The second part of the Halloween preview takes us into darker or at least more grown-up territory – beginning in this case in the Midlands.
On 28 Sep Doncaster are at Coventry City. If their fans actually go to Coventry by mistake (the Sky Blues are playing home games at Birmingham City’s ground this season) they might stumble into The Festival of the Dead. The organisers describe this as a ‘combination of carnival, circus and clubbing’
Ghost hunts at Ordsall Hall fall on 12 and 26 Oct, when Cambridge and Scunthorpe are the respective visitors to Salford City. A white lady and a womanising lord of the manor have been reported. It would be a pity if they missed each other.
Manchester has a number of big events on matchdays in October. From 3-6 there’s GrimmFest, ‘Manchester’s International Festival of Fantastic Film’. Wolves are at City on the 6. On 20 Oct, when Liverpool are at United, ‘For the Love of Horror’ ill-advisedly calls Manchester ‘the Murder Capital of the World’.
There’s another horror film festival in Sheffield. Celluloid Screams, from 24-27 Oct, falls nicely for Everton fans making the trip to Wednesday for a cup-tie on 24 Oct.
The Lieder Festival, in Oxford from 11-26 Oct, looks like a very much more serious enterprise than the average Goulish Spookiness. With a full festival pass costing up to £730, you’d expect more than a few pumpkins and some colouring-in. Sure enough, the festival will explore ‘Tales of Beyond: Magic, Myths and Mortals [taking] us on a tour of life, death, and the mysterious areas between and beyond’. Sophisticated supporters of Doncaster (12 Oct) and Rochdale (26 Oct) should expect boggarts at the very least.
By late October the industry is really into its stride. Chelsea fans heading to Burnley on 26 Oct could take in the Pendle Witch Discoverie Tour and still have time for a pub lunch. That spelling of ‘Discoverie’ may fill you with dread, and not of a spectral kind. But children growing up in Lancashire were still being threatened with a visit from the Pendle Witches 350 years after the 1612 trial so the stories might feel surprisingly fresh.
In Portsmouth Halloween runs well into November, like one of those Celtic festivals that started 30 days ahead and finished 30 days after the focal point. That’s what I call a Bank Holiday. On 2 Nov, with Oxford United the visitors to Fratton Park, there’s a showing of Alien on board the Cold War submarine HMS Alliance. More films later in the month at the Pastel Wasteland on 16 Nov. This is a new project aiming to introduce you to “some of the best, unsung heroes of science fiction and horror filmmaking” from around the world. If that doesn’t make the trip from Fleetwood worthwhile, what would it take?
There are too many Halloween events to fit manageably into a single post. So this is Part 1. The distinction between Light and Dark is rather arbitrary; when a festival is supposed to be blood-curdling, is it possible to talk about family events?
When you go to watch your team play away, you often think there’s a ghost of a chance. This time of year brings a chance of a ghost.
There are ghost-related events throughout the year in many towns, but some of those have a tired, routine, commercial feel. The approach of Halloween provides a shot in the supernatural arm.
Like Christmas, Halloween starts earlier every year. (Easter, in obedience to calculations* of obscure origin, starts earlier in 2024 and 2027.)
On 21 Sep, then, visitors to Cardiff (among others the supporters of Middlesbrough) can enjoy St Fagans Museum Ghost Tours where “no nonsense, no gimmicks” are promised, and where you will learn “why Wales could be the world’s most haunted country!”
The following weekend, on 27 Sep, Blackpool’s Ghost Tram will clank along the Prom, illuminated. The Illuminations were switched on in 1959 by buxom bombshell Jayne Mansfield, a devotee of the man who later (1966) founded the Church of Satan in the USA. Or you could take in the Blackpool Tower Dungeon for a brush with the Pendle Witches. Lincoln City – known as the Imps, notoriously unpredictable creatures of legend – are the visitors.
On 5 Oct, when Sheffield United visit Watford, Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Industry offers Dark Arts for “fans of Death Eaters, daring duels and Hallowe’en feasts”. Just think: 100 hand-carved pumpkins, no two alike. It will be like the average residential street, but not as cheap.
