It’s Unofficial: Recording the Histories, Memories and Meanings of Burnley FC

Posted on 12/10/2011 by


Post by Janet Swan and Sarah Lee

Football, not cotton is the thread running through the lives of people in Burnley in an area once at the heart of the weaving industry. And now for the first time, the stories, memories and traditions of fans are being woven together into Burnley Football Club’s first unofficial history.

Burnley Fans with Jimmy McIroy MBE

Clarets Creative is an arts and heritage project about the life and times of Burnley FC as seen through the eyes of the fans. And the project’s free exhibition has just been opened by 80-year-old Clarets legend Jimmy McIroy MBE. The historic Towneley Hall Museum in Burnley is hosting the free exhibition which will run until Christmas; a stately home set among woodland and sweeping lawns within cheer-shot of the Club’s ground at Turf Moor. And fans are urged to come to the exhibition and carry on sharing their stories, anecdotes and creativity at a series of free workshops with writers and artists every Sunday afternoon 2pm – 4pm until 20 November 2011.

Burnley fan, Janet Swan, who has set up the Clarets Creative exhibition, explained:

“Most stately homes exhibit the wealth and history of the few, but this is different. Now, we’re sharing the stories and memorabilia of Burnley FC’s many fans and creating a valuable archive for the town”

The exhibition is divided into four parts:

  • Objects of Passion memorabilia with its own story to tell: everything from a Turf Moor brick to lucky sock hung over the bed on the night before matches
  • Made in Burnley photographs, paintings, sculptures and stories that came out of workshops held across the area including 11 action man dolls and a claret and blue kit knitted during workshops!
  • Folk Art how fans have expressed their love of Burnley FC in their own way for example a themed painting “Breaking All the Rules” (taken from above one fan’s fire place)
  • Fans personal stories and images– some of which now grace a set of Top Fans cards that can be played like the game Top Trumps (and which are available from Towneley Hall or the Clarets Creative team).

There’s also a unique website, where people can add stories, photos and anecdotes, from lucky socks, face painting and tattoos and there are Facebook pages too. Or fans can follow us @CCreative82 on Twitter.

Janet , who runs reading and writing groups to improve mental and creative well-being, said:

“ I’ve lived in Burnley for 25 years and I’ve been getting gradually immersed into the whole Clarets culture. It struck me that there were a lot of untold stories about the impact Burnley FC has on the lives of fans and their families. I thought it was time had the chance to share their experiences across the generations. For many people the Clarets really are part of their extended family. When people visit the exhibition or our website they will hear about characters they actually know”

Janet has teamed up with Iain Broadley, an Occupational Therapist with Lancashire NHS Trust for Clarets Creative. Iain was looking for creative activities the whole community could get involved in to improve people’s sense of well-being. Iain said:

“We give people the chance to tell it how it is for them, with the ups and downs of life as a fan. Sharing a passion for a club at the heart of your town can help when the traditional industries have nearly all gone. There’s a shortage of new jobs and with government cut-backs, more redundancies are on the way. Being part of the community with a shared passion for the Clarets can help to stop things unraveling. Football really matters in Burnley”

Janet got the project kicked off thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and backing from Lancashire County and Burnley Councils, the NHS in Lancashire and the North West Sound Archive. Local writers and artists joined the team to help people share their stories for the Clarets. Their efforts included visiting pubs and clubs before home games to capture memories and pictures on the back of special Clarets Creative beer mats. Fun, approachable ways for people to capture their memories, stories and art include:

  • A competition for children to design the claret and blue face-painted head of Clarets’ fan John Withington and win tickets to a home game
  • Playing with a unique set of Top Fans cards each with their interesting histories (below)

    Top Fan Cards

  • Posting photos, pictures and stories to the colourful Clarets Creative website http://www.clarets
  • Having a listen to stories at the exhibition at Towneley Hall or on the website and adding your own
  • Visiting Towneley Hall until Christmas to record or share your funny or moving snippets or memories about the Clarets.

Iain explained:

“Part of the project involved listening to and playing some of the gutsy football songs that have been sung at the Turf over the years. One guy who’d been a singer but who’d lost his mojo got involved with the project. It helped to restore his confidence and sense of community and now he’s back entertaining people on the music circuit”

Burnley’s own dialect poet Mervyn Hadfield volunteers for Clarets Creative and is taking part in workshops. He stressed:

“It’s not just about young people, men or boys – this passion cuts across generations and there’s no gender gap. As one fan put it on the back of one of the Clarets Creative beer mats – ‘what do you do on match days to make Burnley win?’ The answer: ‘Bring my granny!’ Like the strip the stories are claret and blue, with the warm claret as the up-side of life, the blues when things are going down.”

Launching the Exhibition

“We’re preserving a lasting record of living history which will last a lot longer than a tale spun over a pint or on a stroll back home up the hill after a game at Turf Moor,” added Janet. The exhibition is on now until Christmas at Townley Hall Museum in Burnley. Community, arts and heritage organisations interested in hosting the travelling Clarets Creative exhibition can contact Janet via the website.