Memory Lane: the film makers discuss the story of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club

The story behind Spurs is as much about the history of the area as it is the football club. The film Memory Lane was made on a shoestring and tells a nostalgic tale of the history of Tottenham, the club, its fans and their memories. We interviewed the film makers of Memory Lane, sales of which go to support young content creators at Exposure in Haringey.

We spoke to Zeno Citium, scriptwriter and director and Gary Flavell, narrator and editor, who runs Spurs podcast, blog and fanzine The Fighting Cock. We also caught up with Martin Cloake who was a writer and script consultant and was interviewed as part of the film. He is co-chair of the official Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust. They told us about the film and what Tottenham means to them.

The team worked on the film in their spare time over two and a half years, and some of the young people that Exposure work with were involved with the editing.

We got started by finding out why they decided to make a film about Spurs and its history. Citium: ‘It was our attempt to chart the history of the club at White Hart Lane, and its pivotal role in the social fabric of the area. And in so doing, help bring the club, the fans and the local community back together.’

‘In around 2011 the club was denied planning permission for the new stadium in the area and threatened to abandon Tottenham altogether. After the riots that summer, everyone’s minds focused on what could be done to ensure something like that would never happen again, and Spurs finally committed to stay in Tottenham.’

Flavell: ‘We had the idea of chronicling the importance that the stadium had on the supporters, the community and how much of an integral part it played in that history. We thought that because the stadium was going to be torn down and this new monolithic building is going to replace it that it’s important to remember the impact that the stadium had.’

‘To most people it’s just a building but, to Spurs fans, it has memories and the feeling that it conjures up when you walk into that stadium is something that a normal building could never do. It makes you feel you belong to something greater than yourself. All of the magic, all of the things that make you fall in love with the game happen as a part of a stadium and the fans you have that shared experience with.’

‘It’s been there with us for just over a hundred years and now it’s being raised to the ground to build this new stadium which is necessary, in order for Spurs to keep progressing, but it’s also sad. It’s symbolic of the change in football in England and how the working class roots of community centric ideals, that most football clubs were built on, are now gone. The reasons why a football club exists have changed massively and you see the change in stadiums go along with that transition.’

One of the key focuses of the film was the history of the club and the surrounding area. Citium: ‘There’s an identity, culture, heritage and indeed mythology attached to any football club, which us fans buy in to, which you have to buy into if you’re going to invest so much time and energy, and indeed money (if you can afford it). With most clubs this mythology is inextricably linked to the area and community out of which they grew.’

‘Having been born and raised in the area myself, my own identity has, in no small measure, been shaped by both the place and club; the ups and downs, the smiles and frowns. It was gratifying and indeed cathartic to reflect on this.’

The team learnt a lot about Tottenham whilst making the film, we asked them what they found most interesting. Citium: ‘What struck me most was the club’s, reflecting the area’s, reputation for tolerance, diversity and doing the right thing – originating perhaps from the large Quaker community, established in Tottenham in the early 19th century, through Walter Tull (the first ever black outfield footballer, playing for Spurs) – and the area standing up to the British Union of fascists in the pre-war years, tearing down the Nazi flag in an England game against Germany and, more recently, adopting the term ‘Yids’ as a badge of honour and solidarity against anti-semitism.’

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Tottenham Cockerel

Martin Cloake and his colleague Adam Poweley were also interviewed as part of the film. Cloake: ‘we’re both long-standing Spurs fans and the authors of a number of books about the club and its fans. We’d also both written for The Fighting Cock website. I guess we were chosen because we were fans who knew a fair bit about the club’s history and because we understood the approach the film makers had about connecting people and place to the club.’

Cloake volunteers as co-chair for The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust which was set up in 2001. Cloake: ‘Supporters’ Trusts are something that came out of an initiative by the 1997 Labour government to give fans a voice in their clubs. The original Trust was at Northampton Town and was the brainchild of a guy called Brian Lomax, who sadly died in 2015.’

‘We try to ensure the fans’ view is always considered, and we’ve worked hard to build a regular dialogue with the club’s board…Essentially, we deal with anything off the pitch affecting fans.’

