With the new football season well under way Live Theatre will be kicking off September by presenting LUNG Theatre's award-winning play The 56 - a look at one of the darkest days in football history on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 September.
At 3.40pm on 11 May 1985 Bradford City Football Club were supposed to be celebrating receiving the Division Three championship trophy – their first trophy in 56 years – in front of 11,000 jubilant fans before the start of their match against Lincoln City.
Instead it turned into a day of appalling tragedy. A small fire broke out in the main stand at Valley Parade stadium. Within four minutes, the wooden structure was ablaze. Using over sixty real-life testimonies this bold and pertinent piece of documentary theatre pays homage to the 56 supporters who lost their lives and more than 250 who were injured and examines the solidarity, strength and community in the face of overwhelming tragedy.
NUST are supporting the fans film being produced by Gateshead based film maker Zahra Zamorrodian. It's a film to be made about fans by fans for the fans and Rafa Benitez is right behind it too. Check out the following link https://vimeo.com/178206960
The Newcastle United manager is not the focus of the documentary, and neither is the team on the pitch, however, his decision to remain at St James' Park following relegation to the Championship is key to the positivity supporters are taking into this season. Likewise, Rafa has talked about the important part Newcastle's supporters played in his decision to stay at the club.
In his interview with Zahra for the documentary, Rafa also reveals the extent to which Newcastle supporters should be grateful to his daughters for encouraging him to stay. Asked if daughters had a major bearing on his decision, Rafa says: "It's true. My family wanted me to stay because I was two years in Italy, six months in Spain. So for them, to stay in England was really important.
"They follow the social network, they have Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, all these things.
And they were telling me 'Listen, the fans love you. You have to stay. You have to stay for them. You have to win for them.'
"For one or two weeks, they were pushing and pushing." https://vimeo.com/178206935
For Zahra, that kind of insight into the influence fans can have, even remotely via social media, adds important context to the film.
And, when she came up with the concept of recording the season from the fans' perspective, it was because the club is at such an interesting point in its history. Zahra says: "The feeling around the city, the positivity, the fact that more than 35,000 season tickets have been sold, all that stems from Rafa's decision to stay.
"And it's that feeling of hope and a re-connection with their club that makes Newcastle fans of such interest to me as a filmmaker.
"Really, the timing of this documentary is all down to Rafa. He's given Newcastle supporters belief and we want to record that positivity, and the way they deal with the disappointments that naturally happen.
"Like Friday night's result at Fulham. As a fan, that was a setback, but it's interesting from a filmmaker's perspective to see how those disappointments are handled."
In Rafa's interview with Zahra, he also directly addresses fans and asks them to support both the film and his team. https://vimeo.com/178206947
Rafa says: "I am trying to support this [the film]. I think it's important to do this film for the fans, about the fans, and I think that you will enjoy it.
"I will say to all of you, stay keeping and supporting the team. Stay behind the team and the players, they will appreciate that.
"And you will be a crucial part if we go up. It depends on you. We can try our best but you can make a difference."
'We Are The Geordies' will follow a small number of fans, who will be the film's main focus, and document home and travelling black and white support. The film will feature an unusual mix of professionally filmed interviews and footage, interspersed with 'camerafan' footage, where supporters contribute their own phone videos of match day. Have a look at some preliminary footage from the Fulham game. https://vimeo.com/178441422
For Zahra and the 'We Are The Geordies' production team, Saturday's (13th August) first home game of the season will be hugely important.
Zahra adds: "The Huddersfield game is massive for us because it's massive for the fans.
"It looks like it will be a record Championship crowd, which is amazing and really sums up why these supporters are so interesting.
"We'll be in and around St James' filming and we're hoping to receive a lot of 'camerafan' footage that really captures the day.
"Everything from breakfast and the Metro journey, to the flags in Gallowgate and post-match pub. Really, whatever makes your match day, match day."
'We Are The Geordies' is not a Newcastle United project, however, the club is very positive about the concept of a film about its fans and has offered support wherever possible, including access to St James' Park.
Photo and film links provided by FNA Films
The Trust attended a really interesting meeting on Friday night hosted by Fans United at the Irish Centre in Newcastle. A Gateshead filmmaker has announced plans for a new and very personal project - and she is asking Newcastle United fans for their help.
Zahra Zomorrodian produced the successful comedy, 'The Stagg Do,' which was shot in Northumberland and released in 2014.
Her next film will be a documentary about Newcastle United's upcoming season but almost all the action will take place away from the pitch, focussing instead on the fans' match day experiences. Have a look at a short film here to hear a bit more about her ideas - www.geordiesff.com
As well as looking for a small number of fans to be the main focus of the film throughout the season, Zahra is also asking supporters to become 'camerafans' and to contribute their own footage of match day.
Zahra, the film's producer, explains: "This film is very much about fans, not football.
