What it is you're reading and how you came to be reading
it in the form it is now is explained over the next few
A BRIEF HISTORY of GIVE 'EM BEANS!
...Er, it's not that brief actually!
New Year's Day 1990. Despite persistent heavy drizzle which refused to let up throughout the game, nearly 4,500 people turned out at Holker St to see Barrow snatch a creditable 1-1 draw with Conference leaders Darlington. About one in nine of them also took pity on one of six thoroughly soaked and miserable looking figures to purchase a few A3 sheets folded and stapled into a basic publication. From those humble beginnings, the phenomenon of Give 'Em Beans! was born. The world of publishing in Barrow would never be the same again.
Those thoroughly soaked and miserable looking figures were the magazine's founding fathers; Nick Bland, Alan Casey, Paul Clarke, Phil McMenemy, Dale Morgan and Stephen Robson. The exact origins of G'EB! are still shrouded in mystery, but it is believed the idea originated over the odd pint or six in one of the town's many hostelries. The legend goes that it was the White Lion on Slater Street, and this may not be apocryphal!
Still, it was a team that brought a unique blend of talents to the fledgling magazine. Steve and Paul brought both previous publishing experience and impeccable left wing credentials, having produced the little known but highly influential agitprop periodical 'Red'; Al and Phil each brought the tales and tribulations of over a decade following Barrow AFC, Dale brought the float and Nick brought his girlfriend (only joking, Dale and Nick). Importantly, each of them also put down a £20 deposit which enabled an initial 500 copies to be run off at Guardian Printers.
Which landfill sites the great majority of those first issues now occupy is something we will probably never know (though we have got a large team of researchers looking into this as I write), but they successfully laid down the blueprint of the G'EB! style from the start. This was perhaps best summed up in a review of issue 001 in Scottish fanzine The Absolute Game which we promptly reprinted in issue 003: 'An affectionate, if over the top homage to Barrow, probably the result of all those long coach trips to away games.'
However, having laid out all their spare cash at the printers and with the profits of the first going towards the production of a second issue, the early budget wouldn't even stretch as far as a few sheets of Letraset. All the titles in the first three issues are either stencils or letters cut from the headlines of magazines and photocopied. The main text was produced on an old manual typewriter found rusting away at the back of a cupboard in Stephen's house.
Being owner of the typewriter had made Stephen nominal editor, but following an acrimonious internal power struggle (look, we might as well at least try and make this dramatic, or do you just want the dull old truth?), Paul took over the main editorial hot seat for issue 004. After arranging for this issue to be desk top published externally, he invested in a second hand Amstrad computer. Fitted up with Timeworks DTP, this would form the basis for the next three issues.
However, somewhere in there, the Barrow AFC board took exception to something, and informed Paul that they would no longer permit sales either inside the ground or in the Sports and Leisure Club. Furthermore, they didn't require any more copies to be given to the club shop. But this was going to be someone else's problem for Paul's tenure as editor was to end with issue 007 when he was offered a place at journalism college, a smart move as he later became a highly paid researcher with Granada Television.
Fortunately, there was now someone on the staff who was ready to take over. John Postlethwaite had been submitting articles since issue 003, including a wildly devotional piece consisting entirely of pictures of London street signs which featured (or were doctored to feature) the names of the 1990 Wembley FA Trophy final winning team (and Jimmy Capstick). However, his editorial debut was less auspicious as his first issue, number 008, suffered from a poor quality print ribbon on his Olivetti word processor, which we later explained as being symbolic of Barrow's fading hopes in the Conference that season.
Those hopes finally died with John Brady's 99th minute penalty miss against Yeovil in the penultimate game of the season. However, any thoughts that the club or the fanzine were about to lay down and die were dispelled when Barrow's kick-off in the HFS Loans League coincided with the biggest changes yet seen in the layout of Give 'Em Beans! Adopting the popular A5 fanzine size, the Ed also bought a second hand Apple Macintosh SE and inkjet printer. This allowed us to apply near professional standards of layout and typesetting to the magazine.
