Football banners

Anne Williams – Iron Lady

It was the seventh anniversary of Anne Williams’ death on April 18. She was the mother of Kevin Williams, who had died at Hillsborough twenty-three years and three days earlier and Anne had fought for justice for him and all the other victims from that day to the very end of her own life, aged just 62. She was tireless in pursuit of the truth about what happened that day, particularly her challenge to the flawed ruling by Coroner Stephen Popper at the initial inquest that nobody could have survived beyond 3.15 pm. Despite being refused a judicial review of the coroner’s finding in 1993, having not one but three applications to the attorney general turned down and finally an application in 2009 to the European Court of Human Rights ruled out of time, she determinedly refused to give up and was ultimately vindicated in 2012 when the Independent Panel swept Stephen Popper’s judgement aside and determined that as many as 58 victims might still have been saved had the police and ambulance services behaved differently. She was, as David Conn, writing an obituary in the Guardian put it, ‘an everyday person embodying the extraordinary power and depth of human love’.

It is only right and fitting that she has that rare accolade of having a banner made in her honour and that it flies regularly on the Kop.

The banner celebrates her as an ‘Iron Lady’, an epithet long attached to former Tory Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was, of course, deeply implicated in the Hillsborough cover-up. The use of ‘iron’ to describe her was presumably to link her to a previous 19th century Tory Prime Minister, known as the ‘Iron Duke’, the Duke of Wellington, a man known for Depending on which version you believe, he was given this nickname either because of his consistency and resolve or because of the iron shutters he had fitted to his Apsley House, his London home in 1832, to prevent rioters smashing his windows as they had done in 1831 in reponse to his and his Tory Party’s efforts to block electoral reforms that would extend voting rights and sweep away some of the so-called ‘rotten boroughs’ that entrenched power in the hands of the rich.

When Thatcher died (April 13, 2013) a common, less than mournful, frequently joyful, mood was captured by this banner, which appeared in Barnsley, one of the many mining communities she and her government had destroyed following the 1984-1985 Miners Strike.

Converting this archetypal and despised Tory blue villain into a loved Liverpool Red hero is as good a way as any of indicating that Anne Williams was the antithesis of all Margaret Thatcher and her ilk stood and still stand for.

What may be less well-known about the banner is that it was made by Indonesian supporters from the Big Reds Official Indonesian Supporters Club, showing not only the popularity of LFC internationally, but also awareness of the Hillsborough campaign and Anne Williams’ particular and inspiring role in it. It was first unveiled at the pre-season friendly on July 20, 2013 against an Indonesian X1 at the Gelora Bung Karno National Stadium in Jakarta. (LFC won 2-0). The Big Reds then arranged for the banner to be taken back to Liverpool and presented to Anne’s family. The banner was remade by Spion Kop 1906 in 2017, fittingly appearing again in the same week as International Women’s Day

The Anne Williams ‘Iron Lady’ banner, at its first outing in Jakarta, 2013

In a videoed interview with the Liverpool Echo, one of the group was asked why they had made the banner for Anne and he replied: ‘She was passionate and tireless to campaign for justice for the victims of Hillsborough. It’s really amazing’ it’s an example for us, I hope she can rest in peace now and all the people here can follow her spirit for justice.’

Amen to that.

LFC Fan Banners – Seeing Red

Success has many fathers

I’m an applied linguist working at the Open University and I’m also a fan of Liverpool FC. This site is mainly dedicated to documenting the creativity of the club’s fans as expressed through their banners, but I also hope to put up other examples of how LFC fans use language in all its forms to express their particular creativity and identity.

I’ve chosen this banner as my first example because I think it’s brilliant and I know the person who created it – Paul Gardner. I talked to Paul about the banner and my interpretation of it. He wasn’t convinced.

The use of the Russian proverb ‘Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan’ is a very salutary one for all football fans. It’s easy to stick by your team when they’re in their pomp, but less so when times are tough. I also like the way Paul used the first part to connect it to the image of Shankly and four  other great managers. It emphasised both community and continuity.

I read the image as a religious one, too, with Shankly as God and the others has his four gospellers, spreading theword, keeping the faith. Paul didn’t agree and said he’d chosen four because he felt that gave it a better balance. He was also making an oblique reference to the five Champions League Cups LFC have won, a recurring motif in fans’ banners..

You decide. And let me know what you think; I welcome contributions from anyone who shares my enthusiasm.