"I find it fascinating trying to understand what makes men and women, all over the world, care so much about Newcastle United.
"Why do fans get up in the dead of night to travel to away games, or watch the match on telly from the other side of the world. Those are the stories we want to explore.
"The idea came to me when I was talking with a Liverpool fan about Rafa Benitez and how different everything about the club feels this year. There's a positivity which has been missing for so long and I want to capture that."
The documentary's working title is 'We Are The Geordies' and it will feature an unusual mix of professionally filmed interviews and footage, interspersed with 'camerafan' footage.
'We Are The Geordies' will be directed by James DeMarco, while Keith Bell ('Dog Soldiers,' 'The Descent' and 'Harry Brown,' which starred Sir Michael Caine) will be executive producer.
It is not a Newcastle United project, however, the club is very positive about the concept of a film about its fans and has offered support wherever possible, including access to St James' Park.
Zahra continues: "Technology today means that almost everyone has a phone they can record and share HD video footage from.
"Ten years ago, what we're proposing wouldn't even be possible but now we know there are thousands of potential 'camerafans' at every game. People who can film a short bit of their match day and share that with us.
"You only need to look at YouTube and see the thousands of videos of football fans chanting, celebrating and doing all the daft things that make up a match day.
"The energy and excitement in some of those videos is incredible and we want to include that raw energy and passion in this film."
As well as documenting both home and travelling black and white support, 'We Are the Geordies' will also explore NUFC fan clubs around the globe, capturing the fanaticism of fans living thousands of miles away from St James' Park.
Given the short time before the start of the season, Zahra is keen to move things as quickly as possible and she is asking Newcastle fans, wherever they are based, to get in touch and help spread the word.
Zahra adds: "What we really need now is for fans to get on board. We're looking for a number of supporters to become the core of the film as we follow them over the course of the season. And they can be based anywhere in the world.
"Fans can also help by investing in the film through our Kickstarter and we're trying to raise an initial £20,000 through that, though the actual budget is £300,000.
"We're also talking to investors and the feedback we're getting is fantastic. There's a real sense that this is the right project, at the right time.
"We'll be tracking supporters to the Burton Albions and the Rotherhams as Rafa tries to deliver us back to the Premier League.
"As a Newcastle fan myself, I'm not naive. Things feel positive now, and there's a real sense we're moving in the right direction, but anything could still go wrong for us.
"We don't know what this season will bring and that's the beauty of this film. All the drama, the highs and lows, are still unknown. I can't wait to start filming and gathering together material from fans.
"My hope is that the film's climax is our promotion but that's out of our hands. As ever, as fans, all we can do is continue to support the team as we always have and that's what I want 'We Are The Geordies' to convey."
For more information, and to contact Zahra, please visit www.GeordiesFF.com.
Or follow the project on Twitter (@GeordiesFF) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/GeordiesFF).
At the Trust we think this is an exciting project about fantastic Newcastle fans, made by Newcastle fans and we'll be trying to support the film makers where we can.
The Newcastle United Supporters' Trust notes the increased mood of optimism amongst supporters despite the club's relegation to the Championship. This can only be due to the fantastic news that Rafa Benitez has agreed to stay at United and that the club has agreed to scrap a failed model for running the football side of Newcastle United Football Club.
Part of this new mood of optimism has led to a grass-roots movement of those who want to sing in support of Rafa and the team congregating in the Corner section of The Gallowgate. At the last home game of the season v Spurs the support for the team and Rafa was excellent and most of it was generated by supporters in The Corner whose vocal support for the team was infectious and created a brilliant atmosphere. Who will doubt that the positivity generated by the loud, vocal support created the environment for a great win and influenced Rafa that Newcastle United is the club for him? That can be repeated again and again this coming season.
Therefore the Newcastle United Supporters' Trust supports completely the move of supporters who want to sing to congregate in The Corner section but also in the Gallowgate lower tier and on the east side too (or as close as possible). NUST believes this can only be a positive development and one which will help Rafa and the team claim promotion back to the Premier League over the 2016/17 season. Our club's supporters are its greatest assets in so many ways. On match-days we want to be part of the effort to get three points rather than be simple paying customers.
Going forward, NUST hopes the Box Office, the Supporters Liaison Officer, the Fans Forum and everyone at Newcastle United FC will do everything it can to facilitate this positive development.
No-one should confuse the loud, vocal support for the team and manager as bad behaviour and NUST also believes supporters in that part of St James' Park have a responsibility to behave responsibly and uphold the good name of our football club.
Everything should be done to support and build upon a real and genuine attempt to provide Rafa and the team with brilliant, active support from a part of St James' Park traditionally known to do that.
You could telephone the Box Office on 0844 372 1892.
Or you could visit the Box Office and make the appropriate arrangements there.
"What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It's not the television contracts, get out clauses or the marketing departments or executive boxes. It's the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city"