Thursday, November 24, 2022

Northern Spin Extra - Special Guest, Economist Nicola Headlam

What’s Boris Johnson really like?

Nicola Headlam should know because she was one of the most senior civil servants at the Northern Powerhouse and she’s lifted the lid on him and other senior politicians.

Now the chief economist at Red Flag Alert she’s the latest guest on Northern Spin Extra and didn’t hold back on her views on Northern Powerhouse Rail.

When we launched the podcast it was to get insight from people like Nicola and she didn’t disappoint.

Give it a watch (above).


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Northern Spin podcast goes to Blackpool, and the Phoenix

"Really good episode" says former civil servant David Higham, a man who knows his history and appreciates insight.

This week we talk about Blackpool's regeneration efforts over the years, Andy Burnham's appointment of Kate Green as his Deputy Mayor and the disgrace of Boris Johnson's honours list.

And why, despite everything, I still love Phoenix Nights.

We're on Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

Apple - 

Alan CavillAndy MorrellNicola HeadlamThe Manchester Metropolitan UniversityDepartment for Levelling Up, Housing and CommunitiesThe Labour PartyBlackpool CouncilThe Centre for Social Justice.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Spirit of the Fanzine

Our radio show is a product of the fanzine generation. Passionate, homespun, authentic and sometimes a bit seat of our pants. 

I was reminded of this last week when I went to a talk in Manchester with the force of nature that is John Robb.

As well as the front man for the band Goldblade, John is a clarion for music in Manchester arguably invented the term Britpop and was the first music writer in Europe to interview Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

At a talk in Manchester hosted by my friend James Torry from Doodledo he conveyed how just as enthusiastic now as he was then. His website called Louder Than War is an outlet for his first-rate music journalism. 

He started as a fanzine writer, as did me and Neil. 

I actually first met Neil when he was editing a magazine that started as a fanzine and became a gloriously smart menswear journal. Though I’ve had a decent career in journalism, my first baby steps on that journey weren’t an internship at a newspaper or a traineeship at the BBC, but on getting out a Letraset, a battered typewriter, some glue and a pair of scissors to cut bits out of newspapers and magazines to make a fanzine.

I’m probably the only winner of Private Equity Journalist of the Year (2006 and 2007) to have edited a fanzine.

It was 1982, I was 16, a bleach blonde haired sixth former with a bag full of attitude and riding that strange wave between punk and football lads, taking in a range of influences from music, politics, and the terraces.

I would pick up these crudely photocopied mad collections of random thoughts and ideas, usually sold outside gigs in Leeds or Manchester, but occasionally in record shops like Piccadilly in Manchester or Probe in Liverpool.

In Leeds I bought one called Molotov Comics, featuring lots of poetry and swearing, and was sold by a skinhead called Swells. Another was called Attack on Bzag which was enthusiastically marketed by a skinny lad with curly hair by the name of James Brown, who went on to be the editor of lads mag Loaded (when it was good).   

Over in Liverpool, I was absolutely mesmerised by The End, due to its sassy writing, its left-wing politics, and the crossover with football terrace fashion. That was produced by the lads that ended up forming a band called The Farm.

I was inspired to start my own. It was called Positive Feedback, it had some good bits in it, but I lacked the confidence and the contacts to really develop a distinctive style.

I grew up in Lancaster, we had a little bit of a music scene, partly because of the students at university and a decent club called the Sugarhouse which a fake student ID used to get me into most Saturdays.

We also had a brilliant record shop, Ear Ere, which as well as being a hive of great sounds they’d also support fanzines. People bought the first two issues and it was an important part of my origins story. 

Fanzines were part of a network, the underground, people who could help one another, and so I got a call at home one day from a guy in a band called the Membranes from Blackpool who wanted to know if I could help him get a gig in Morecambe or Lancaster. I couldn’t, but as is the way, I think I told him to try the lads at Ear Ere.

