Features Published 11 July 2020

Football Chants for Theatre

“Where are you hiding, Ollie Dowden?” – Tracey Sinclair attempts to unite the warring spheres of football and theatre with some chants to yell from the stalls.

Tracey Sinclair
Sam Neale in Bobby Robson Saved My Life at Customs House, South Shields. Design, Gareth Hunter and Jamie Brown; lighting design, John Rainsforth. Photo: Chris J. Allan.

Sam Neale in footballing story ‘Bobby Robson Saved My Life’, at Customs House, South Shields. Design, Gareth Hunter and Jamie Brown; lighting design, John Rainsforth. Photo: Chris J. Allan.

So, with a whole two days’ notice, the Government tells us outdoor performances are now allowed (what, it takes you longer than two days to organise and stage a play? You slacker!). But right now, no one really knows when the UK’s theatre spaces will be able to host, well, theatre (and not just piss ups in their bars). It’s hardly surprising that many in the industry feel betrayed by Government policies that seem scribbled on the back of an envelope with an eye on how they’ll play in the Daily Mail.

But such disgruntlement has come with a side order of snobbery that doesn’t do anyone any favours. Too many people have been far too ready to fall back on lazy stereotypes and retrench behind familiar battle lines. One of those is the ‘football versus the arts’ argument.

Superficially, it’s easy to see why Theatreland is annoyed. Getting sport back on track was prioritised from the off, no matter the barriers – it’s hard to see how even a behind-closed-doors football game can be socially distanced. While people in theatre and the arts felt abandoned, it wasn’t hard to feel that Government priorities were too focused on populist policies. “Nobody cares about theatre now the pubs are open and the football’s back on,” was the gist of more than one angry tweet I saw. But the unpleasant undercurrent of that was too often: the philistine plebs are happy to flock to ‘Spoons and Sky Sports, leaving Real Art and Things that Actually Matter to flounder.

But such reductionism is dismissive and classist, underlaid with an ugly whiff of, yes, that tabloid bugbear, elitism. It’s perfectly possible to love football, the pub and theatre: I know because I’ve managed it for much of my life. Yes, theatre is a balm for soul and mind and a cornerstone of any country’s culture. But if you’ve ever been in a one-club city where your team just got promoted, you’ve witnessed the very real positive social, economic and cultural effects such a promotion can have. The theatre vs footie argument is based on false assumptions on both sides – assumptions that in some ways effectively boil down to the same misconceptions.

On one side: theatre is conveniently portrayed as entertainment for elites, populated by poshos – overpaid actors playing to overpaying audiences, so why do they need taxpayer money? On the other: football is a bunch of no-class louts pocketing a million quid a week in TV money, so why does sport need any support? And there’s some truth in both arguments, to be sure.

But it’s also true that the heart of theatre is a national network of local venues, many of them small, already underfunded, and catering to underserved audiences and acting as community hubs. And that outside the Premier League big boys, many smaller clubs – those who get less broadcaster fees and are more reliant on ticket sales revenues and hiring out venues for corporate events – face real financial peril. These clubs are the heart and soul of their communities and, just as with theatres, the knock-on effects of their going under ripple far wider than just the clubs themselves – in jobs, youth opportunities, and local economies. Surely even the biggest sports sceptic can see that a stadium going bankrupt is as much a local tragedy as a theatre going dark?

So in the light-hearted spirit of cultural détente – because, lord knows, we need some fun these days – I thought I would try bridging these two communities with the one thing they both love: a good old singalong. Football chants have invigorated the terraces for decades. Wouldn’t it be exciting to hear them in the stalls?

Join in with me, folks”¦

First, let’s get political!

Where’re you hiding, Ollie Dowden?

Where’re you hiding, Ollie Dowden?

Where’re you hiding, Ollie Dowden?

When theatres need your help!

(To the tune of the West Ham anthem, I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles)

They’re forever wasting money

Lots of money, all the time

Bungs to their mates, sell us off to the States

Then go to Parliament, where they lie

Johnson’s always waffling

Leaves us in despair

Cos they’re forever wasting money

Then they say there’s none to spare!

Now let’s get some negging in (sorry, guys):

Tom Stoppard! 👏 Tom Stoppard! 👏

Why are all your plays so hard?

Jamie Lloyd! 👏 Who would you be? 👏

Without big names off the TV?

David Hare! 👏 David Hare! 👏

Younger playwrights think you’re square!

(To the tune of Delilah, the Tom Jones classic and Stoke City fave)

Why, why, why, Miranda?

Are prices so high, Miranda?

We’ve wanted Hamilton tickets all year

But can’t get ’em cos they are so dear!

Forgive me, Lin-Manuel, we’ll just have to go watch the film!

Now let’s tackle the classics”¦

(To the tune of Glory, Glory Hallelujah)

Oh, we’re off to see a Beckett!

Oh, we’re off to see a Beckett!

Oh, we’re off to see a Beckett!

It’ll make us all despair!

Oh, we’re waiting round for Godot like we’ve got all bleedin’ year

And it doesn’t even matter cos he’s never getting here

In the end, we’re waitin’ – us, Estragon and Vladimir

Cos Godot never comes!

And finally – get clapping!

(To the tune of We Will Rock You by Queen)

Honey, you’ve been shipwrecked, lost at sea

Lost your twin brother and family

Girl, dress like a boy, it’s no disgrace

You can be your sibling in this strange place

Cos this is, 👏 this is 👏- SHAKESPEARE!

This is, 👏this is 👏- SHAKESPEARE!


Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal



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