Carlos talks supermarkets, housebuilding and the power of 28,000

This time last year Carlos Carvalhal was an unknown quantity, the squad for his first competitive match contained a slew of loan players and many Wednesdayites were thinking it would all end in tears. What a difference a season makes.

If Carlos is feeling the pressure of managing a team transformed from underdogs to a force to be reckoned with, it doesn’t show. Perhaps that’s because in his view Wednesday are still pretty much in the underdog category. True getting to last season’s play-off final means opponents will treat us with respect but CC adds a strong reality check to any talk of automatic promotion or even a top six finish for 2016/17.

He believes Premiership parachute payments mean Newcastle, Norwich and Villa start the campaign as favourites. Is it fair?

“I’m not here to discuss the organization of English football! I’m just a simple coach but if you ask the other 22 coaches, they will be more happy if they have the same conditions as these three clubs.”

And he reminds us that Brighton finished 15 points above us, Derby were also well clear. And other teams have invested, improved and reorganized since May. In fact the theme of new chairmen, new coaches and an imbalance of spending power is a recurring one as Carlos creates a picture of the transfer market as a kind of supermarket sweep,

If it was like the supermarket I take the credit card and say I want this, this, this. I know what I want. If it was easy I would go there and buy what I want but the rules are different… we are in the market in a different way and with responsibility.

Responsibility is another word that crops up a lot – not only about the club’s transfer policy but also about Dejphon Chansiri’s approach to building solid foundations, step by step so “when it rains the house doesn’t collapse.” (CC reveals he’s all too familiar with shaky foundations following the collapse of his home in Portugal. You get the feeling it’s a lesson well learned).

What’s been happening in the close season to reinforce the solid building blocks of 2015/16?

Carlos’ comments on new loan signing Will Buckley are revealing.

Buckley is one good example of what we are doing here in Sheffield Wednesday. If you remember last season when we bring… 5, 6, 7 players in the beginning. They did not do really well the previous one or two seasons but we recognize that they have abilities and of course now it’s easy to talk that we have a fantastic Barry Bannan, we have a fantastic Jack Hunt, a fantastic Forestieri… but we know that when they arrived at the club their previous season was not really at that level…Buckley is exactly the same. Last two seasons he didn’t do well, we know that, but we recognize his abilities so our target – and the target for him – we must create the environment to bring the maximum and bring the best abilities… We will give him time for him to give what we need to our team. If he plays the best level that he has, he can really help the team.

As for the Ross McCormack transfer gossip, with opening game rivals Villa eventually shelling out £12M for the striker, Carlos is equally clear that the link with Wednesday was no more than press speculation,

Let’s talk the reality. We are not in the market to have three or four players as our target and go there and spend £6M, £10M or £12M. We are in the market to try to do our best…it’s why we bring a player like Fletcher as a free transfer; we did very well with Abdi and Daniel…with Jake it was also a free transfer. And now with Buckley as a loan. We try to improve the team but at the same time with responsibility.

It’s not all about shopping at Aldi rather than Waitrose. Wednesday have also been actively seeking some quality home grown produce. As Carlos told the Portuguese press in the pre-season, “the Championship is not for kids, it’s tough.” It’s a belief that has led him to seek out players with experience of English football as well as quality; players who “understand the competition” and in particular don’t look at the fixture list – playing Sunday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday – and go AWOL. “This is a competition that not all players can play at highest level.”

Let’s go back to last year. It was a slow burn season, due in part to taking time to get buy-in to his footballing principles, in part to coaching performances from a group that hadn’t played many minutes together as a team.

In this moment we are much better than at the beginning of the previous season. More options, more quality, more ready… We are ready to start on Sunday… Our fans are ready like us for the game. We believe we will not play with 11 players on Sunday, we will play with 28,000 fans.”

Having charmed everyone with his “mirror of the city” quote earlier this week, Carlos continued in the same vein. At one point actually welling up as he recalled the support against Cardiff and then through the play offs to Wembley. “It was a big part of the decision to stay at the club.” (Hang on, he was thinking of leaving?)

He’s been in football long enough to know how quickly things can turn sour but God, when you see the manager of your club with tears in his eyes as he talks about the fans…

“Football to me is not just money, it’s the environment, the emotional connection with the players, with the fans and this is something we will never forget…we can’t forget it.”