I recalled that conversation, that self-help, DIY attitude. I often get asked for career advice by students and young people. I can only tell my own truth, but in an era when there are social media, video, and blogging tools freely available the spirit of the fanzine lives on. You just have to use what’s available.   

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Hello, is that West Ham?

I sent my mate Trevor a message a couple of weeks ago fearing the worst over the rail strikes and backing out of a trip to London for the League Cup game against West Ham at the London Stadium. Having slept on it I then sent another - 'I'm coming down for West Ham, life's too short'. We haven't seen each other for ages, to reminisce on Sunday football at Wormwood Scrubs, great awaydays and tours to Devon. Our mate Martin's funeral in Ireland being one poignant occasion before we all got told to stay at home.

Come what may, I was going. Even though the rail strike was off, Avanti Trains are hideously unreliable but I decided to embrace the challenge. 

I was so glad I did.

Seeing friends in the old familiar bonding environment of a Rovers away match in London was special. Meeting their friends, their sons and other friends' sons was an added bonus.

Some things change though - it used to be a bit of a standing joke that wherever the Rovers were playing in London and the south, the London branch would somehow conspire to find the worst possible place to meet. It was the kind of 90s education that gave me a unique insight on life and rough pubs. 

Meeting for artisan pizza and craft ale in a microbrewery in hipster Hackney Wick wouldn't have been part of the old plan. 

I also avoided shabby Avanti and entered London via Reading, Paddington and the spectacular new Elizabeth Line, zooming over to Stratford in no time at all. 

My hopes and expectations of the match were to not get humiliated like we did last time we played the Hammers in a cup competition. I think taking the lead, giving it a right good go, and bringing our Chilean wonderkid on for a late equaliser, then winning on penalties smashed all expectations. It was nail-biting at times seeing them playing out from the back, but truth be told JDT is deadly serious about what he wants the whole squad to do. The project.

I thought there was much about this new ground to be impressed by, but it's nowhere near as good as the new Spurs stadium. The stewarding was terrible. I had a backpack that they didn't even look at, though I offered, and I got a full-body search. It was obviously going to be a smaller crowd, so why not create a bit of space between the away fans and the West Ham schooligans who think Green Street is an instruction manual? Maybe a Rovers fan wouldn't have had his head cut open by a flying object if common sense had been applied. They've got a real problem there, but all we got was blocked entrances, no stewarding of seating and a bit of a shambles.

It was a visit to ground number 77 of the current 92 and the 169th venue I've watched football on.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

A football weekend in Portgual

We really loved our city break to Porto in July, but probably saw less of the city than we would have done as it was so hot and we discovered a great beach suburb - Foz - just north of the city. 

 One of the highlights though was the FC Porto museum and stadium tour, which whetted our appetites for a return to an actual game. I got the sense that FCP were a bit like Barcelona - more than a club, but a symbol of their city's defiance of capital dominance. So much of the museum exhibits seethed with indignation at age-old injustices, refereeing decisions and scandals. 

And so as we plotted a return it might as well have been Porto v Benfica, O Classico. We paid over the odds for tickets from a risky touts website but it was worth it. All told it was an incredible spectacle if a little more sedate and less aggro than one might have expected. The result (0-1) and the sending-off for the home team reinforced their deep sense of grievance. But Portuguese football is good. There was some great football at times, you can see why they’re both competing so well in the Champions League this season. 

We then fancied looking into another game to make it a weekend of football tourism. We got on a local train to historic Guimares and took a trip to see Vitoria SC v Boavista FC, Porto's other team. If the O Classico was a top Premier League clash of the giants, this was a slightly aggy semi-derby (say, Wigan v Blackburn Rovers) and it even rained incessantly. What a game though. Sending off, a penalty, mistakes aplenty, aggro, pyro and the best possible result in any football match, 3-2. 

These trips also represent the 167th and the 168th stadiums I've watched football on. The Groundhopping adventure continues.