Castles are among the oldest buildings in the realm and hence the most likely to be haunted. Spooky Carlisle Castle will coincide with the visit of Northampton Town to Brunton Park on 22 Oct. How spooky? Well, the castle closes at 4pm; it will have to be seriously overcast for darkness to have fallen. At Rochester it’s the Pumpkin Trail that is Spooky, so if your 5-12yr-olds support Peterborough, take them on the way to the Gillingham game on 19 Oct. Lincoln Castle incorporates a prison, which becomes a Spooky Prison for the visit of Bolton Wanderers on 26 Oct.
26 Oct marks the last day of Bicton Park’s Halloween activities as well as Exeter City’s derby with Plymouth.
Middlesbrough will again be the visitors (to Derby on 2 Nov) when Derby Museum holds its Japanese Ghosts and Demons Trail. If you’re taking the family to the match, the museum says this is suitable for 5-15yr-olds.
Portsmouth is the place for post-Halloween warming-down. ‘Haunted Histories from the View’ spans Halloween, running from 26 Oct-3 Nov. It’s a presentation of ghost stories told 100 metres above the city, plus virtual reality, and on 2 Nov Oxford United fans might take a look.
* The first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox, aka 21 March.
Most Festive HostsDerby is a clear winner in this category. Three festivals coincide with the Rams’ two home games in September and none is what you might call run of the mill. From 9-15 Sep is the Derby SignFest, ‘celebrating and raising awareness of sign language, and the fact that Derby has the second largest Deaf community outside of London’. Cardiff City are in town on 13 Sep. On 28 Sep, when Birmingham City are the visitors, Derby Festé showcases ‘the talents within the city’s cultural organisations’; and WellFest East Midlands offers hygge among many other undoubted benefits.
Most Festive Visitors Doncaster Rovers have two away games in September: on 14 Sep, when Ipswich has its Gippeswyc Viking & Saxon Festival with re-enactments and axe-throwing; and at Coventry on 28 Sep, which happens to be when the city’s three-day Bridge extravaganza concludes.
Coals to Newcastle Crawley Town, the destination of choice for aviation enthusiasts, hit Northampton on 21 Sep in time for the Pistons & Props classic cars and aircraft show at nearby Sywell.
Rainbow Lining Supporters of Oldham Athletic need something to look forward to more than most. The trip to Carlisle on 28 Sep looks a very good prospect. In addition to the regular and often undervalued attractions of Carlisle (and the rare opportunity to shout “Dirty northern bastards” at the opposition), they’ll find Cumbria Pride, the second day of the Carlisle Blues/Rock Festival and the Borderlines Carlisle Book Festival.
Educated Palates When Rotherham play at Bristol Rovers on 28 Sep, the city has a Cocktail Weekend and Avery’s Wine Festival in progress. In the Proletarian Boozers category, Cheltenham has its own Beer Festival in mid-September and the team visits Plymouth on 21 Sep in time for theirs.
Repeat BusinessExeter City play at Newport County on 21 Sep in League 2 and on 8 Oct in the Football League Trophy. The round trip is about 200 miles which by Exeter standards is almost a local derby, but if they need any inspiration they’ll find an extract from the Newport chapter of the book here.
A 2018 ranking of Yorkshire’s towns and cities put Harrogate in 12th place. “Same as Ripon [14th], but with worse tea-shops,” said CityMetric with questionable logic. It’s an ungenerous verdict in any case, and careless of Harrogate’s best-known attractions. Those are summarised in the title and location of Harrogate: Britain’s Floral Resort, a book on display in Harrogate’s Royal Pump Room Museum. This sets the tone for a visit.
Harrogate’s beds, borders and hanging baskets have been winning awards regional, national and European for more than 40 years.
As Harrogate in Bloom makes clear, it’s a community effort. Schools and homeowners, pubs and hotels, even solicitors get involved in beautifying Harrogate by competing for local awards. Events like the Harrogate Spring Flower Show in late April remove any lingering doubts over the town’s credentials: if you like flowers, this is the place to come.
I had booked us into a hotel overlooking the green space, the Stray, that surrounds central Harrogate like a gargantuan 1970s collar. The Stray, perversely, is an expanse of grass unbroken by so much as a daffodil bulb. As J (veteran of Portsmouth and Southend United) and I walked towards the centre through the Queens Parade/North Park Road area, our first impression of the town was of how attractive its built environment was; trees and shrubs played supporting roles.