What can we expect then, against Villa? In di Matteo they have a coach who has won the Champions League; they have an owner saying positive things about change and investment; they have good players. But,

“We have something that they can’t have on Sunday; we have 28,000 fans there. They will be beside us on the pitch”. They will be with us and they will give a lot of energy… we believe this can make a difference.”

We’re welling up again now…

And what can we expect for the season? With the three Premiership rejects starting as favourites, Carlos will do no more or less than place Wednesday as one of 17 ‘candidates.’ Strong contenders, willing to put up a fight and capable of winning but by no means better than the teams in what on first sight seems to be a stronger league this year.

So having managed expectations (as he did this time last year – and look what happened) surely there must be plans to maximize the possibility of another SWFC tilt at promotion?

CC is happy with the strength and depth of his attacking options. Probably some shopping activity in the defence aisle – he talked up his current quota of full backs and centre halves, with the defensive options also presented by Daniel Pudil and Liam Palmer on the left but it’s fairly clear he’d like to be less reliant on fielding players out of position – and to have more choice. Incidentally, Sam Hutchinson was the press conference warm up guy, talking about his ‘new’ role in defence actually being a position he’d played in for much of his career. He also thinks it will improve his disciplinary record as he won’t dive in as much as when he plays further up the field.

[Talking of discipline, CC confirmed there have been no approaches to the referees about Forestieri’s ‘diving’ reputation].

And if Dejphon has set any targets for where SWFC finish the season, CC ain’t telling. All he would say is,

“Why are we talking about what will happen in May? We must start now with Aston Villa and what will happen on Sunday… Let’s play.”

 

Carlos Carvalhal

 

 

 

 

Notes from SWFC PRESS CONFERENCE, 05 AUGUST 2016

Season Preview 2016/17

Ten games into the season there’s a pre-match punditry breakfast round at ours. Everyone stumps up a fiver and writes down where they think the Owls will end the campaign.

Last year I plumped for 7th – just missing out on the playoffs, probably by a single point, probably due to a last minute own goal. (Yes, I’ve been following Wednesday for a long time). I was delighted to be wrong.
Across the years, through all the leagues, not one of the breakfast pundits has ever backed a top of the table finish. After the unexpected highs of last season, will our kitchen see a flurry of fivers placed on one of the automatic promotion places for 2016/17?

Much was made of Wednesday not beating any of the teams that finished above us in 2015/16 (play offs aside). Derby and Brighton are still there to test us. Will newly relegated Newcastle, Norwich and Villa be easier for Carlos to crack than Boro, Burnley and Hull were? Or will there still be five well organised teams above us at the end of the season?

Wembley was great but it showed up our flaws, particularly in the final third of the pitch. Fletcher could provide a different dimension and take some pressure off Forestieri. Will it be enough?
Chris Hughton has the tactical nous – and motivation – to cancel us out, home and away. And with Barnsley and others still seeing Hillsborough as a big day out, it’s strange to think that our opening game against Villa is already looking like a six-pointer.

So when this season’s pundit predictions are popped into the Russian doll of Lee Peacock for safekeeping, I might well be sticking with 7th place. But I reserve the right to change my mind…

Lee Peacock Russian Doll

 

 

 

 

 

This post was first published on www.OwlsAlive.com on 29 July 2016.

Willett, Brook, Vardy, Root, Ennis…full stop?

You don’t have to like sport to dislike this example of the erosion of public investment in our young people.

“Danny Willett enrolled on a local council sports development scheme that was tasked with getting Sheffield youngsters off the sofa. It worked. Willett, Kell Brook, Jamie Vardy, Joe Root and Jessica Ennis-Hill were among the local youngsters who benefited…
…Though sadly, none of the local youngsters will be able to benefit from the scheme that first projected Willett to that Green Jacket. It came to an end in 2011, a victim of local government cuts.”

danny-willetts-rise-from-a-council-course-in-sheffield

The Dead Generations

Watching today’s Easter Rising centenary parade in Dublin I was reminded of an observation my grandfather once made, “If everyone who claimed to have been at the GPO in 1916 had actually been there we would have won the war in less than a week.” He made that observation more than once to be fair.

