Late last year, I was working at a rather tedious academic conference and in the various fantasies I had of being anywhere but there that day, an idea popped into my head - a literary festival featuring my favourite writers and journalists who write on football, taking place in a nice, atmospheric venue with a bar and a cafe. As with all sudden ideas, I had to sleep on it for a couple of days to make sure it wasn’t a hare-brained scheme. Thankfully, it remained a great idea and thus London Festival of Football Writing was born!
Guest post by Kieran O'Connor // London Festival of Football Writing
I do feel as though there is an embedded elitism from the literary establishment regarding football writing and maybe that won't change. Despite the millions going to football each week, football writing may always be a niche interest, but there's definitely an appetite for intelligent football coverage. Saying that, the last ten or so years has certainly seen football writing flourish, arguably since the publication of Jonathan Wilson's brilliant Inverting the Pyramid - an unashamedly nerdy book on the evolution of football tactics. It has shaped the way in which football writing is published, and has contributed immensely to the proliferation of books and blogs authored by enthusiastic amateurs and hobbyists that cater for the slightly geeky football fan.
Literary, cerebral books on football fit nicely alongside the big-name biographies on the shelves and in bookshops, and the popularity of independent UK media outlets like Copa 90, Mundial Magazine, In Bed With Maradona, The Blizzard, Football Ramble and others is testament to this. The internet has empowered readers and most people have the tools to seek these out outside of the mainstream, through independent publishers, social media, blogs and word-of- mouth.
London Festival of Football Writing is a celebration of this and the precedent set by the amazing year-on-year growth of Manchester Football Writing Festival (a clear inspiration to me!) shows how comfortable this genre is in existing separately on its own terms.
For the inaugural London Festival of Football Writing, we have brought together some of football writing's best names for five nights of analysis, humour and insight on the beautiful game.
The opening night presents Anna Kessel, Carrie Dunn and Jacqui Oatley discussing what the future holds for women's football, from the big bucks and big names of the Women’s Super League, to the current state of grassroots clubs and England’s chances in the upcoming UEFA Women’s Euro 2017.
Next up, it is the launch of the eagerly awaited debut book from Michael Cox of Zonal Marking fame, which traces the history of tactics in the Premier League era and is chaired by Marcus Speller from the Football Ramble.
I’m especially excited about the third night. A National Tragedy: Football, Community and Working Class Culture is a discussion with Anthony Clavane and Rory Smith, chaired by Priya Ramesh. I have to say, Anthony is one of my favourite writers on football and his recent book, looking at the erosion of working class identity through the prism of sport is arguably his best yet.
In the penultimate evening, the excellently prolific Jonathan Wilson is in conversation with The Independent's Ed Malyon discussing his new book, Angels With Dirty Faces, a forensic history of Argentinian football.
The final night is a special panel event on football in London, inspired by Steve Tongue's recent book Turf Wars: A History of London Football. Steve will be joined on the panel by Phillipe Auclair and Mina Rzouki, who will discuss the city's rich and vibrant footballing history, from the standout non-league sides that rose to the professional ranks, to the biggest names with their enduring presence in the Premier League. As this year's season comes to a close, the panel will ask, what next for the capital's clubs after thus tumultuous and exciting season?
For tickets and full information on the website, please visit londonfestivaloffootballwriting.org and add us on Twitter (@lffw) and Facebook.