In the vicinity of the railway station it’s the Jubilee
Memorial (Victoria under an elaborate canopy) that will catch your eye, and the
arch over Station Road, and the statues lounging in front of the inverted
ship’s hull roof of the Victoria Shopping Centre. That building, by the way, is
not yet 30 years old, but the inspiration is Palladio’s Basilica at Vicenza,
Then you’re into the Montpellier Quarter and Harrogate languorously unfurls its petals. In a sequence of public squares, parks and gardens, amid elegant buildings from Regency to Edwardian, the Bath of the North becomes the Wisley of the North. The ‘squares’ are all kinds of shapes; from above they look like a geometrician’s sampler. Ronald Searle’s wonderful illustrations for the Molesworth books come irresistibly to mind.
Valley Gardens blends floral and sulphuric Harrogate. Beautifully laid-out and maintained, the park claims 36 springs of which “no two are exactly alike in chemical composition”. More active visitors will find a paddling pool, skate park, tennis, crazy golf and pitch-and-putt. For walkers, there’s a route through Pinewoods to RHS Harlow Carr – it takes about an hour.
Back at the town end, in what was known as Low Harrogate, the Royal Pump Room Museum stands at the entrance to Valley Gardens. As a museum it’s modest but very distinctive; not many museums announce themselves first to your nose. The Pump Room is built around the Old Sulphur Well, otherwise known as the Stinking Spaw.
This being Yorkshire, the museum naturally has an Egyptian
section. Two local ‘collectors’ had associations with Flinders Petrie and
Howard Carter. Most of the exhibits are small and charming, but a 3,000yr-old
painted wooden coffin of a priest of Amun broods over the displays like a
Other themes included shopping, the railway, treatments and, in the Pump Room, an exhibition of wedding dresses. The exhibits ran from 1870 to the present and there were many highlights. The 2008 Bra-ra dress, constructed by Julia Triston from 59 faded white and grey bras, was magnificent.
Along Swan Road from the museum is the Old Swan Hotel, where Agatha Christie turned up after going missing for 11 days in 1926. The Swan was known then as the Swan Hydropathic Hotel, and the writer chose to be known as Mrs Teresa Neele. It was an odd alias behind which to hide from those searching for her – Neele was the surname of the woman for whom Archie Christie left his wife, precipitating her furtive flight to Yorkshire. A nervous breakdown was suspected; two doctors diagnosed amnesia; and some thought it a publicity stunt or perhaps a classic red herring.
Also on Swan Road is the Mercer Art Gallery. At Easter 2019 the two exhibitions were Linescapes, by digital artist Ian Mitchell, and Views of Harrogate from various sources. The Views were much the more interesting and included material the Royal Pump Room would no doubt have been pleased to display, if it had the space. Two embroidered silk gloves by Serena Partridge were particularly impressive and surprising, as was the note explaining the inspiration for them – from Dickens, no less, who wrote: “Harrogate is the strangest place with the queerest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading and dining.”
Other images on view were similarly unconventional: Matthew Ellwood, portrayor of places as towers, has Harrogate and Knaresborough among his subjects. Musical associations were represented by displays relating to Harrogate’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest in the days (1982) when Britain performed respectably; and in even earlier times – 8 March 1963, to be precise – the Town Hall hosted “The Sensational Beatles (‘Recording stars of Please Please Me’)”.
Sumptuous posters from the Golden Age of rail travel made Linescapes, the products of more recent times, difficult to like. Both exhibitions will have been rotated by the now; there will be something else on the walls. Perhaps drawing and colouring-in (as long as nothing complicated like shading is required) will be among the tasks taken over by robots, leaving us free to explore our creativity in other ever-diminishing areas.
Harrogate’s contemporary spa, the Turkish Baths, must remain unexplored. The proprietors recommend you allow 1½ to 2hrs, and we were running short of time. Instead, we visited Hales Bar, which claims to be Harrogate’s oldest pub. It certainly had some of Harrogate’s oldest drinkers but was welcoming, atmospheric and full of character.
