as we settled down to watch the first half? In those days before we could conceive of the internet and social media, let alone mobile phones, news filtered around so slowly that it often made events seem distant and irrelevant to our lives.
In the aftermath of Hillsborough came a realisation that change had to happen. The cramped, dangerous, Victorian stadia were gradually replaced by modern temples to a national religion. Where once we all stood, now most sit. Even at the lower levels of the game, the grounds we visited in the 1989 (and I attended every one of Meadowbank’s fixtures that season) have either been vacated and/or replaced. It is with some irony, that my team no longer exist, victim of the new rapaciousness which infiltrated many spheres of football post-Hillsborough. But my loss is nothing compared to what happened at Hillsborough.
Ten years ago, I moved to Merseyside. Renting a flat on the banks of the mighty Mersey, with the Liver building and its famous flightless birds in the distance, I became acquainted with a city I had previously known little about. The longer I have lived here, the more I have understood the place and its people and it’s almost all-consuming love and passion for the game of football.
In my capacity as a photojournalist and a citizen, I have met and befriended scores of people whose lives were touched intimately and directly by the tragedy which engulfed Liverpool Football Club on that April day in south Yorkshire. I have photographed the families of those who never returned from the match and heard eyewitness accounts from friends and acquaintances about what they saw that day. There’s sadness, there’s grief and there’s anger as well.
Much is assumed about Liverpool and its people. Lazy, shorthand cliches about the Scouse character and about how people in this great city live their lives. But the characteristic most prominent when it came to securing the truth about the deaths of those 96 football fans is determination. During the long campaign to establish what happened at that football match on that day, there has been a constant search for answers, and a longing for truth and justice. That campaign is ongoing and not yet concluded.
“You should go. You’re a football fan,” Terry, a self-proclaimed ‘mad Red’ had told me last week. “It’s not just about Liverpool, it’s about all football fans, everywhere.” So today I went to the Hillsborough memorial for the first time. Wearing the same scarf I’d worn 25 years before I joined the throng of supporters from numerous clubs making their way to Anfield Stadium and took a seat on the famous Kop. I watched and listened to the men of faith, to the soft hymnal singing, the music, the prayers, to the dedications and thanks. I reflected on what this annual event means to an oft-maligned city and clapped as loud as anyone when Everton manager Roberto Martinez stated that they – the establishment, the authorities who’d betrayed Liverpool – had “picked on the wrong city.”
As we filed safely out of Anfield, I reflected on what this disaster was really about for me. At its core, it was the loss of 96 lives, taken away whilst doing something that I took for granted each week: supporting my team. But what divides us in football also unites us as fans, no matter what team we follow. This is not just about those lives lost. It’s not just about football either. It is about justice. ‘Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied’ read one of the banners attached to the gates outside Anfield today. If, in the end, the victims of the tragedy and their families get the justice they deserve, then we as football supporters can truly go to watch our teams week-in, week-out with hope in our hearts.
In the meantime, their fight goes on. And it’s our fight too.
I came across a group of picket line protesters on the way back from a meeting in central Liverpool today.
The spirit of defiance and rebellion is still active on Merseyside, where members of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) were demonstrating as part of a nationwide day of action against the imminent privatisation of large parts of this successful and necessary service. NAPO, which has the best performance record of any public service, has helped re-offending rates decrease year-on-year so that they are now at their lowest levels since 2007. Reducing re-offending means safer communities, fewer victims and less crime.
There’s always so much negativity around protest in this country. And often so much defeatism when it comes to halting the juggernaut of private enterprise as it careers through our daily lives. I thought the image of two, young women offered the best illustration of their protests. And some hope for the future.
If you want to find out more about NAPO, visit their website.
I am just beginning a big new journey. I’m in the process of setting up a brand-new website for www.colinmcpherson.com. Please check back again soon for details about projects, commissions, publications and exhibitions.
See you soon!