true faith has now withdrawn from the Gallowgate Flags group and this has meant a re-organisation within those who remain and are committed to continuing the work of improving the match-day atmosphere both through displays and increasing vocal support for the manager and players at home games.
You might ask why we’ve withdrawn. It’s no mystery really. In the summer of 2016 following the fantastic news Rafa Benitez was committed to staying with Newcastle United and leading our bid to return to the Premier League a few of us within the fanzine felt supporters should respond. We encouraged like-minded supporters to move to the Gallowgate Corner to form an informal singing section and we felt that would be enhanced by the purchase of some flags to improve the atmosphere. We put calls out to supporters and quickly formed a small group of volunteers. The support for the group we established – GALLOWGATE FLAGS – was astonishing and led to the first display at home to Huddersfield which definitely was a game changer and demonstrated the appetite for flag displays at the Gallowgate End.
Other displays followed through the fund raising co-ordinated through true faith which allowed GALLOWGATE FLAGS to stage a LEGENDS DAY to celebrate some of the greatest players in the entire history of the club. Again, we hit the right note and the display was almost universally praised by the majority of supporters.
Those of us at the heart of the fanzine then suggested staging a Quiz Night to raise money to purchase the largest surfer
flag in English football. The Quiz Night was an absolutely fantastic success and supported by an array of our friends and contacts within the media, elsewhere and of course through Newcastle United. Not only did the night prove a great success in raising funds, over 200 people who attended had a great time and we received fantastic feedback for our efforts. It did take some organising but we knew the objective was worth it. A further fund-raising t-shirt early this year was successful in raising more funds and we all saw the results at the Aston Villa home game last season when the WE ARE UNITED surfer was unfurled for the very first time.
Due to true faith’s contacts Peter Willis, an award-winning designer had provided that design and he would later provide the design for the GEORDIE PRIDE design surfer frequently displayed in the Gallowgate Corner. As a life-long supporter, Peter provided his services free of charge when designs invited from supporters weren’t forthcoming or felt to be appropriate for what wanted to be achieved. The WE ARE UNITED surfer succeeded in becoming an iconic image for the club and support and it is the largest surfer flag in English football.
There have been other flags displayed but not all of them paid for with funds raised from supporters via GALLOWGATE FLAGS. For example the PAVEL IS A GEORDIE flag was paid for by a small group of us as well as Pavel’s friend Steve Wraith and others who knew Pavel. That was to mark the first anniversary of Pavel’s sad death.
The large Rafa flag that is now another iconic feature of match-days was paid for by a small group within GALLOWGATE FLAGS with Alex and I making additional contributions to the monies we’d contributed to get the ball rolling at the outset.
Money donated to GALLOWGATE FLAGS was not used to purchase the Rafa flag.
In the summer the group debated lots of different directions displays with some splinter groups forming and Alex and I considering we were coming to the end of our time with the group and looking to bow out and leave others to lead the displays in a second phase if you like.
However, true faith felt there was scope for a second surfer flag in the middle tier of the Gallowgate so separate to
GALLOWGATE FLAGS decided to launch a fund raising t-shirt which was supported by hundreds of our readers and supporters across the world. The new surfer is their flag as much as ours. The new surfer flag cost £2000 to manufacture and required a private donation of £400 from Alex and I to make happen. Monies raised from GALLOWGATE FLAGS was not used to fund the Northern Soul style- Newcastle United – TRUE FAITH surfer that made its debut on Sunday. That was paid for by proceeds from t-shirt sales as well as a private donation from Alex and I.
Very importantly, the capacity to manufacture bespoke flags took a big step forward over the summer. Private donations have been made to fund experiments to enable supporters to manufacture flags (and therefore substantially reduce the costs) of which those connected to true faith were prominent in putting money in.
Indeed the message to Rafa flag displayed before the KO against Liverpool received funding from several of us connected to true faith. The words were provided by Norman Riley who is one of our most prominent writers. Lots of hard work went into creating that flag, lots of time and back-breaking labour was put into creating that flag but seeing the manager’s reaction to it was worth it.
Some of the principles established at the start of GALLOWGATE FLAGS have made it such a great success.
Firstly, the use of the monies raised from supporters has been clear and transparent. Alex has managed all of that extremely well. It is transparent and fully accountable. It has been explained regularly on the GALLOWGATE FLAGS that Alex set up for the purposes of promoting it as distinct from true faith.
Secondly, without blowing our own trumpet (hang-on, I’m about to blow our own trumpet) having published a fanzine since 1999 and having something of a position and profile amongst the support we were able to provide a credibility which others might not have done setting up on their own from scratch. We are well-known and we’ve used that profile and our contacts to promote the GALLOWGATE FLAGS agenda.
Thirdly, we were known to key people at the club and used those relationships to build what we wanted to do. I don’t suppose true faith is the most popular reading material for some at United but they do know we aren’t nutters. Well, …
Finally and most importantly we have always used the monies donated to GALLOWGATE FLAGS exactly for the purposes for which it was donated. Nothing else. We raised money to purchase flags and that’s what we’d used it for. Nothing else.
It should be said, there are some fantastic people associated with GALLOWGATE FLAGS – quiet, hard-workers, generous with their time and money who have done a fantastic job.
So then, the first phase of improving the match-day atmosphere has taken a big step forward over the last fifteen months with GALLOWGATE FLAGS. It’s important to mark the new phase and our withdrawal to mark a new era with a change of name which underlines that change of direction with new people in positions of responsibility.
You might ask why we are standing back from the whole thing. The first thing to say is we aren’t totally removing ourselves – we do have a rather large surfer we’ll put out on display and we do have other true faith flags which we’ve had for quite some time and which we are delighted to display again as well.
However, in terms of fund-raising, managing money, organising and promoting … or basically taking responsibility for it all, we’re bowing out. That’s not because we don’t want displays to continue – we absolutely do – but others have strong ideas how to do that so we’ll let them have the space to do that. It’s important with a change in the people with responsibility who are going to take the thing in a different direction that the group now has a new identity.
Our new direction for the time we have left after doing our proper jobs, looking after families and running everything entailed with a modern fanzine is to support the Newcastle United Fans Foodbank and other community-based initiatives around Tyneside where we can. We will have news on that soon too.
Hope that explains everything and why changes have been made!
We think we are leaving a decent legacy to those now taking matters forward in the second phase. Funds are solvent – there is over £1000 switched to the new co-ordinators and of course there are hundreds of flags available to use as part of the new displays they have discussed and have planned. Good luck to everyone involved in attempting to improve displays where-ever they are in SJP and we look forward to seeing what comes next.
Onwards and upwards ….
Michael Martin, Follow Michael on @tfMichael 1892