The Easter Rising lasted for 6 days. Many people are better placed than me to describe the chain of events it triggered: the war for Irish independence; Ireland’s partition into the 26 counties of the Free State and the Six Counties of the north in 1922; the civil war that followed. No Irish family was untouched by these events yet unlike the eruption of genealogical websites for research into the First World War, the stories of the young men and women who fought ‘Not for King or Kaiser but for Ireland’ are more sensitive, controversial, unfinished. Whereas the British (and Irish) soldiers who fought in WWI are seen as heroes who fought a futile war – the ‘lions led by donkeys’ – in the run up to the Rising’s centenary I’ve heard commentators refer to the men and women who took up arms for Ireland as anything from ‘Celtic mystics’ to ‘terrorists’ and many points in between. One of those men was my grandfather. He was not at the GPO but the events of 1916 shaped his life.

Jack NolanJohn Joseph ‘Jack’ Nolan was a cautious motorcyclist. Clinging to his broad back as instructed I would loop my fingers into the old leather belt with its parallel lines of stitch marks where the bullets had once been stored. Just once, when overtaken at a pace still slow enough for a bright ‘hello’ and wave from his younger brother, his huge hands twisted the throttle full-on. We overtook great uncle Tom, reared up on the back wheel and spun across the road to block his path. The brothers dismounted. With the coldest of stares and the softest of voices, grandad took charge.

“In the name of God and the dead generations, Tom. You were touching 40 back there. I have the girl with me.”

Apologies were given and accepted. Horn rimmed spectacles and trilbies were adjusted. A joke was made. And we were back on our way.

As we passed buildings, fields or crossroads my grandfather would throw cryptic, teasing memories over his shoulder. The railway at Wellington Bridge was where he had been the station master for a few days. He pointed out bullet holes in the former police station at Duncannon, then a Bord Failté recommended B&B, and asked, “Do you know why that’s still standing?” Pause. “Faulty fuse.” A small stone bridge over the river Bannon was where the Black and Tans had stripped him naked and beaten him senseless – his life saved by the intervention of a regular British Army officer.

Sometimes we would stop altogether, often at a memorial or a funeral. After one service I asked him about the mourner in the navy gabardine mac with one empty sleeve. She was a survivor of the incident we’d seen commemorated on the roadside in Salt Mills. Not a sentimental man, his eyes misted.

All this was in the 1970s/80s, when old age and reflection seemed to spring a timelock in my grandfather’s mind, releasing a voice that had not spoken since he swore his oath of secrecy, collected his rifle and Sam Brown belt and disappeared into Ireland’s hedgerows, barns and mountains to wage guerilla warfare some 50 years before. The cream and red Honda 90 was transporting us back to Jack ‘Sniper’ Nolan’s days in the Old IRA.

Though I’d heard many stories on the back of the Honda and over cups of tea, it wasn’t until his funeral in 1987 that a fuller account of the risks he had taken and service he had given was unlocked from the archives. His coffin was draped in a tricolor, a TD (MP) gave the oration, and a guard of honour fired a salute over his grave. Two things would not have escaped Jack Nolan’s readily raised eyebrow: Proud though we were at the recognition, the funeral became a tussle between family and state – I was ‘allowed’ to give a reading at the mass instead of a politician, while my brother was on constant alert to remove the ‘state’ bouquet placed on the coffin by stealth and replace it with family flowers, a floral exchange that happened more than once in the course of the event. And the soldiers in dress uniform were protected by a ring of their comrades in combat gear, stationed outside the graveyard to prevent ambush by dissidents intent on stealing the saluting guns. Oh the complexity of it all.

At midnight on January 1st, 1966 we were woken to stand on a doorstep in Finglas with our parents, aunts and uncles to hear the church bells ring-in the 50th anniversary commemorations, followed by mass.  The Republic of Ireland is now another 50 years older, less conservative, more confident. I spent today in proud and loving memory of my grandfather for his role in making that happen.

2015 and all that.

