The Final instalment of our fascinating series on TUFC fanzines sees an interview with Hayden Jones on ‘Bamber’s Right Foot’:
When did Bamber’s Right Foot start and how long did it run for?
Blimey. Now you’re asking. I believe that the first issue was launched on an unsuspecting world in around 1992. And I further believe that issue 29 was published in around 1999. I could be wrong though. We’re probably best asking Nigel Tabb. He’s absolutely great with Torquay United-related dates.
How many issues would you estimate were published?
I know for a fact that 29 issues were produced, as it always slightly grates with me that we finished at that number. It doesn’t quite sit right with my slightly OCD personality. I have said for many years that one day, we’ll round it up and do a thirtieth issue, so as to assuage my discomfort in this regard.
And we may well do so one day, but I don’t know how we’ll compile a summary of all the years that have passed since the last issue.
How did the submission, editing and printing processes work?
At the beginning it was largely me producing stuff on my own, although I would badger people to produce stuff and get their ideas into features or pieces which we could then publish.
But the rest of the stuff was all down to me. Namely feature ideas, page-planning, typing stuff up, page layouts and then sending it off to the printers.
Then, when it came back from the printer, it was down to me to box them up, press-gang some people into selling them along with me. Then we’d stand and sell them outside the ground. We also had a few subscribers and the issues were posted out to them.
At the very beginning, a great deal of help and advice came from Tony Jordan, who had previously produced the very brilliant ‘Mission Impossible’. In many ways it was that excellent publication that inspired me to go into production with Bamber’s Right Foot.
I met up with Tony and asked him if he would mind me starting up a fanzine, and as Mission Impossible had pretty much closed its editorial door, he was all for it and very supportive. He also contributed the Time Tunnel feature, which had previously feature in Mission Impossible, and bridged the two fanzines.
How many people were regularly involved in the creation of BRF?
Over a period of time, we managed to build a solid network of contributors and writers. We even had a great guy called Mitch Griffiths who drew cartoons for us. He was amazing, and I would suggest people Google him and have a look at some of the work he is producing now. I like to think that I gave him the professional leg-up that he needed, and which got him to where he is now! I still see his step-dad at Plainmoor.
On average, how many copies did you circulate and how did you approach distribution?
Errr, if I remember correctly it varied over time. I think we started with a modest print run, but it possibly went up as high as 1,000 copies.
I often had a few left at the end, but by-and-large we’d get rid of the majority of copies.
What were the inspirations behind setting up the zine?
Well, as I said earlier, the diminishing Mission Impossible was a great read, and something I really enjoyed. And it inspired me to want to get something off the ground when it stopped being produced.
I think I wanted to create a vehicle for people to have their say about the club and to address some of the concerns that people had at the time, and of course to poke a bit of fun at the players and the characters involved with the club at that time, as all good fanzines did, or do.
Can you describe the style of the fanzine and did this change over time?
I think it did change a lot over time. Initially ideas were in abundance, but it became increasingly hard to come up with new, fresh and perhaps exciting ideas for the ‘zine.
But, as with anything like this, it’s an evolution, and I think we did a reasonable job of adapting and growing in response to the readership.
I think it probably started out as a little bit puerile and never really strayed too far from that point really. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a serious side, and I think we did manage to address some more serious issues in a mature and ever-so-slightly dispassionate way.
But football is all about opinions isn’t it? And from that point of view, editorially the style was similar throughout its life.
Have you been involved in anything else to do with Torquay United?
Indeed I have. For four or five years I was the chairman of Torquay United Supporters’ Trust (TUST) in its first incarnation. Of course, the trust is up -and-running again in some form right now, but it’s very different animal now from that which I was involved in, and they face a raft of different challenges to those which we faced. We had a great team of people who gave greatly of themselves for the good of the supporters.
I’m very passionate, or at least I was very passionate about the opportunity to give supporters a voice and some form of input into their football club. But this is nearly always viewed with suspicion by the powers that be, and it’s very hard to get a foot in the door. It takes a great deal of patience and energy to break through those barriers that are thrown up.
It’s amazing to me that when you have no agenda other than trying to give people a voice and try to make things better for all, that the keyboard warriors start to get up in arms and try to vilify your efforts. You reach a point eventually, or perhaps quite quickly when you think “What the fuck is the point?” That’s when you walk away, and that’s why I walked away, because I was banging my head against a brick wall with the club and even some of the people – the supporters and TUST members – that we were working to help.
But, at the end of the day, I know what my motives were and I know that they were perfectly genuine. As a result, I still sleep straight in my bed at night.
Blimey, I’ve just looked at my answer there, and clearly that passion for the supporters of this brilliant little club it still there. But so is the cynicism, anger and a little bit of hurt.
What was your relationship like with the club?
Well, in terms of being the editor of Bamber’s Right Foot, it was a bit up and down really. Mike Bateson was the man at the helm for the majority – if not the entire tenure – of the fanzine. We had a rapport of sorts. Mike was always good for a headline, a story or a bit of a piss-take. But it was a mutual thing, and he used to give as good as he got.
He was supportive and co-operative at the start, but I think this may have waned as time went on and he became a target of the editorial team.
As for the trust and the club, it took us a long time to build a relationship, but I think we managed to open their eyes a little and show that we weren’t a bunch of right-minded loonies trying to take over the club. But a lot of it was lip service really. We tried to help them build a bridge between them and the supporters, but figuratively they merely patted us on the head in a patronising manner.
They were happy to take money from us, but less keen to keep their end of any arrangement we may have made with them.
What were the primary challenges of putting together the fanzine?
There were many, many challenges. But I guess ideas and content were the biggest challenge.
What would you say was your defining moment at BRF?
A massive highlight was the fact that I got to interview Peter Cook for an early issue of the fanzine. It took a while to organise via his agent, but eventually I spoke to him on a very early mobile phone, sat in a car. I think I recorded the whole thing on a dictaphone, and transcribed the whole thing into an organised and palatable form later on. I believe the title was ‘The Cook Rapport’, which I was very pleased with.
I suppose winning the Fanzine Of The Year Award was another highlight. It was with one of the national footy magazines, 4-4-2 I think. I mean, it wasn’t an official competition or anything which was ratified by anyone, but it was still an accolade which we could be proud of.
I think there was another highly recommended award in another national football magazine, so it certainly made an impact. The fact that you can still buy copies on Ebay and other sites is also proof of its enduring popularity.
Why did it stop?
If I’m totally honest, I can’t say why it stopped. In some ways it never really stopped in my mind, it’s just currently in mothballs, and one day we may breathe some life back into it and produce that elusive Issue: 30. If there was a call or a demand for it, then I would love to have a crack at knocking another one out!
If you have any other anecdotes or comments to make about your time at BRF and what it meant to you on a personal level that would be great too.
Wow! Now you’re asking. There were so many stories attached to being involved with BRF. I met so many people, many of which are still very good friends.
Probably one of the highlights was the formation of Bamber’s Right Foot football team, which played home and away against the supporters teams of other league clubs.
We played against teams like Walsall, Wigan, Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Leyton Orient, Barnet, Cambridge, Bury St Edmunds, Rochdale, Preston North End and Blackpool. And in doing so we travelled many miles on away days, as well as entertaining away supporters here in Torbay. Great days indeed.