Hev Yew Gotta Loight, Boy? Sociology paper's esoteric title explained

Posted by mjs76 at Nov 18, 2010 12:35 PM |
One of our academics has recently returned from an international conference in Bavaria where he presented a strong contender for the Esoteric Paper Title of the Year Award: 'The Singing Postman as well as John Lennon: the role of football fans in memorialising English football culture.'

John Williams, who teaches and researches in our Department of Sociology, is an expert on the sociology of sport, especially football and especially Liverpool FC. He recently wrote the club’s official biography Red Men (see previous Newsblog story).

John was among the speakers at the snappily titled X. interdisziplinäre Tagung der Reihe ‘Sterben, Tod und Jenseitsglaube’: Die Memorial- und Sepulkralkultur des Fußballsports - Internationale Konferenz zur Kulturgeschichte des Fußballsports. That is, the Tenth Interdisciplinary Conference on Dying, Death and the Afterlife: The Memorial and Sepulchral Culture of Soccer – International Conference on the Cultural History of Football. Or the Irsee Monastery Conference for short, as the event was held in the stunning location of the Kloster Irsee, a conference and education centre run by the State Parliament of Swabia.

Over three days in November, delegates heard a range of papers in German and English on aspects of, and attitudes towards, death and mortality within local, national and international football culture. Examples cited ranged from the Munich air crash of 1958 through Hillsborough in 1989 to last year’s national outpouring of grief at the suicide of German goalie Robert Enke. Further back, the conference also considered the effect on German football of the loss of so many Jewish players under the Nazi regime.

John’s own paper concerned Liverpool (of course) and looked at how fans viewed the symbolic, potential ‘death’ of the club earlier this year when published accounts showed that what had recently been listed by Forbes magazine as the sixth most valuable footie team in the world was found to be £350 million in (ironically) the red.

But where does that title come from? It’s a quote from David Kynaston, author of acclaimed social histories Austerity Britain 1945-1951 and Family Britain 1951-1957 (with four more volumes to come). Kynaston, who visited the University a couple of weeks ago as part of Literary Leicester, believes that history and public memory must be:

Intimate, multilayered, multivoiced, unsentimental … [spanning] … the everyday as well as the seismic … the mute and the inarticulate as well as the all too fluent opinion formers … the Singing Postman as well as John Lennon.’

Everyone knows who Lennon is, but only people ‘of a certain age’ will remember the Singing Postman, Allan Smethurst. A real Norfolk postie, Smethurst wrote songs in a distinctive dialect and recorded them with his distinctive accent, achieving a top ten novelty hit in 1966 with the iconic ‘Hev Yew Gotta Loight, Boy?’, a slice of nostalgia about dating a chain-smoking young woman. It is not recorded which football team he supported but probability suggests it was the Canaries.

Quite what the German sociologists made of this entertainingly obscure, indirect pop culture reference we can only guess (“Entschuldigen Sie, was ist ein singender Briefträger?”). The conference proceedings will be published next year by Kohlhammer.

  • University press release (NB. The title ‘Tackling loss in football’ refers to the topic of the conference and is not intended as a description of the Leicester City defence.)