We are Town: Editors Pat Bell and Pete Green reveal the story behind the book (part 1)

Cover shot of We are TownIn just under a week’s time a new book about Grimsby Town will be released. Ahead of its launch at McMenemy’s on Friday 13th November (everyone’s invited – have you got your ticket?) editors Pat Bell and Pete Green reveal the story behind We are Town. In part 1 of 2 they tell us what motivated them to make it, why it’s unlike any other Grimsby Town book that’s come before it, and attempt to explain why the writing community in North East Lincolnshire is so strong.

Through the mire and the misery of the new millennium there hasn’t been much for the Mariners fan to write home about (unless it’s a postcard to your mum that reads ‘Hi mum, Town were crap’). But in the period that preceded it – between 1970 and 2002, to be exact – we experienced a whole gamut of emotions that only Grimsby teams could deliver.

For the first time the writing from that era has been collected, edited and presented to us in a beautiful piece of literature the whole town can be proud of. And it includes the Great Grimsby XI from those decades that we, the fans, voted for.

So what exactly was the inspiration behind We are Town?

“It’s the book I wish had existed when I was growing up,” says Pat Bell. “Living in Wales, and in the 70s, information about the Mariners was scarce. What I really missed, as someone who has never lived in Grimsby, and never seen more than a handful of games a season, is the sense of what it was like to be in Blundell Park when we were playing a top flight team on level terms.”

Pete Green explains that the fanzine revolution was just beginning to cross over from music to football when he was growing up. “There was nothing that represented what it was really like to support the club,” says Pete, “so when I wanted to read about the club, Sing When We’re Fishing, in its 1990s heyday, was more important to me than any books.

“When I read stuff in SWWF by people like Paul Thundercliffe, Sarah Barber and Pat, I saw that football writing didn’t have to be dreary and formulaic – it could be stylish and irreverent and passionate and smart. That inspired me to write about the Mariners too – and ultimately to edit Cod Almighty and We are Town.”

So what was the most important thing that you wanted to capture by writing this book?

“We all know Town have more than our fair share of talented authors among the fan base,” says Pete. “I wanted a book that would prove it. I wanted us to take some of their outstanding writing from zines and the web and place it somewhere more permanent – to save it from digital oblivion and boxes in musty attics.

“There is no other book that brings together writing about the Mariners of such quality, which embodies the unique experience of the Town fan, across such a grand time span. And I’ve even managed to sneak some poetry in.”

Pat adds: “I’d like to think that someone who is just getting into Town would be able to read We are Town and get the full flavour of what it was like to be a fan in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Some players and incidents are forgotten, and some you wish you could forget. But I like to think that there is some evidence of the warts – enough to make clear that great players were great, but that they did also have off days.”

How do you want Town fans to feel about the book when they read it?

Pete says: “I want readers of We are Town to feel as I felt reading SWWF in the 90s – reminded that we’re part of something much bigger. We’re part of a story that spans many generations, stretching back nearly 140 years now. If we’re mindful of this huge context, we can see the next disappointing 1-1 draw against Forest Green Rovers for the temporary hiccup that it is.

“I want readers to feel strengthened: less tempted to walk away – because it’s always tempting – and more determined to stay, no matter what. And I want to make sure thousands of Town fans encourage their children to be Town fans, and inflict the same endless decades of misery on them as our parents inflicted on us.”

What makes the writing community around Grimsby so strong?

“It’s amazing,” says Pete, “really remarkable. We’re this small, deprived town, miles from anywhere, years behind the current – with this fallen football club that lurches from one disaster to the next. And from the wreckage, all these incredible writers keep emerging. Why? From great suffering comes great art, and all that. The sense of all that we’ve lost… second division status, a world-leading fishing industry. You can’t look at the derelict pontoon by the old fish dock number 2 without some immense stirring in your soul. Or maybe it’s just the mind-altering properties of the ammonia leaks from the seafood factories.”

Players you voted as the Great Grimsby XI from the book’s era will be present at the launch. To meet your heroes and collect your copy of We are Town, you can purchase a ticket to the launch event on the Mariners Trust website.

You can read part 2 of the interview on Monday.

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