I clicked on that facebook ‘Review of your 2015’ thing and it threw up 4 random photos, 3 of which I don’t even recognise.  So here’s my own pretty random review of 2015’s highlights without the aid of friendface. No world events, no links I clicked or petitions I signed, just things I remember doing. Thanks to everyone who helped make this a memorable year. Here’s to a happy and peaceful 2016.

moonwalk startTHE MOONWALK: The first five months of the year were dominated by training for this overnight marathon through London. Being of an age, Louise Timothy and I took the organisers’ advice and checked in with a podiatrist beforehand. I was ridiculously excited to be told I have mechanically perfect feet, my joy only slightly tempered by the situation from the ankles up. Setting off at the dead of night on 16 May, we crossed the finishing line the following morning, raising £1,593.18 for breast cancer charities through the generosity of friends and colleagues.

 

19194867530_73454c1ee8_kOUT ALOUD 1: What happens when you put Sheffield’s LGBT choir, the Friends of Edward Carpenter and Radio 2 Folk Music award nominees in a room ten days after the, shall we say disappointing, general election? The perfect musical antidote is what – a full house at Firth Hall for a concert with inspirational new songs written by Out Aloud’s musical director, Val Regan and “exquisite harmonies that truly shine” from O’Hooley & Tidow, restoring spirits, recovering mojo and generally cheering each other up. As an aside, I’d finished the Moonwalk marathon at 8 o’clock that morning and needed to be back in Sheffield for the final rehearsal at 2 p.m. The train guard (sorry, Revenue Protection Manager) spotted all the Moonwalkers heading back up north, asked where each one of us was getting off and stirred us from our gaping mouthed slumbers just before our destinations. What a gent.

docfestSHEFFIELD DOCFEST: There were 20 venues, two opening galas, virtual reality at Site Gallery (the big hit with festival goers). And then there was an hour spent in a darkened room listening to a radio documentary in Danish, with subtitles projected onto the screen. Rikke Houd’s THE WOMAN ON ICE unpicks the story of Karen Roos, a Danish woman who disappeared outside the settlement of Angmassalik in Greenland in 1933. The threads, the voices and the atmospheric soundscape were mesmerising. A deserved winner of the festival’s In The Dark Audio Award.

 

bette midlerBETTE MIDLER: “I know you’re all going to want to sing along to this one… Please don’t. There’s only room for one diva in this room.” And there was. She worked an Arena crowd like a cabaret room and it was marvellous. If not for Bette my best live gig of the year would have gone to Sharleen Spiteri and Texas on their 25th anniversary tour. Another sound woman who can work a room.

 

 

THE SUN AND THE MOON: Oh the portents… moonThe total eclipse was seen via my phone’s JMW Turner mode; the blue moon was via the Impressionist mode. On the night of September’s blood moon I woke at 3.01 a.m. precisely and took it as a message from the gods to get my photographic act together, dig out the proper camera and catch the event in slightly sharper focus.

 

BRUGES: Remembering the dead. Celebrating life. Visiting the First World War battlefields, cemeteries and the Menin Gate for the first time since a school trip many years ago. We also spent time at Langemark, a German war cemetery. On both sides, the scale is so immense and sobering. Two things in particular evoked the personal stories behind the numbers:

  • Andrew Tatham’s poignant history and art project based on 21 years’ research into the lives of the men captured in A GROUP PHOTOGRAPH – Before, Now & In-Between at the Flanders Fields museum.
  • Meeting a mourner at the Irish Farm cemetery (so called because Irish regiments had been based in the farm buildings just outside Ypres). She didn’t seem that much older than me. She had found the grave of her uncle. She had not known him, obviously. Her mother, just a baby when he left for war, had not known him. In the hundred years since he was laid to rest there, no other member of the family had ever visited his grave. She cried as though she was crying for them all.

Bruges itself was as beautiful, charming, mediaeval, cobbled, beery and chocolatey as you could hope for.

germanyOUT ALOUD 2: Our friends Heart Core in Mönchengladbach were not only celebrating their 20th anniversary but also offering a masterclass in hospitality – food, drink, singing at their homes, singing in the street, singing in a lantern parade, singing at their concert, singing in a crypt. And then there was the cheesy disco. Some of the choir brushed up their German in advance. To my shame, I wasn’t one of them but I tried my best with Arschloch (rude) and the ‘boom boom’ of “Ich gei mit meiner laterne, boom boom”. All the right booms, not necessarily in the right order. Danke.

