I have now watched Grecian Voices and finally finished reading Mike Blackstone’s Exeter City F.C. A Grecian Anthology (2008). I also looked at the Grecian Voices website itself. I found all very educative in terms of what we need to take into consideration to develop the Exeter Time Trails app so that Exeter City F.C. supporters and the Trust might benefit from it.
The DVD brings together the voices of supporters, players, trustees, managers, volunteers and children who take part in the education programme. It covers over 100 years of history, using historic documents and photos, prompting individual memories and reflection about the values embraced by Exeter City supporters. At the heart of the whole project are the supporters themselves. Thus Alan Banks comments: ‘It’s the supporters that make this go – without them there would not be any Exeter City!’
The aim of Grecian Voices is to generate a ‘sea of stories’. We learn that, ‘like in any Greek tale, there would be stories of tragedy, stories of love, lost and won battles’, and perhaps most of all ‘stories of a pride’. ‘Camaraderie’ and ‘friendliness’ are also returning terms. Very clearly this is not only about the supporters and their voices, but also about their beliefs and a certain vision of things, a way of being, or striving to be.
Milestones stand out. The stadium itself, as I mentioned in my previous blog, the way the space changed over time, names and identities associated with certain areas, stories of individuals linked to them, such as those of the volunteers who help with the tidying up, marriage celebrations, youth training, but also, again, loved ones, no longer physically with us, but still very much in our memories.
Individual stories are also clearly significant, like that of Sid Thomas, described as ‘a real city legend’ who started playing at 16; was club secretary at 18; then director; chairman; president – being involved in 70 years of club’s history.
Particular moments in the history of the club would also need to be marked, such as when in 1914 the English Football Association received a request from South America to send ‘A typical English professional football team to help promote football in Brazil and Argentina’. I am now intrigued by what the word ‘typical’ meant in this context. The images, of course, say a lot already but it would be interesting to see how people interpret this term today.
The 1960s were also significant. Thus we hear Alan Banks remembering, rather emotionally, that they caught the midnight train from Carlyle to Exeter arriving into St Davids at 7 in the morning to find the station was ‘absolutely packed with supporters’. The images of the smiling fans are telling.
I realise now that Exeter City F.C. is owned by its supporters. This may be why the groundsmen, who look after the stadium, note, in relation to what they do: ‘it’s more than a job; it’s being part of a community.’ This may also be why Julian Tagg points out that the football club is not ‘just’ about football but it is ‘providing a central focus and a facility for the community in the surrounding areas’.
This sense of community, identity, focus, seems crucial to me towards building an understanding not only of the link between sport and heritage in Exeter but also to learn about the vision of the individuals who have built up this community over time. The work in schools and the youth training programmes, for example, are where the future ‘Grecian voices’ are now being formed. This is clearly captured by the DVD which towards the end shows some very happy and incredibly muddy children playing football, and then talking about their dreams.
This is crucial – to build a community, create identity, inform a lifestyle, make ‘home’, instil hope, and, most importantly, dream a little…