Thursday, 16 March 2017

A Yorkshire Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of a Sporting Powerhouse

Miranda Wild writes:
The evening was openly structured as a conversation between the author, Anthony Clavane, and Tony Collins, Professor of Sports History at De MontFort University. 

Anthony Clavane
The pair are introduced as ‘two leading people in the world of sports and culture’ which generates appropriate nods of agreement from the full and vocal crowd. Anthony explains that he was inspired to write this, his third book as he is simply ‘obsessed with sport’ and felt that the best way to mourn his leaving Leeds and his youthful ‘Yorkshireness’ was to write in commemoration. A Yorkshire Tragedy is revealed as the final part of his trilogy of books lamenting the loss of the Golden Age of Sport, which took with it the values of ‘community, identity and belonging’, the themes which the books are centred around.

Anthony begins by fondly linking his connection to the Jewish Community and his love of sport, stating that Don Revie and Anthony's rabbi once agreed that they 'shared a congregation' at different times of the day. The sense of community, Anthony suggests, is missing from the game now and he links this to the decline in Leeds United’s success whilst the city expands. The question of the true cause of the decline is indeed the investigatory purpose of the book - so there will be no spoilers in this blog! Deindustrialisation is however one key factor in the decline as Anthony believes that ‘the economy... definitely affected sport’ due to the personal trinity of home, work and leisure, which receives nods of agreement from a captivated crowd. The book is revealed as concentrating and commentating on the previous rise and current fall of parts of Yorkshire and the connection of this process to sport -  which feels particularly poignant in the Headingley location.

Tony Collins - interviewer
When the floor is opened, the passion Anthony’s discussion has excited in his audience becomes clear as nearly every member’s hand is raised. There are questions and Anthony’s replies detailing the importance of a club’s self-belief, causing introspective analysis on the author’s part as he is a self-confessed ‘glass half-full sceptic’. Optimism then permeates the discussion as Leicester is described as ‘doing a Leeds’ proving that there is still much hope in the sporting arena for smaller, and 'our own', local club. Anthony emphasises the importance of sporting heritage and urges the audience to use it as a way back - further emphasising his earlier interest in the community. This is furthered in Anthony’s closing statement which is also the main point of his book, that ‘sport as a whole is not as egalitarian as it used to be’ and that money is potentially ruining it. This Q and A creates further opportunities for questions in the audience which becomes so stimulated by the discussion that they remain in their seats long after it is officially over to expand on Anthony’s intriguing and passionate views.

Sally Bavage adds:
Thanks to Miranda Wild, from Leeds University, who also helped us to set up the event in Headingley Library.

Audience comments

Very engaging presentation, good discussion and audience participation. They made an unfamiliar subject (to me) fascinating.

I thought it was a very interesting talk and eye opening to hear locals' perspective on the things Anthony discussed.

Interesting discussion on mainly soccer and rugby league directions. Wide varied opinions aired. General opinion is that finance is the god.

Good speaker. Local flavour. Good involvement of audience. Good venue. Thank you.

Brilliant! Very illuminating discussion of social and economic implications of sporting decline. More please!

Excellent! Wide-ranging, and insightful discussion.

Great connections drawn between success and decline in local culture and sport and the same in wider society in Yorkshire.

Excellent event - sport and books personally of great interest!

Brilliant - more of this!

Very enjoyable. Both speakers v. knowledgeable.

Great - good format.

Great event, poorly presented.



A very interesting discussion about sport with Anthony Clavane, I am very interested in sport, particularly rugby league and a lot of the things that we spoke about were quite true.

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