The football match confirmed Harrogate Town’s place in the National League play-offs at the end of their first season at this level. High stakes and bright sunshine prompted a large turn-out; it apparently took the catering manager by surprise, and we counted ourselves lucky to be able to sustain ourselves at half-time with the most unpleasant cheese pasty in the history of the world.
Harrogate Town 2 Gateshead 0 CNG Stadium, 22 April 2019
The lamentable fate of Bury makes it plain that clubs in the lower divisions need all the support they can get. The international break gives you a perfect opportunity to express your solidarity.
The break applies only to the top two divisions. Football continues to be played in Leagues 1 and 2. Meanwhile, England’s game against Bulgaria doesn’t kick off until 5pm. So if you want live football next Saturday afternoon and you could stand to miss the first half-hour or so of the England game, why not go to your nearest lower league club? They certainly need the income and you might be surprised how much you enjoy it.
If you want an extra inducement:
* Norwich fans could choose between a beer festival near Colchester or retro microcomputers in Cambridge
* For any discriminating Burnley or Blackburn fans in the southwest, Accrington Stanley play at Bristol Rovers – not far from a coffee festival and a record/CD fair
* Morecambe has the seaside, a Dinosaur Day, a comedy festival and Salford City to attract any Mancunians attracted by the idea of a day out
* There are food festivals of one sort or another at Cheltenham, Leyton and the Wirral. The latter two are within easy reach of Londoners and Liverpudlians respectively; might Stevenage’s trip to Cheltenham attract one or two matchless Spurs supporters?
* Supporters of East Midlands clubs will note Mansfield Town have a home game against Scunthorpe and something called The Full Shebang going on in the town. It sounds as if it could be quite something – don’t miss it!
* At Milton Keynes, choose between a Cheese Festival, a Handmade & Vintage Show, Bletchley Park and AFC Wimbledon, or take in all four.
Would you rather be in front of the box at 2pm for Kosovo against the Czech Republic on Sky? Really?
The Guardian once ran a feature headlined ‘Flat, Soulless and Stupid: Why Photographs don’t Work in Art Galleries’. A harsh judgement, you might agree. The writer was contrasting photographs with paintings – Rembrandt and Caravaggio were mentioned. But that isn’t how we look at photographs, is it? Now that we are all photographers, we’ll consider the work a photographer or curator has chosen to display and we’ll reflect: “I could do that (with time, budget, equipment, luck and perhaps a little more talent).” Nobody, surely, ever reacted to a Rembrandt with such bravado.
That’s why it’s always interesting to look at the work of proper photographers. If your team is playing in any of the following towns or cities in the near future, here are some options this autumn:
Bradford The National Science & Media Museum makes
Bradford one of the most interesting destinations on the photographer/football fan’s calendar. And there’s always the prospect of an away win. Elsewhere in the city, ‘Studio to Selfie: Portrait Photography’ is at the Bradford Industrial Museum to 3 Nov (during which time the visiting teams are Northampton, Carlisle, Swindon, Manchester City U21, Crawley, Port Vale, Exeter City).
Bristol The ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ exhibition runs from 23 Nov to 4 May. The number of teams visiting City or the Gas in that time would run to dozens.
Cardiff ‘Photography Season: August Sander, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Martin Parr’ 26 Oct-1 Mar. Half the Championship, plus perhaps FA Cup opponents – too many to list, in other words – are in Cardiff between those dates.
Charlton The National Maritime Museum hosts the ‘Astronomy Photographer of the Year’ exhibition from 13 Sep but omits to say when the run ends. See it while you can, Birmingham, Leeds, Swansea fans.
Crystal Palace The Horniman is showing ‘Turn it UP: Jide Odukoya’s Nigeria’ show to 5 Jan. Villa, Wolves, Norwich, Manchester City, Leicester, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Brighton, West Ham are due at Selhurst Park before then.
Grimsby is a hotbed of photography exhibitions this autumn. ‘Grimbarians’ is on to 20 Oct (Scunthorpe, Crewe, Macclesfield, Mansfield, Orient) and the ‘Grimsby Photographic Society Annual Exhibition’ runs to 10 Nov (plus Cheltenham, Leicester City U21).
Hull ‘The Fisherwomen’ exhibition, to 27 Oct, encompasses visits by Wigan, Cardiff, Wednesday, QPR, Derby.