Thus, issue 012 was a confident start in the new format and the style settled down with regular contributions from Michael Gibson, MC Messenger, Clint Wags, and new boys Graham Murphy and HF Sloan. Several features made their first appearance around this time including Sophist's Choice, The Column With No Name, Great Moments in Barrow AFC History Recreated in Subbuteo, and something that was named around variations on 'The Extremely Tedious and Long Drawn Out Adventures of Barry Andrew Franklin Cresswell; Barrow's Greatest Fan in a Parallel Universe Supposed to be Something Like This One.' This nine part serial chronicled the attempts of one Barrow fan to get home, first from Australia and then from London, to see both games in a two-legged FA Cup semi-final against Enfield. Meanwhile, another character had made his first appearance in issue 008. Referee Joe McFuddle would provide a series of classic tales over the next dozen or so issues to become something of a cult amongst Beans! aficionados.
Though Joe would no doubt describe himself as 'the original Wild and Crazy Guy Fawkes', the true identity of this perpetually perplexed peeper (No, not what you're thinking. It's as in 'whistler', what a referee does. It alliterates. Ed.) remains a mystery. His contributions, together with those of his arch nemesis, Harry Hindpool, would be posted to our editorial address in Brig St. True, they had a Barrow postmark so that narrowed it down a bit to about 60,000 people, but we only ever once came close to discovering his identity. Stephen recalls that one evening he heard something drop through the letter box, and surprised to be getting post at that time of night, he immediately went out into the hall to investigate. As soon as he picked up the letter he recognised the handwriting and spotted that there was no stamp - it can only have been hand delivered by the man himself. Without hesitation Stephen opened the front door and looked out, but there was nobody to be seen in either direction.
Along with Al, Dale and Phil, Stephen was one of the original team who continued to sell the magazine, which was invaluable as the new London based Ed was unable to make all the home games. Jamie Hill was another important figure from this period; his assistance cannot be underestimated as he allowed us to use his company's photocopier for a minimal charge. This helped keep costs down to such an extent where we were able to afford the £250 to enter the club's shirt sponsorship draw for the 1993-94 season, donate £100 to the hospice where Ray Wilkie had spent his last days at the Maiden Law Hospital, and pay to replace around £150 worth of equipment stolen from the Ed's flat while he was away taking issue 014 to sell at the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round game against Southport in October 1992. With that issue, however, the ban which had plagued Beans! was lifted and to this date we have continued to donate around twenty copies to the club shop for sales from which we take no commission.
Although Beans! from this period weren't quite as infrequent as a new Blue Nile album, at around three a season the Ed wasn't exactly busting a gut, and when he did put one out, it was usually with consummate bad timing. Issues would tend to appear either just before a major event at the club, making articles instantly redundant, or alternatively, the big news would break just as he was about to go to press, necessitating hasty amendments to editorials. However, this didn't prevent Beans! from being voted Best Non-League Fanzine two years running in a poll organised by Scottish magazine Fanzine Collector and it still appears regularly in a top ten on a website uploaded by their publisher and dealer Zinescene.
So, after five years we were still going strong(ish), and we celebrated a double landmark of our fifth birthday and our 21st issue with a special double edition. This contained both the regular edition and Lucky Thirteen, a 28 page pull out of 'digitally remastered out-takes' (i.e. the Ed typed 'em all out again) of unused material from the previous five years. Plenty of material there for reading in Vickers toilets on the Monday morning.
But just six months and two editions later, after providing sterling service for a dozen issues, the trusty old ancient Mac finally gave up the ghost, but not before wiping the disc of the entire contents of issue 023. Fortunately a draft copy had already been printed out and this was what hit the streets in August 1995. However, yet another revised editorial broke the news that unless someone was prepared to step into the fray, this was likely to be the last Give 'Em Beans! ever.
