News from Played in Britain

Buchan a winner with London audience

April 23 2008

Simon Inglis and Tom Watt

Mystery bidder - Simon Inglis and Tom Watt display the framed Football Monthly cover sold to a mystery bidder ringing from Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Catherine Etoe

Played in Britain's celebration of Charlie Buchan, Gunner, Grenadier and Gentleman - staged last week in association with Philosophy Football, at the Offside Bar and Gallery in Islington - proved a great hit with London football fans and with the Willow Foundation charity.

Played in Britain series editor Simon Inglis gave a lively illustrated presentation on the life and times of Charles Buchan, founder of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly, interspersed with readings from Charlie's autobiography by the actor, author and BBC London broadcaster Tom Watt. Joining them on stage was Jon Spurling, billed as Arsenal's alternative historian, together with cameo appearances from four Football Monthly readers who had links with the magazine.

Football memorabilia expert and one-time Football Monthly columnist Bryan Horsnell told how, as a seven year old schoolboy, his father took him to London for a Test Match at the Oval, but beforehand called into the magazine's office on the Strand on the off chance of meeting the man himself. Fortunately, and memorably, Charlie was at his desk and happy to chat and sign young Bryan's magazine, which he has kept ever since.

David Stacey, now editor of the Football Programme Directory, explained how he had secured work in the Football Monthly office as a junior, working on the listings and Boys' Club page. He recalled Charlie as a great man to work for, even though he did dock David's wages one week when he nipped out for a midweek afternoon game at Stamford Bridge.

Also contributing to the evening was Dennis Signy, the former secretary of the Football Writers' Association, an organisation which Charlie had decided to form while returning from Belgium with three other journalists in 1947. Dennis also revealed that it had been Charlie's idea to set up the annual FWA Footballer of the Year award, the first of which was won by Stanley Matthews almost exactly 60 years ago in May 1948.

Bill Savage, currently a steward at the Arsenal Museum, spoke movingly of how he had been photographed by Football Monthly at George Eastham's debut for the club in October 1960. The photo was later used in the 1961-62 Buchan Gift Book, which came out when Bill was away from home doing his national service, though he managed to track down a copy from a fellow squaddie who had the whole set but needed some cash for a weekend's leave. Bill had been brought up in a house at 55 Ashburton Grove, the site of the Emirates Stadium.

As part of the evening Tom Watt acted as auctioneer as eleven photographs from the Offside Photographic Agency and from the Charles Buchan archive were sold in aid of the Willow Foundation, a charity set up by former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson. Over £600 was raised, including £200 from a mystery telephone bidder from Las Vegas, who turned out to be the ITV sports presenter Jim Rosenthal.

Played in Britain hope to stage a similar evening at Offside for supporters of Tottenham later in the year, to celebrate the publication of the Charles Buchan Spurs Gift Book.

Thanks go to Philosophy Football, the Offside Bar and Gallery and the Football Monthly archive for a memorable evening.

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