 

20151117_144230THE HURST ARVON CENTRE: A week in John Osborne’s former house. Writing, listening and story telling. How lucky was that?No phone signal. No wi-fi. And I imagine the first time Thomas Mann’s ‘Death In Venice has ever been greeted with howls of laughter (charades).

 

 

AH openingTHE ART HOUSE, Wakefield: Opened! A Grade II building saved. A community of 34 artists built. Three years of hard work rewarded. Some friends for life made.

 

 

 

WALKS AROUND SHEFFIELD: In all weathers, with the best companions and most wondrous sights.

mud monthA little reminder that pre-Roman Britons called February ‘Solmanath’ – mud month.

 

 

 

jazz in snowA dawg.

 

 

 

 

agnus deiA mediaeval altar piece – I’m thinking ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lambs’.

 

 

 

SITE GALLERY: My rewards for chairing Site’s board over the past six years have been many. Watching the gallery blossom under Laura Sillars and Judith Harry has been a joy, as has being introduced to the ideas of artists and collectors from around the world, culminating in GOING PUBLIC: International Art Collectors – a collaboration between collectors and Sheffield’s visual arts venues to share the best and most challenging contemporary art and artists. As if that wasn’t enough of a high to stand down on, I was presented with two works by Zoe Beloff, one of the artists in Site’s ‘family’ whose work I most admire. An absolute surprise and joy. Oh you shouldn’t have, but… yes please and thank you. What a lovely way to end the year.

AND FINALLY, SWFC:

Weds3Arse0“We’ll always have Paris Arsenal. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca Hillsborough. We got it back last night.” As Ingrid Bergman almost said. Happy New Year, everyone.

 

A little bit of history and a lot of future.

When I first walked into the Carnegie Library in Wakefield almost 3 years ago it was cold, dark, damp, stripped of all its books, but not unloved. Though the staff and users had moved to new premises 12 months beforehand, they and other Wakefield residents held on to their fond memories and hoped the library would somehow be brought back into public use.

Today, following a £3M refurbishment, the building is officially re-opening in its new guise as 34 artists’ studios run by The Art House, Wakefield. The team that made this mighty transformation happen includes an award-winning brass bander, an illustrator, the star of a classic 1980s pop video, a burlesque artiste and a make-up guru. Only in the arts.

In February 2013 my job was to bring the Old Library back to life, guided by plans originally set out in 2011 that had stalled due to lack of funding.

Year one was spent mainly instilling belief that the project would happen, meeting Arts Council funding conditions, securing £1.5M from Europe and transferring the lease from Wakefield Council. Paperwork was involved. Meanwhile, the condition of the Grade II listed library was deteriorating as rain came in through the roof, the windows and the floors, pigeons made merry in the cupola and a tired and emotional citizen of Wakefield propped herself up against the stone balustrade. Both she and the stonework took a tumble.

The following 18+ months were spent mainly instilling belief that the project would happen (that’s a bit of a constant in capital projects), and procuring the contractors – the builders, the asbestos removers, the metal workers, the historic paint samplers. After which:

tumblr_ngs8i5RfvZ1teo3roo9_500

tumblr_ndjmcr6RzU1teo3roo1_500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 layers of paint were stripped off the walls to reveal handmade arts & craft tile work.

The original cast iron radiators were blasted and fitted.

A lasagne of floor coverings was peeled back to reveal the original parquet flooring.

A ramshackle history of 20th century wiring was pulled out, along with pipes, conduits and phone sockets.

Historic paint schemes were agreed, disagreed, agreed again.

The weather vane was removed and restored.

Two buildings on slightly different levels became one.

The roof was re-leaded.

Pods and partitions were installed.

Lighting schemes were agreed, disagreed, agreed again.

People said you’ll never fill the studios.

New studio holders and office tenants moved in.

The project was completed – on time and on budget.

 

Was it worth it? A little bit of history and a lot of future.

 

Early postcard showing ill-fate stone balustrade

Early postcard showing ill-fated stone balustrade

Built in 1905, Wakefield’s library was one of 660 in the UK and Ireland made possible with assistance from the Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. At the time it was criticized for its cost (£8,000 from Carnegie, plus a penny rate levied by the council) and its appearance (a ‘plain, barn looking building’).