‘Brian pushed the idea that sport is more than just another business, and one of the the things he said chimes with the approach the Memory Lane film takes: “It’s about emotion, about sharing and comradeship, about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. These are very deeply rooted human needs and I believe that that is at the root of people’s love for football and loyalty to their clubs.”

Cloake believes that it was essential that the club stayed in Tottenham rather than moving to East London. Cloake: ‘It would have been just another brand name. The club has played every game within a few hundred yards of where those Tottenham schoolboys founded the club – under a gas lamp on the High Road in 1882 – and it is inextricably linked with the area, right down to the Spurs of the Duke of Northumberland. Moving the club to east London would have killed it, it would have been just another team. What’s really good is that the club’s owners seem to have decided to tap into that strong local identity.’

The new stadium could have a big impact on the local area. Flavell: ‘It’s exciting and it is symbolic of the new time for Tottenham. There is going to be massive regeneration in the area. I know there’s been issues with the local residents and local businesses and it’s been difficult to get to this stage but I genuinely do think it’s going to be a positive thing for the area. ’

‘In footballing terms it’s an exciting time for Spurs. The club seem to be acutely aware of what’s needed in order to make a very good football stadium for Tottenham fans. Hopefully prices will come down as well, a little bit, so that local kids can fall in love with the club in the way that I did.’

One of the key themes and questions that runs throughout the film is ‘What does Tottenham mean to you?’ so we couldn’t help but ask the same thing:

Cloake: ‘I grew up in Muswell Hill in the late 70s/early 80s and started watching the Spurs in 1978, so Tottenham has been a part of my life for most of my life. Back in those days, Muswell Hill wasn’t half as posh as it is now, but there was still a dividing line between the east and west of the borough, and Tottenham was always one of the poorer parts. But it was still home. I’ve spent countless hours in the pubs and in the stadium; I’ve worked in Tottenham when I was a library clerk for Haringey Libraries after I left school, and I’ve lived there when I was student. I know the realities of Tottenham but it’s also somewhere I feel comfortable, somewhere shaped by memory and experience and somewhere that is unique. I’m wary of romanticising the place and in doing so making light of some of the problems the area has, but I do love it. It’s down to earth.’

Citium: ‘Growing up, I lived just off White Hart Lane and my secondary school was on White Hart Lane. One of my earliest memories of Spurs as a child was hearing football reporters use the term ‘White Hart Lane’ on television and radio and thinking, “that’s my area!”. For me, there’s a tremendous pride associated with a club and a place which is famous around the world. What I remember most about my formative teenage years was the fantastic times supporting Spurs, made all the more memorable, given the period coincided with winning a number of trophies. But, as Julie Welch says in the film – and this applies to the area was well, “Supporting Spurs is a bit like a love affair that doesn’t always go very well: you get the same emotions: hope and despair and ecstasy.”’

Flavell: ‘Supporting a football club is a weird thing because if someone doesn’t understand it, if they don’t understand football and the impact it has on fans, and the reasons why they keep going back, and the reasons why they get angry, it’s hard to explain to them what a football club means. How do you articulate the feeling that you have for someone you fall in love with? It’s a very difficult thing. You feel it’s right and you’re drawn to it. Football in some ways it’s very similar to that. From a very young age I knew that Spurs was an important thing in my household. I didn’t know what it was until I was taken there by my father. Some of my earliest memories are with my dad and my brother all going together. Some of the greatest memories I have in my life are around Tottenham. Essentially without Tottenham or without football a large part of my life would be missing. It sounds really soppy, it’s really hard and very awkward to say, but that’s the truth. Tottenham are like an extension of my family.’

You can watch the film online for a small donation which goes to the Exposure organisation: https://www.thefightingcock.co.uk/2016/05/memory-lane-the-world-famous-home-of-the-spurs-story/

Alternatively, you can catch a screening down at Bruce Castle park from 1pm on Sunday 11th June 2017. Further details can be found here: http://exposure.org.uk/2017/03/celebrate-tottenham-with-trip-down-memory-lane/

Exposure is a not for profit communications enterprise enabling vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to thrive creatively. Best known for its youth magazine, young people can gain experience across areas of design and print, film, web based and social media content.

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Young people from Exposure

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