Monday, September 24, 2012


On our news tonight was a piece about the Liverpool vs Man Utd match, showing the roses, balloons and the words truth and justice being held up by the crowd in memory of the 96 who died at Hillsborough. The recent clearing of the Liverpool supporters for the tragedy and the exposure of the enormous cover-up that occurred being way overdue.

This case has been covered by our media a fair bit, surprising given it is about something that took place over 20 years ago on the other side of the world. But I am grateful for it, It has made me think back to that time and two things have really struck me.

Firstly was the memory of sitting watching the news at my parents in the Easter Holidays, at the time they were living in the Channel Islands. I was in my first year at university in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, living in Castle Leazes halls of residence. One of our crowd, Andy - an ardent Liverpool fan, who lived on the corridoor below me had been really excited at the end of term about going to the semi-finals with his cousin. So there I was, on a wee island with no-one but my family watching the news and having absolutely no way of knowing if Andy and his cousin were amongst those involved. No emails, no facebook, no cell phones... and as most of us then suddenly realised as we were scattered around the country - most of us didn't have anyone's parents addresses or phone numbers. We had to wait until we were all back at uni to find out if Andy was coming back at all.

Thankfully he was there, he and his cousin had been in the upper terrace and had been involved with hauling people to safety. One of the first things we all did when we got back was get out our address books and get home phone numbers and addresses - no-one wanted to go through that anxiety of not knowing again, that horrible feeling of isolation and helplessness. I just love how these days through facebook when some disaster happens I often know within hours, let alone days or weeks if those in that area are ok no matter where in the world they are.

The other aspect that hit me was the realisation that I had forgotten that there had been a cover-up. I can't now remember how I knew the true story, other than obviously hearing what Andy had had to say. Most likely articles in the student newspaper and the Independent or Guardian and other such publications - I didn't watch tv in halls. But being a Social Studies student, and having covered the sociology of the media for A level, I had a healthy disrespect for mainstream media, especially the tabloids. Also I had a healthy disrespect for the police authorities - watching on dvd the series Our Friends in the North in the last year reminded me why that was! It is easy to forget now the way they behaved through the '80s, it wasn't pleasant. So I had believed the Liverpool fans, the doctors who had happened to be there and the journalists who didn't cow-tow to the official line, and was duly sceptical of the Taylor report findings. After all it wasn't that long after the Bradford City fire and that botch up, and less than 6 months since I'd seen for myself how the police story differed from what my own eyes saw at the so called 'Battle of Westminster Bridge' when the mounted police charged student demonstrators and one of my friends got kicked on the shin by a horse.

It is only reading up on it again that that is starting to come back. Luckily for me I had the luxury of forgetting it, it wasn't me or my family who had been blamed. Life moved on. I do remember getting a start though, when being driven through Christchurch not long after I'd moved here and seeing a suburb called Hillsborough. My driver was a fellow Brit though and he understood the instant connection my mind had made. It was more than the usual mixture of feelings about seeing place names from the UK being used here, although no doubt when the suburb was named it was long before the stadium had even been dreamed of! But where I could, and still do, laugh about Morningside, Costorphine, Portobello, Rotherham, Sheffield, Oxford and Cambridge (to name but a few) somehow Hillsborough didn't feel quite the same. It was almost like naming somewhere Cullodden or Glencoe and invoking the ghosts along with the name. It definitely brought with it a sense of unease. So whilst the details had gotten hazy with time, the underlying sense of injustice and horror was obviously still lurking around in my subconscience.

These days I'm only in touch with a very small number of my friends from Havelock Hall, Castle Leazes - and most of them indirectly. But over the last few days the old crowd have been very much in my mind. Somewhere I think I still have that address book, I wonder where everyone is now? Scattered to the four winds far more than we were that Easter, that is for sure.

1 comment:

Richard Evens said...

Hello Anna
I remember watching the television, due to me being interested in football, and seeing the events unfold. I have read biographies from three Liverpool footballers who were there, on the journey back to Liverpool, no one on the coach said anything. I also read some of Steven Gerrard's biography. His cousin died, and when he plays football, he plays for his cousin. Lots of the news recently has highlighted what a mess was made, and no one in Liverpool buys the Sun.

Hope the gardening is going well.

Richard Evens