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Sam Fender at St James’ Park – All welcome (even Mackems)?

1 year ago

It was probably a bit of bad luck on the part of Sam Fender, that the day he took his band into St James’ Park to take promotional shots for his massive gig, it also happened to be the day Alexander Isak was at the ground taking a similar set of shots to announce his signing.

I think the active stadium tours going on at the time might still have spotted Fender approaching the centre circle, black and white striped guitar in hand, but the heightened attention ahead of the unveiling of the Swedish international meant wor Sam had no chance of flying under the radar.

Either way, the imminent huge concert of Newcastle’s favourite musical son at Newcastle’s favourite ever place, was one of the worst kept secrets since United’s interest in Bas Dost. It had been on the rumour mill for a long time and there was just the question of dates to be confirmed.

The date has now been released and it’s perfect. The first free weekend after the football season, when hopefully Newcastle have had such an uplifting and reinvigorating campaign that this gig will act as a celebration of the sun rising again on Tyneside. It’s actually a week after the FA Cup final and we all know what the perfect outcome would be here.

The thought of a week long celebration of United lifting the cup climaxing with the boy Fender leading one huge Geordie beer up is just too good to dwell on. The presence of the big six (and their pet referees) means that this remains a highly unlikely outcome, but the dream is burning and for many years, that’s all we’ve asked (and been perpetually denied).

The fact that the date is the 9th of June is of course beautiful timing. The fact that this happens to fall on a weekend this year at the end of an extended football season feels like the stars aligning. Sam Fender, at St James’ Park on Blaydon races day, with Wor Flags undoubtedly adding to the spectacle. Just need a Greggs pastie and a brown ale with every ticket and you’ve got the most Geordie day imaginable.

This will be amazing, a big party you can’t help thinking we deserve after some tough times round here on so many levels. I hope though, that this party will be done in the spirit I would expect from the people of Tyneside.

When Sam Fender played Newcastle earlier this year, I saw a tweet from a podcaster called Andy Dawson that made me feel a bit dismayed. For anyone who doesn’t know, Andy Dawson is part of the excellent “Athletico Mince” podcast with the great Bob Mortimer. He’s also a mackem and Sunderland fan and, evidently, a Sam Fender fan too, as he had tickets for the second of a pair of gigs at the Utilita Arena. However, he had decided against going having seen the videos of wor flags waving and Local Hero being played over the sax on the first night. Dawson assumed that, as a mackem that some might recognise, he wouldn’t feel safe or comfortable at a night that was predominately about Geordies.

There’s a couple of things here that don’t sit well with me.

First, and I might be naive here, I don’t think anyone would be in any danger here because of their allegiances. If so, this message may need passed on to the Sunderland players, who my wife saw behaving appallingly on the quayside last summer, with a doorman informing her they were there every weekend. I would like to think that anyone is welcome here as long as they’re canny, and this is the basis on which the city has grown it’s reputation. Look at the freedom with which away fans can wander around the town before any match, having a drink wherever they like, in contrast to the restricted and antiquated Black Country “welcome” we got at Wolverhampton with its one away pub last weekend.

If Andy Dawson had chose to parade around Newcastle on a derby day in opposition colours, that would be different. But I would like to think at a concert in the city he would have been as welcome as anyone, and only have received positive vibes from anyone who recognised him.

Of course, part of the problem would undoubtedly be that Dawson didn’t want to be in an atmosphere that was so typically Geordie, which is another thing altogether.

Sam Fender is riding high as Tyneside’s favourite son, a brilliant and successful musician who also speaks articulately on social and political matters with views shared by the majority of the north east. He’s also a massive Newcastle fan whose career has constantly tied in with the club (Shearer presenting his number one album award, “these things happen” the day after the takeover).

This concert at our home ground is an unashamedly Geordie day and if anyone feels negative or bitter about that (I assume the pages on RTG will be into triple figures by now) then just stay away, it’s not for you. Conversely, I would hope people here realise that it’s also an occasion where everyone should feel welcome and those who don’t share our allegiance should be able to enjoy the day and everything Newcastle has to offer without any awkwardness.

A friend told me recently about how, without thinking, she chucked her young son in his Newcastle kit on the day of a trip to Beamish. While this didn’t create any bother (face off on the shuggy boat), she said that when a family of mackems was passing, it made her feel like the mackems at the airport, where full families dress in their kits as a perceived show of defiance. In actual fact it’s all a bit sad, and my Geordie friend felt a bit embarrassed at how the kit situation might come across in deepest Durham, which is still contested territory as opposed to central mackem ground. I’d hope we all share this feeling of not wanting to appear pathetic.

Sam Fender at SJP on Blaydon Races day should and will be a massive Geordie celebration. At the same time it should also be a party that everyone can enjoy.

If anyone feels they can’t be here because it’s very much a day for the Mags, they just need to jog on, it’ll be their loss. You need to be free to be who you are, and if this upsets the odd salty Twitter account, well, these things happen, don’t they?

You can follow the author on Twitter @Mr_Dolf


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