This coming Friday sees the launch of We are Town, a new book that brings together some of the best writing about the Mariners from 1970 to 2002 (you can be at the launch – and meet the players you voted into the Great Grimsby XI of that era). In part one editors Pat Bell and Pete Green revealed what motivated them to make the book a reality. Now in part 2 they explain how they went about doing it.
“At the start of the year I said to my partner, Terri, not to expect too much of me socially for the next few weekends,” recalls Pat. “In fact, she ruptured her Achilles soon after, so we were both almost housebound. I was doing the fetching and carrying while working to keep the book ticking over.
“Pete seems to do a lot of his work late at night, whereas I sometimes wake early and find that a good time to get things done. Between us it’s almost been a 24-hour operation.”
“Being mildly insomniac possibly helps,” says Pete. “Much of We are Town has been typeset at roughly 3 o’clock in the morning. Outside of work, as well as a Town fan and Cod Almighty editor, I’m a musician, a poet, a parent and one of those men who sit alone in pubs with a worryingly absent facial expression. In the time we’ve been working on the book I’ve played gigs in London, Nottingham and Sheffield, had four poems published, drunk a lot of strong pale ale and fathered a second child.
“I don’t know how, but somehow I always manage to fit everything in. If I drop dead in five years it’ll have been worth it.”
How many people have helped to make this book a reality?
“I must have dealt with well over 50 people,” says Pat. “Trust board members, website editors, local journalists, authors, photographers and more. But one person I’d like to single out is Dave Roberts. He’s so obviously a good man who puts the club and the Trust first. Last summer must have been frantic for him, with Operation Promotion, but everything he volunteered to do, he did.
“I’ve used this expression before, but there’s a way in which I see We are Town as the literary wing of Operation Promotion – not because we hope it’ll raise a lot of money for the Trust, but because it’s about people bringing their skills to bear to help the club. The book is a voluntary effort, but it’s far from amateur in the skills and experience we’ve been able to use.”
What is it about books that still make them so desirable in the online era?
Pat says: “As an exiled Town fan, the web has transformed my relationship with the club. But too much of it is people talking without listening. A book brings quality control. It saves you a lot of trawling to bring together something that’s more than the sum of its parts. And although a lot of work in We are Town was first published online, not everything is available there.”
“There are many dazzling things about digital media,” says Pete, “but a printed book can become a crafted artefact in a way that an e-book never quite can. If it’s well designed and edited and excellently written, then as well as a good read it can be a beautiful object. There’s intellectual and emotional pleasure in the text, and sensory pleasure in the design. Marc Reed has done a grand job on the cover. People have said kind things about the design. Given that I’ve never designed a book before, I’m feeling fairly ok about this.”
Do you have a favourite chapter, quote or anecdote in the book?
“I’m not sure I do have a favourite piece, even if I allowed myself to say what it is,” says Pat. “But one I’m particularly proud of is the oldest written piece, pre-dating the internet. It’s not something you’d find using Google.”
Pete is more certain. “The very last page of the book relates an anecdote in which Bill Meek is trying to explain to his grown-up stepdaughter why football matters. It is the greatest thing any fan of any team has ever written about football.”
What one thing do you know now that you wish you’d known before starting the project?
“The thing I wish I’d known a long time ago is how easy putting a book together is, as long as you have a good idea and the right people around you,” says Pat. “Since I was a child, I wanted to be an author. I’m in my 50s now and wondering what took me so long.
“It’s been a lot of work, and there were times in January when I couldn’t get my scanner to work and my laptop was playing up when I was thinking I might have started something I couldn’t finish. But you just meet each challenge as it arises, get advice when you need it and then watch it come together.”
You can buy a ticket to the launch event on the Mariners Trust website. The price of the ticket includes a three-course meal, a copy of the book and the chance to meet the players who the fans voted as the Great Grimsby XI between 1970 and 2002.