I was looking for something pure in the football world.
Stuart Roy Clarke
Author of books on mass gatherings: football and pop music festivals, serial exhibitionist (in museums and galleries mostly), commissioned and supported by all the football bodies at one time or another. Road-tripper extraordinaire. Look out for me. Mostly in England.
July 14, 2014
Stoke City football club had recently got me to photograph their goliath matchday versus Arsenal to help sell tickets for next season (good call – they won handsomely and my photographs were fab); Scottish government had commissioned me – this Englishman – to photograph their entire clutch of professional clubs that they could paint a togetherness picture of Scottishness in 2014; the English FA had me as artist-in-residence for a year at their shiny new palace of football excellence and home of the national teams, St.George’s Park.
Glorious respectable shackles all. Yet I wanted something MORE. Or even less.
I’d not so long before had month-long drives through Brazil, Africa, and continental Europe – all in search of football. But now I could settle to something quintessentially English whilst looking for football’s belly-button.
Given the hysteria surrounding World Cup and Euro’16 campaigns, Qatar and Fifa, I was promising myself a journey to the centre of the football world… somewhere only I would reach, via road trip.
I find it with a finger poke into the map. I can get to The Hope Valley Amateur Football League from all sorts of directions, taking in the Peak District as I go; that will do me nicely. Landscape plus people. Undiluted, hype-less football accessed by horsepower.
A peopled landscape of knitting-needle factories, mineral extraction, cement works, hypothermal spring water bottled at Buxton…
Handbrake away! A whole scroll of destinations. Dry stone walls and flocks of sheep interspersed by green pitch enclosures crisscrossed with white lines plus a bit of a clubhouse thrown in. Grassroots football. Essential England.