The design had been put out to competition. Of 81 submissions, Surrey-based Trimmell, Cox and Davison won the contract. Their budget was based on London prices. Finding materials and labour much cheaper in Yorkshire, they were able to respond to the ‘barn’ criticism by creating a neo-Baroque style topped by a wooden cupola with leaded cap and an ornate iron weathervane.

The foundation stone was laid by lord mayor Henry Childe in February 1905. Carnegie himself – “just a quiet, well-dressed little man, with nothing in feature, figure or apparel to suggest any special distinction except his big head and large top hat” – formally opened the library in June 1906.

So that’s a bit of the history and one reason for preserving the building. The second reason is the people who will be using it.

“… A brilliant resource for Wakefield and Yorkshire. With leading facilities it can host national and international artists, provide a flexible and supportive workspace for visual artists and showcase the best of visual arts.” (Arts Council England, Feb 2014)

The Art House was established in 1994 by a group of artists with a vision to provide fully-accessible studio space, where disabled and non-disabled artists could work side by side. In 2008, The Art House ‘Phase 1’ building opened on Drury Lane in Wakefield, with exemplary access for people with physical and sensory disabilities.

Now, with the doubling of facilities provided through the Old Library project The Art House can continue to develop and work towards removing barriers for artists through residencies, professional development and mentoring and extending its remit through new activity challenging conventional approaches to diversity and the arts.

The opening, fittingly on the International Day of People with Disability, is an opportunity to show off the building. More importantly, it is a showcase for the work of a new creative community of artists who now have a base in the centre of Wakefield.

As the wonderfully committed project team would say, “You’re welcome.”

tumblr_nflrm9CBgO1teo3roo1_100tumblr_ngs9bobBFx1teo3roo1_100tumblr_nhpphs1D0Z1teo3roo1_100tumblr_nkl2rqibLT1teo3roo9_500tumblr_nih3szDXIK1teo3roo8_250

 

Audacious.

I’m not wearing a poppy or bowing my head at the dictated angle, but at 11 a.m. today I am remembering my great uncle, Nicholas Cleary.

A merchant seaman born and raised in Co. Wexford, Nick was also a member of the Royal Fleet Reserve which meant two things – he was paid a small allowance to attend training and he was on standby to serve with the Navy in time of war.

Swordplay_(6388042307)

This picture of reservists at ‘swordplay’ training was taken in Tramore, Co. Waterford, just a few miles from where Nick lived. I have no idea if he is one of these bearded or moustachioed, slightly half-hearted (he was a republican after all) participants, but I like to think he is.

With the war just weeks old Nick may well have thought he was safe from the call up for yet awhile. But by October 1914 he had travelled from his home in south east Ireland to Donegal in the far north west and was aboard his first Royal Navy ship, HMS Audacious.

On 27 October 1914, Audacious was one of seven ships to sail from Lough Swilly in Donegal to conduct gunnery exercises. 25 miles off the coast, she ran into a German mine. Thinking this was a submarine attack, the Captain hoisted the submarine warning which saw the other ships steaming away to safety. With water flooding the engine rooms, Audacious broadcast distress signals by wireless. The Naval commander, Admiral Jellicoe refused to send battleships to tow her because of the apparent submarine threat. Meanwhile, the White Star liner Olympic, elder sister of the Titanic, arrived on the scene with some of its trans-Atlantic passengers capturing the whole incident on camera.

After struggling to keep Audacious afloat for 11 hours, the crew were finally ordered to abandon ship. She sank shortly afterwards.

HMS_Audacious_crew_take_to_lifeboatsThe crew of Audacious, Nick among them, take to lifeboats [photographed by a passenger on the Olympic]

According to the records, “Jellicoe immediately proposed that the sinking be kept a secret, to which the Board of Admiralty and the British Cabinet agreed, an act open to ridicule later on. For the rest of the war, Audacious‍ ’ ​name remained on all public lists of ship movements and activities. Many Americans on board Olympic were beyond British jurisdiction and discussed the sinking. Many photos, and even one moving film, had been taken. By 19 November, the loss of the ship was accepted in Germany.”

Four years later, on 14 November 1918 a notice officially announcing the loss appeared in The Times:

H.M.S. Audacious.
A Delayed Announcement.

