On Saturday, the London Magpie Group demonstrated against Mike Ashley on the streets of the capital.
Newcastle fans living down south coming together to protest against Ashley’s ongoing ownership of the football club.
The NUFC supporters spreading the message outside Sport Direct and Flannels on Oxford Street, the offices of KBA (Keith Bishop Associates), Agent Provocateur and Lilywhites.
Handing out thousands of leaflets informing the general public about Mike Ashley and explaining why Newcastle fans have been pushed into these measures.
One of the Newcastle fans involved, Jim Carlsberg, has given us this overview of how Saturday went…
All with Smiling Faces.
It’s a line that’s practically part of our genetic code growing up isn’t it?
You likely heard it at your first match and a thousand times since.
The most recent version for me was heard somewhere very different – echoing off the tube tunnels of Oxford Street and the tight-knit streets of Soho, a far cry from St. James Park.
It felt great. I’d met people three weeks ago I never knew existed, or had only ever spoken to online. To put names to their faces was fantastic – earnest smiles and firm handshakes, new people to laugh and share stories with. No doubt we’ll be meeting again soon to watch a match together or talk about next steps. The London Magpie group had made its first visible step into the wider public arena.
And so, it was all the more disappointing when the news came through that The Magpie Group protest at Shirebrook, which was planned to coincide with the demo at Oxford Street, was off. Suddenly the debate was focused not on the ultimate enemy, but the group’s intentions, its sincerity and its resolve. I’m still none the wiser what truly went on (with the Shirebrook cancellation).
Let’s take a breath and a step back.
Our esteemed North Eastern neighbours were typically quick to criticise. What was more disturbing though was the level of abuse and vitriol aimed at the group in the wake of its errors from fellow Newcastle fans. Make no mistake, from a lone fan point of view and someone deeply invested in the anti-Ashley movement, that was a blow. There were a small group of committed volunteers who were more local and who turned up to meet the intended protest (people set to travel from the north east) off their own backs in Derbyshire and it was regrettable their efforts seemed in vain. Their time is a valuable commodity.
The scale of the protests was hugely ambitious. Two protests coinciding in different cities and with limited resources, ensuring attendance was always a big ask. These were intended to happen on the same day with the same message, at the heart of Mike Ashley’s empire and at one of the busiest commercial streets in the world before Christmas at the very front of his flagship store. People should recognise that and in light of mistakes made, people cannot claim a lack of fresh ideas or ambition, it’s certainly more than ‘shouting at a shop’ as some have characterised it.
More disappointing was the agreement and aggression following this sentiment expressed by our own fans. I get it – people have issues with these methods for their own reasons and there have been mixed messages from those in support of them. However, what shouldn’t be tolerated is the level of character assassination of those people I met, who include teachers, construction workers and office clerks, who did nothing more than stand up for something they believed in and despite the usual narrative, had a good time doing it. There was even a poet who helped make something potentially dour, an uplifting experience.
The London protest on Saturday was empowering. Not to the extent where I could delude myself into believing it would be enough to force Ashley out on its own and the lack of a Shirebrook equivalent blunted it slightly, but it was full of new friends, fresh ideas and a mixing of generations expressing both anger and enthusiasm in a bizarrely wonderful mix.
In the end it boils down to the fact that on Saturday, a group of strangers got together, from different walks of life, united in common purpose and standing together as people, not avatars, all with smiling faces.
Poet Mark Coverdale poet with ‘A question for Mike Ashley’ (which was spoken by Mark outside the KBA (Keith Bishop Associates) offices on Saturday):
Is your jacket quilted?
Your bog roll,
The same pattern?
While your Sports Direct derrière
On the golden throne
You’re sat on?
Pants by ankles, hoping
The golden retriever,
Doesn’t leave you,
Jilted on the John.
After you wipe your arse
With our season tickets,
Just remember who
You’ve shat on.