Gerry Farrell: Time to kick off some changes

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Courtesy of Hibs Community Foundation, everyone who took part in our Big Autumn Clean-up was given free tickets to Hibs v Dumbarton. My wife graciously agreed to come along and finally popped her Hibs cherry, so to speak.

She laughed every time I got angry even though I’d previously explained that football was primal scream therapy for men. She was absolutely in kinks when I went for a pee and missed the first two goals. She did, however, join in with “Glory, Glory To The Hibees” and found her first time at the football “mildly entertaining”.

What struck me most though was the enjoyment of all the other mums, dads and kids who came along to a game for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the whole occasion, from the bombastic X Factor-style music at the start to the ten-second challenge where tiny tots try to score a goal against a man dressed up as a lynx. Leith Lynx, geddit. None of those families would have given it a go if it wasn’t for those free tickets.

It’s good to see that Hibs are now allowing themselves to become a little more engaged with their local community. For five or so years, they did very little but keep their distance. I think the men in Crombie coats who run football clubs have forgotten that we aren’t just fans, we are their customers.

How often at a football match do you feel as if you are being treated like a customer? It costs £25 to get in, for a start. That’s at least £5 too much. I was talking to Paul Goodwin of the Scottish Football Supporters Association this morning and he told me about an initiative he’d like to get going, called Twenty’s Plenty – in other words no club should be charging its customers any more than 20 quid to watch a game, especially a game in the Scottish Championship.

I certainly don’t feel like a customer either when I go to buy a pie. £2.50 for a steak pie is daylight robbery. The clubs know they can get away with silly prices for food and drink – they have a captive audience. When I go to the toilet, I don’t feel like a customer either; although the facilities are a massive improvement on the bad old days of the Sixties and Seventies, the toilets at Easter Road are cold, concrete and basic. They don’t have to be but they are. With a little imagination and not a lot of money, they could be made colourful and comfortable, with a live commentary piped in and, at the very least, hot running water.

I don’t just bleed green, I’m also green with envy at what Ann Budge has done with the Foundation of Hearts. Heart of Midlothian has put itself literally in the heart of its community. It is genuinely owned by the fans and they feel like they have a say in the running of their club. This kind of progressive transformation needs to happen at every football club in Scotland. Football fans acting together represent a powerful constituency – look at how the blazers trembled when they wanted to bend the rules and let Rangers stay in the SPL for cold, commercial reasons. Fans from clubs all over Scotland threatened to stop buying season tickets and the powers-that-be, those committee men in boardrooms and blazers, caved in.

If we work together we can reclaim our game from the prawn sandwich brigade. The last thing they want to do is listen to advice from football fans. But honestly, what has the Scottish Football Association done to create real change in the game over the last decade? The answer is a very appropriate three-letter acronym: SFA. So let’s get our voices heard. Join the Scottish Football Supporters Association at www.scottishfsa and tell them what changes you’d like to see.

A little stardust can touch everyone

Stardust is a great name for the David Bailey retrospective that’s just finished at the National Gallery. It’s impossible to figure out exactly what is the “stardust” Bailey sprinkles over the people whose pictures he takes but there is no doubting the magic in his images.

Bailey left school at 15. “Somebody’s got to sweep the roads,” his headmaster told him. It’s the kind of story that gives hope to anybody who’s been rejected by the system and had to work like hell to carve out their own path.

Bailey himself can’t put his own finger on what it is that makes his stuff so special. He says he spends hours chatting, laughing and drinking tea with his subjects and only a couple of minutes snapping the shutter. He reckons it’s his own feelings for his sitters that finds its way into his work. I thought Bob Dylan was inscrutable until I saw Bailey’s portraits of him. One’s a full body shot but you can see the twinkle in Dylan’s eye. The other’s a close-up with Dylan looking soft and vulnerable – you expect to see an angry young man. What you get is a poet who might even be a little shy. If Bailey really does put his own feelings into every shot, you can tell that he likes Dylan a lot.

I have a huge problem with the snarky young Guardian wannabe anarchist-journalist who described Stardust as an “ecstatically brainless glamorama provides glib entertainment for people who can’t be bothered with real art”.

That’s sheer snobbery. Salvador Dali the mad artist, Jack Nicholson bellowing with laughter, Grayson Perry in a lovely frock, the Kray Twins looking away from the camera as if planning their next murder – Bailey takes them prisoner in the blink of a lens in the very moments that define their personality. He started out in the old school making huge, expensive prints. The paper and the process cost so much that he could often only afford to take two exposures. That’s real art.

Done and dusted

I stayed at the Kensington Gore Hotel once in the early Nineties when advertising people always got put up in posh hotels. In the morning I got down on my knees to look under bed for my shoes and I found a little card propped up that said “Yes, we dusted under here too.” Very amusing. But now for less than 20 quid you need never dust under a bed again because I have discovered the Vileda Li-Ion Rechargeable ViRobic Robotic Duster. Shame about the name, that’s never going to catch on but just listen to what it does: “Autonomously navigates its way through your house, thoroughly cleaning under furniture and in corners on all types of hard flooring.” That’s Christmas sorted for Mrs Farrell. (Apologies for mentioning the C-word. It just slipped out.)