The Secretary of the Admiralty makes the following announcement:—
“H.M.S. Audacious sank after striking a mine off the North Irish coast on October 27, 1914. This was kept secret at the urgent request of the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, and the Press loyally refrained from giving it any publicity.”

I wish the story ended there. All hands safe, the Olympic captained by the comically named Captain Haddock, Government attempts to conceal the truth, and an early example of news verification via members of the public sharing pictures. It’s a good story.

Sadly, Nick’s war didn’t end with his lucky escape. By December 1914 he was back at sea as Petty Officer on HMS Clan MacNaughton, a pre-war merchant ship requisitioned from Clan Line Steamers Ltd of Glasgow four weeks earlier and converted to an Armed Merchant Vessel by the addition of guns on deck. The crew was a mix of seasoned seamen like great uncle Nick and young cadets, including 50 boys straight out of training.

She sailed from Tilbury for patrol duties in the North Atlantic a few days before Christmas 1914, but had to put into Liverpool on the way. She returned to Liverpool certainly once, perhaps twice because of handling problems.

On the morning of 3 February 1915 she was in radio contact at about 6 a.m. and reported terrible weather conditions. Nothing further was ever heard from her or the 281 men and boys aboard.

Many commentators at the time believed the loss was due to the guns on deck affecting the ship’s centre of gravity in bad weather. In contrast to the secrecy around Audacious, on 3 March 1915 (just four weeks after she was lost) Mr Bertram Falle, MP for Portsmouth North asked in Parliament

‘If His Majesty’s ship “Clan MacNaughton” was surveyed after her guns were put aboard; and, if so, was she passed and by what authority?’

The response came from Dr Thomas Macnamara, MP for Camberwell North.

The “Clan MacNaughton,” a nearly new vessel of the Clan Line, classed by the British Corporation Registry, was fitted out for His Majesty’s service at Tilbury under the supervision of naval, constructive, and engineering officers deputed to act for that purpose. The armament placed in the vessel was light in comparison with her size, and all necessary stiffening to take it was fitted. Investigations as to the loading and the stability of the vessel were made at the Admiralty, and instructions were issued to the commanding officer of the ship. The Admiralty are satisfied that the vessel was in good condition and seaworthy, and that she possessed ample stability.

Macnamara was also Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. So… he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Whatever the cause, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean off the north coast of Ireland there is a shipwreck that serves as great uncle Nick’s grave.

Great music, great cause, great night out

Out Aloud, Sheffield’s gay choir, will be in concert with the ‘best duo’ BBC2 folk awards finalists O’Hooley and Tidow in Sheffield on 17 May. All proceeds will go towards The Friends of Edward Carpenter’s campaign for a permanent memorial in Sheffield to this pioneer of socialism and sexual politics. Tickets are only available online – here’s the link that will transport you to a night of great music for a great cause – https://www.wegottickets.com/event/303039

More about O’Hooley and Tidow – http://ohooleyandtidow.com/
More about Out Aloud – http://www.outaloud.org.uk/
More about Edward Carpenter – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Carpenter

Walking the Walk 1

Cancer is something that affects all of us directly or indirectly. In my case, I lost my lovely mum. Raising money to fight cancer works; every year there are breakthroughs in research, in treatment and in support. I’m doing the MoonWalk in May – all 26.2 miles of it – to raise money for Breast Cancer charities. You can find out more and make a donation by following this link. Thank you! http://wtwalk.org/moonwalklondon2015/angela-1

MeAndMum

Jane Kitson – ‘one of a kind, and unforgettable’

Jane Kitson in all her glory

Jane Kitson in all her glory

Jane Kitson, ‘Champion of Local Music’, a Sheffield woman with ‘Big heart, big mouth, and big smile’.

“Tributes have been paid to BBC Radio Sheffield presenter and champion of the city’s music scene Jane Kitson who has died aged 46 from a suspected heart attack.”

Sheffield Telegraph, 25 January 2014 

I’m so glad I didn’t hear about Jane’s death through that piece in the Sheffield Telegraph. Her education, her career, her health – all true and yet all so dry and clinical.

