Over time, it has come to my attention that Mr Liz has quietly but steadily been acquiring something of a cult following. Upon meeting him for the first time, people are apt to exclaim - with some excitement - "So YOU'RE Mr Liz", in a tone that suggests he has done something very clever, or very funny, when he hasn't. And as if that wasn't bad enough, an erroneous opinion seems to have emerged that he is somehow under the thumb, and put upon, and chastised on a regular basis, when this in fact only happens when he absolutely deserves it, and has brought it upon himself. Still, just to prove that my wifely generosity knows no bounds, tonight for one night - and one night only - Mr Liz SPEAKS...
Credit: Stuart Roy Clarke - The Homes of Football)
Now some regular readers of this blog may have come to the conclusion that it is predominantly about shoes, handbags and food. Possibly linked in with a touch of wine here and there.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, just that Manchester has so much more to offer in terms of culture, history and education. Which is why Liz has asked me to do my first ever guest blog on what should probably be renamed 'Cultural Things to do in Manchester (that doesn't involve, food, shoes, handbags, shopping, etc.)'.
Take the National Football Museum for example. Originally located at Deepdale in Preston, it has recently moved to the Urbis exhibition centre in Manchester. For anyone with even the slightest interest in the beautiful game this is an absolute must see with a range of special events, guest speakers and temporary exhibitions all worthy of note along with interactive football games for the little (and in some cases, not so little) ones.
Which brings me on to how I spent an engrossing hour this week.
Currently the temporary exhibition space is filled with a series of images by the official Football Trust photographer Stuart Roy Clarke, and on Friday he was on hand for an all too brief hour to explain some of the thinking behind some of his most iconic photographs.
While the influx of money into football can be considered a good thing, it is undeniably bringing about a change in football as clubs become businesses first. I doubt that anyone can deny this has resulted in improved facilities for fans and players, but in doing so we are at risk of losing an essential part of what makes the game so accessible to so many. These days it seems that the results on the balance sheet are more important than the results on the pitch. Stuart Roy Clarke realised that, in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, football was at a pivotal moment and that things were about to change within the game. Therefore he set out to document as much of this as possible before it was gone, resulting in his 'Homes of Football' exhibition.
While ostensibly a football photographer, Stuart Roy Clarke's photography is about much more than just two teams of men running after a ball. It's about the fabric that surrounds football just as much as the game itself. He manages to capture the details, the passion, the glory, the disappointment, the expectation, the hope, the excitement and the emotions. In his own words, the football match is merely the icing on the cake as he strives to show balance in his photography, between what happens on the pitch and what happens on the terraces, between the events during the game and the events before. His photographs are just as likely to focus on the tea ladies as on the terraces with everyone involved being regarded as equally important within the context of The Match.
I found Stuart Roy Clarke to be an entertaining and interesting speaker, happy to engage with those of us who had made the trip to the exhibition as well as sign autographs for the kids. For those, like myself, who like the technical details, Stuart Roy Clarke uses an old school Bronica (film, not digital) camera and works with a fixed lens. His images are un-doctored and reflect the colours and events as they happened, not how he may have liked to imagine them after the event reflecting a truth that is often missing in modern photography.
The National Football Museum showcases the history of a game that has culturally shaped our nation, and Stuart Roy Clarke's exhibition shows us an aspect of football's recent history that is in danger of being forgotten. Whether you are a Red or a Blue there will be something there for you to enjoy. The exhibition is on level 3 of the National Football Museum until the 31st of December, admission is free and it's open seven days a week. Please see the Museum website for further details.
...So there we go - Mr Liz has been liberated, valued and given a platform to proudly proclaim his words aloud to a waiting and appreciative world. Obviously, this WILL be the last occasion he'll be allowed to speak for some time, or I'll never hear the end of it...