Leyton The walls of the Pie, Mash and Eel place on Leytonstone High Rd are adorned by the ‘London: Photography Exhibition’ to Mar 2020.
Luton ‘International Garden Photographer of the Year’ is at Stockwood Discovery Centre, 23 Sep-24 Nov (Leicester, Millwall, Bristol City, Forest, Leeds).
Newport ‘Newport Docks Photographic Exhibition’ runs to 23 Nov (West Ham U21, Port Vale, Exeter twice, Carlisle, Scunthorpe, Crawley, Salford, Oldham Athletic).
Northampton The delightful Abingdon Park hosts ‘Photos for all Seasons’ to 24 Nov, during which time Plymouth, Peterborough, Newport, Crawley, Orient, Salford, Cambridge, Crewe, Grimsby will visit the marginally less delightful PTS Academy Stadium.
Norwich The Cathedral hosts Norwich & District Photographic Society’s 103rd annual exhibition between 11-25 Sep; Manchester City are the visitors to Carrow Road on 14 Sep.
Preston ‘Blood, Sweat & Celluloid: Photography in the British Army’ runs to 2 Nov at the Lancashire Infantry Museum. Brentford, Manchester City, Bristol City, Barnsley, Leeds, Blackburn are in town in that time.
Rochdale Followers of Manchester City U21, Lincoln! Don’t delay – ‘Nowrus/New Day’ closes on 21 Sep…
Southend … and it’s only Fleetwood fans who can still catch Leigh on Sea Camera Club’s annual exhibition before 17 Sep.
TottenhamCrystal Palace, Southampton are at Spurs while ‘A Small Plot of Land’ is on at Bruce Castle to 6 Oct.
Wimbledon No exhibitions in particular, but Kingston Museum is always worth a visit for the section devoted to Kingstonian, dipthong enthusiast, Rasputin impersonator and photographic pioneer Eadwearde Muybridge.
You’re in an unfamiliar town for an afternoon at the football. It’s lunchtime, more or less. You Googled the pubs before you set out, obviously, but how can it be anything other than a bonus to find a food festival in progress in the town? Two food festivals, in the case of Sheffield on 28 September. Out at Ponds Forge there’s Cheese Fest inspired by Wallace & Gromit; meanwhile at the Students Union the Sheffield Vegan Festival will be in full swing. Liverpool are at Sheffield United that afternoon, in a 12.30 kick-off – that leaves time to indulge yourselves before and after, and if you overdo it you could tackle Photomarathon Sheffield that day as well. Whether you’re an omnivore, a picky eater or an Asian gourmet, there’s likely to be something for you.
Food & Drink Festivals
There are extensive food & drink festivals at Manchester (where the away teams are Arsenal at United on 30 Sep, Wolves at City 5 Oct); Newport (Carlisle 5 Oct); Tranmere (Gillingham 7 Sep); and with live music Wigan (Charlton 21 Sep). The Festival of Food at Oxford (Gillingham 28 Sep) looks like a more local, home-grown affair. Cheese Milton Keynes (Wimbledon 7 Sep), Sheffield (Liverpool at Sheff Utd, 28 Sep), Lincoln (Sunderland 5 Oct) Chicken Wings Leyton (Swindon 7 Sep) Korean
There are Korean Festivals at Preston (Bristol City 28 Sep) and Wimbledon (Shrewsbury 14 Sep). Food may not be the main focus. Street Food Lincoln (Oxford 21 Sep), Cheltenham (Stevenage 7 Sep) Vegan Reading (Blackburn 21 Sep), Sheffield (Liverpool at Sheff Utd, 28 Sep)
Music-lovers among the tribes of traveling football fans are in for treats around the country in September. And the treats are shared out, geographically and in musical styles, from baroque in Bristol to blues in Carlisle.
