Sporting Stories writes: earlier this year (2016) there was a fascinating exhibition at the wonderful Airspace Gallery in Hanley. Called 'Fools Rush In', it was a thought-provoking show by Leigh Clarke on the shallowness of celebrity and of celebrity autobiographies. As a counterpoint, six local writers were commissioned to ghost-write autobiographies of six local people (one from each of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent) who had their own much richer life stories to tell.
Burslem's real-life hero was Steve Shaw the potter and artist, and his life-story was ghosted by Dave Proudlove. We are delighted to be able to reproduce here an extract from 'Portrait of an Artist as a Working Man', where Steve talks about Stoke City as one of his sources of inspiration. Many thanks to Leigh Clarke, Glen Stoker of Airspace, Dave Proudlove and (not least) Steve Shaw for permission to publish this extract here. And we're doubly grateful to Steve for allowing us to feature some of his art alongside his story.
PORTRAIT of an ARTIST as a WORKING MAN
I will never forget my first match: a big European game under the lights as Dutch giants Ajax came to town. I wasn’t really there for the football. Although I was just nine years old, I was there for the atmosphere, the experience: the noise, the smells, the kinship, the camaraderie.
People talk about culture, and this was real working class culture. And what a game to have marked down as my first. Although I wasn’t there for the football, it seems ironic now that my Victoria Ground debut saw Stoke City take on a team of footballing artists. It is also ironic that for all the skills and flair on show, it was that force of nature from the Meir Denis Smith that scored for the Potters.
But footballing artistry was not exclusively foreign those days. The great Tony Waddington described football as “the working man’s ballet”, and brought a number of footballing artists to the Victoria Ground. For me, the greatest of all was Alan Hudson, who swapped the bright lights of London’s Kings Road for the Six Towns. Hudson was a magician, and he even made simple warm up exercises in training look like a work of art. I once remember seeing him and couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t banging on the window. I wasn’t either, but inside I was screaming, “LOOK! IT’S ALAN HUDSON! LOOK! LOOK!”
It’s been said that you should never meet your heroes, but I have been lucky enough to meet Alan, and not only that, I did a painting of him in his prime and he liked it. He did have a few things to say about it, which was a bit of an experience to say the least. He approached me in a bit of a haze, his eyes glazed, and told me I got him right, but that in the painting, he should have been wearing a granddad shirt (“I always wore granddad shirts”), which is interesting. Of all the photographs I pored over Hudson from his 1970s heyday, I never saw one of him in a granddad shirt. But Alan Hudson liked my painting, and that’ll do for me.