Fortunately, this time Graham Murphy was on hand to don the white knight's robe and came galloping to the rescue on his white steed. White was something of a theme of his initial editorial effort, for just as production problems had plagued the retiring Ed's first issue in charge, some severe text reflows left vast areas of space at the end of many of number 024's pieces. We called our creative excuses department into action again, and they told us to say it was snow. Well, it did have 'Christmas Special' on the cover.
Much in the manner of a new manager at a football club, Graham brought in a new style and a new team, comprising himself as Ed, Rex Ham as layout man and Deputy Ed, with Tony Lynch joining Michael Gibson on the sales force. New features included The Holker St Wall, Rev Wrightwally, and The Season So Far in Bite Sized Chunks. But readers who had hoped that he would put an end to the obscure and pretentious literary and musical allusions that had littered the outgoing incumbent's issues were disappointed as he just swapped one set of references for another - Radio 4 for Modern American Literature, nineties BritPop for seventies prog rock.
Graham also set about marketing the magazine more aggressively, making sales arrangements with a number of local newsagents, and boosting the swaps/distribution list to include relevant national and local media. All those copies he sent to When Saturday Comes finally paid off when they asked us to be the subject of the interview column alongside their fanzine listings. However, the curse of Beans! was to strike again in a big way. In the piece we had alluded to the financial difficulties that would arise should Stephen Vaughan resign as chairman. Yes, between submission and publication, he did just that, plunging Barrow AFC into crisis overnight. We also mentioned that our dislike of Manchester United was based partly on Brian Kidd's long association with them, his short reign as Barrow manager in the mid-eighties having been nearly disastrous. That, of course, was his cue to leave for Blackburn, where his reign was, if anything, even more calamitous. Still, at least we got a cover out of it.
However, Graham has since become a skilled media operator with numerous interviews on Radio Cumbria under his belt and even a television appearance on the BBC's regional NorthWest Tonight. He has also made Give 'Em Beans! a fine campaigning fanzine. Transcripts of calls Graham made to both Conference secretary John Moules and UniBond secretary Duncan Bayley following the Summer 1999 debacle were published in issue 041, and illustrate the wide difference of opinion that is held over Barrow's future by those responsible for the administration of the non-League game.
Give 'Em Beans! celebrated its tenth birthday in January 2000, and marked the occasion with a 'Millennium Collectors Edition', the first issue of the magazine to feature colour printing. It also marked the first announcement of this web site, saying that it was currently nearing completion. What it omitted to mention, however, was that it had been 'currently nearing completion' for some time! The layout of this site is based on the team's shirt design from the 1997-98 promotion winning season, so that gives you an idea of how long it has taken to put it all together. The writer would like to apologise to those of you who knew of its impending appearance as deadine after deadline was missed.
Hopefully the spirit of Beans! as established by its founders is still intact, despite the changes in style over the years. We continue to publish the best we can write, beg, steal or borrow about Barrow AFC that we hope is of interest to supporters. And we remain the magazine that is put together by fans of Barrow AFC for fans of Barrow AFC. New contributions are always welcome. Surplus funds are donated back to the club in some form of sponsorship, although the present selling price of 50p doesn't leave a lot after all the expenses have been paid.
Does anybody at the club read it? We figure that they must get to see the odd copy from time to time, though heaven knows what they make of it. Various sellers have off-loaded copies to Bill McCullough, Cyril Whiteside and Stephen Vaughan over the years. Former manager Tony Hesketh was, or said he was, a fan, despite our having had a go at him every now and again. Tony, of course, did himself absolutely no harm with us by letting us interview him in the close season before he took up office in 1994. Going back, and forward, as a player here back in 1991, present manager Kenny Lowe was reportedly delighted with his appearance in a cartoon spoof of the Wash 'n' Go advert in issue 005. Perhaps we should run that one again - we thought Kenny's haircut was pretty severe at the time, but it's a veritable hippy style compared to his look today!
Oh, the title... you say you've only read this far to find out what Give 'Em Beans! means. Ah well, we've explained that in the pages of the fanzine many times before, but if you don't know and are still curious, then have a go at our 'Call My Bluff' game, which is as far away as that link.
Updated from issue 043 - January 2000