On 13 January a mutual friend had posted on facebook:

“… Yesterday a dear loyal friend and one-time work colleague, Jane Kitson, died. She was a vital person to Sheffield’s music scene … apologies if this posting on FB or twitter was how you heard. It is the modern way, I guess.”

 Within  a couple of days, a FB page had been created, ‘We Love You Jane Kitson’

As one member commented, “Awesome idea … though I’m sure Jane would call us all daft chuffs!”

I joined the group, liked the page but didn’t post a comment. The idea of tribute by social media is an uncomfortable one for me, and I suppose quite a few people.

As ever Kitson gets that last challenge in and prompts me to reconsider something, on this occasion my attitude to social media. Because of her I’ve realised that online tributes don’t have to be about mawkishness or people appropriating someone else’s death to make a point about themselves. The stories flowed and memories were triggered, all touching and resonant, and capturing the essence of the opinionated, cheeky, grinning, passionate and generous Jane we all knew.

“She had a particular cadence when she said ‘…the fucking wankers.’ One of a kind, and unforgettable.”

“You always knew where you stood with her (polite parlance for “she had a big gob on her!”), but she also had a heart of gold and a soft side that was so endearing.”

“She knew so much about radio and loved passing on her knowledge, skills and enormous, irreverent enthusiasm. Thank you, Jane.”

“First time I met her it took less than a minute before the belly laughs began. Brilliant woman, glad I got to spend time with her.”

I am one of many people who first met Jane in the 1980s through BBC Radio Sheffield’s ROTT – a Sunday evening broadcast of barely controlled chaos. Which was what made it great fun to be part of.  Jane was the kid sister we all looked out for even though she was probably more sorted in her approach to life than the rest of us put together. And “she always had the best coloured hair.”

In the years since ROTT we would meet at gigs or out and about, where we’d talk about life and Sheffield Wednesday over lunch or in the street. Jane was one of those people you wouldn’t see for months or even years but could pick up the conversation, the friendship and warmth exactly where it had been left off – as witnessed by all the FB shared love and memories of lives, careers and funny bones touched by this wonderful woman.

So here’s another contribution to preserving the memory of Jane Kitson, “Indie music lover. Sheffield through-and-through. Cool cool woman.”

A day out with Jane:

On August Bank Holiday 1984 Jane asked me to drive her to a music festival. I’d just taken my driving test, didn’t have a car but she wanted to interview an indie band who were performing there, so…

We arrived at Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire and, it being a music festival drove straight into a quagmire. Deciding that tent-pitching was beyond us, we reclined the seats and slept in the car. Of course we didn’t sleep. We listened to the radio, put the world to rights and laughed all night about the fact we were at Greenbelt – the Christian music festival. Jane had left that bit out when she asked for the lift.

The next morning, off she went with her BBC issue Uher reel-to-reel in its scuffed black leather case slung over her shoulder. I know it’s unlikely but I’m sure she was interviewing the Jesus & Mary Chain. At Greenbelt? The name fits, but the material…  Yet if anyone had inside knowledge about an indie band and an impromptu appearance it would be Jane.

Every now and then her crazy coloured head would bob up as she stood on tiptoe to navigate her way through the thronging Christians to interview the band who may or may not have been the Jesus & Mary Chain…

Afterwards, having agreed that Gospel singing disproves the old saying that the devil has the best music we decided to visit the Gospel tent before heading back to Sheffield.

Well. This is where the memory of Jane that will always stay with me kicks in. She is leaning forward, looking up at me with an expression combining horror with a grin, mouthing “NO!”

YES. We had voluntarily walked in to a meeting to give witness. No music. Just a never-ending loop of sins confessed and redemption given – white, black, old, young, men, women. Jesus, as they say. Terrified to get up and leave in case we were ushered on stage, we stayed. Jane was a giggler. So am I. We were contorted with bottled-in laughter. As we said on the journey home, ‘the two possessed women at the front.’

It’s ironic that Jane’s funeral is held the same week this piece by Sean O’Hagan appeared in The Observer:

British culture was once open to ‘messy kids’ from secondary moderns. But if you want to make it in 21st century Britain, you’d best have a cut-glass accent and public school pedigree

Perhaps the best way to preserve her memory is for us to make sure  the route taken by Jane Kitson in the 1980s is forced to stay open 30 years on.