Here are some of the music festivals to look for:
Baroque at Bristol (where the away team on 21 Sep is Swansea at Bristol City)
Early Music at Liverpool (Sheff Utd at Everton on 21 Sep) Blues/Rock at Carlisle (Oldham on 28 Sep) Classical on different scales at Leicester International Music Festival (Spurs on 21 Sep), Proms Swansea (Forest on 14 Sep), Royal Philharmonic Tranmere (Gillingham on 7 Sep) and Chamber Music at Hull (Cardiff on 28 Sep)
The British Country Festival is at Blackpool (MK Dons on 14 Sep) Folk at Leeds (Derby on 21 Sep) Gospel/Christian with Ignite at Salford (Forest Green on 28 Sep) and BayFest at Morecambe (Northampton on 28 Sep) Jazz is on the menu in Liverpool (Wolves at Everton on 1 Sep) and Swansea (Stoke on 5 Oct) OrganLiverpool (Newcastle at Liverpool on 14 Sep), Lincoln (Oxford on 21 Sep)
And if you fancy a Victorian Music Hall singalong, head for Leyton Orient (Swindon on 7 Sep)
There are other live music events on various scales and catering to various tastes at: Huddersfield (Millwall on 28 Sep), Plymouth (Cheltenham on 21 Sep), Portsmouth (Bolton* on 28 Sep), Reading (Blackburn on 21 Sep)
The city of Lincoln hosts the Motorhome Show Season Finale on 20-22 September. If you’re an Oxford United supporter with a motorhome, you could combine your passions. On some of the same roads on the same days, similar vehicles will be heading for Doncaster where there’s a VW Festival on 20-22 September. That will sort the posh out from the proles among the visiting Peterborough fans.
I only once went to a football match in anything that might pass muster at a Motorhome Show event. That was a VW Campervan. The vehicle made its own contribution to fuel efficiency by refusing to go faster than 50mph. Reverse gear was elusive, which made parking a challenge. We left Hertfordshire at 11.30am and failed to get to Tranmere Rovers in time for kick-off. But we were dilatory in setting off, lingered over lunch and may not have been 100% committed to Tranmere v Oldham, so I can’t lay all the blame on Volkswagen.
Campervan veterans would have recognised us as naïve beginners. As we settled in at a Wirral campsite, we basked in the admiring attention our VW drew. But when the admirers returned to their Saturday evenings in palatial Xanadu-style encampments, or drove off to an award-winning restaurant in West Kirby, we faced a night in a confined space with no dinner. A fish & chip van visiting the camp-site partly rescued the situation.
Later, we walked down a lane to the water’s edge and watched the sun go down over an offshore wind-farm. As a recreation of the Hippy Trails blazed by the original generation of VW Campervan owners, this was barely satisfactory. But we were neither hippies nor stoned, and the VW at least was authentic.
If you travel around the country in a motorhome and you like the Towns of Two Halves idea that anywhere can be a tourist destination, you should take a look at Your RV Lifestyle‘s very thorough 100 Things to do in England. How many do you agree with? What d’you reckon they’ve missed?
Mismatch of the Day is at Cheltenham on 24 Aug. Visiting Swindon Town fans can choose between a Brian Jones 50th Anniversary Walking Tour or the regular Ghost Tour.
The Coals to Newcastle award goes to Southend United, who make trips to Stevenage and Lincoln where urban beaches will compensate them for leaving their own perfectly good beach behind. Southend’s opening match is at Coventry, just 14 miles from another mock Copacabana at Solihull. And on 10 Aug Southend host… Blackpool.
The Knowledge is shared by Morecambe and Peterborough. Thanks to a quirk of the league fixture list and the Carabao Cup draw, Morecambe visit Mansfield twice in four days; Peterborough play at Oxford on the same pair of days. Click on the links to make the most of your visits.
The Happy Eater award belongs by a nose to Leeds United. Their visit to Wigan coincides with a Food Festival; to Ipswich with an event called The Feast; and back home there’s Leeds Beer Week at the end of the month.
Weird Ride (previously the Ride the Wild Lightning award until the judges discovered what that expression meant) also goes to Leeds. Their trip to Bristol City on 4 Aug could include a detour to Bristol’s M Shed, where the chance to ride in an electric dockyard crane cabin is on offer.
Zen Men of the Month are Tranmere Rovers’ fans. They could attend a performance of Moby Dick on SS Great Britain in Bristol, an Aardman exhibition in the same city, an International Kite Festival at Portsmouth or their own One Wirral 2019 at home. Runner-up: Wycombe’s trip to Bristol Rovers coincides with the International Balloon Fiesta.