In a further attempt to engage with you, our supporters, last night we asked Reds fans to wave our brand new club flags!
Following discussions with supporters at recent fan engagement meetings, the club decided to order a collection of club flags that Reds fans would be able to wave at future games.
These were situated across the front of the East Stand Lower Tier and the front of the South Stand, with fans invited to wave them in the build-up to kick-off against Sunderland AFC.
One of the feature flags on show was a design dreamt up by the club, that was passed on to friend-of-the-club, Neil Richardson whose task was then to paint the final design.
Neil has been a regular writer for BE RED and painted on behalf of Barnsley FC for the last three years and below he explains how this concept came to life.
Being an artist, one of the most difficult parts of the job is to take on a commission. The reason being is that the person that is commissioning you often has an idea in their head but they haven’t got the tools to unleash that idea onto the world, so they employ someone to do it for them. Often the idea is so firmly ensconced in their heads that it is nigh on impossible to get it out or to even articulate to an artist what they want it to look like.
This is key when it comes to my latest piece.
You’ll have seen a few flags last night, one in particular that looks mightily similar to the painting that you see here on site. The flag was the brainchild of the hard working backroom media and marketing lads in the office, and to execute their plan I was roped in on the act. “Right Neil, we have an idea, you might be able to help” went the conversation.
“Right, we’ve done a quick sketch, here it is, do you get it?”… Well, I explained that I needed a little more to go on than what I had presented to me and they duly obliged with a sort of apocalyptic mock up that made the end of Terminator 2 look like a fairy tale. Huge hawks marauding in the flame filled sky while a giant light shone down onto a boy and his dad, perched upon a blood red wall awaiting their fate. I’m exaggerating obviously, it needed tweaks but I got the picture.
And so I took a trip with my camera and my kids around Oakwell looking for settings, scenes and positions to make the finished article evoke memories of nostalgic first matches with a parent, along with a sense of pride and optimism.
The first thing was to take a photo of the famous West Stand wall. The last remaining part of old Oakwell and who knows how long it will still be there? I stood close to the wall at the bottom of Belgrave Road where the school used to be. When I painted this part in I made sure I missed out the broken glass. It’s a memory I remember, asking my dad what it was for and I totally understand the security needs of the time, however, it wasn’t a part that I wanted to depict, especially as I was painting myself in the piece, sat on the wall.
Then I needed some photos of fans, but I was quite specific as to how I wanted people positioned. I asked on Facebook and had a few replies. In the end a lass called Sally Wilkinson got her fella and daughter to pose just as I wanted and sent me a photo. I then got one of the backroom staff to take a picture of me and my own kids sat on the red barriers outside the box office. My girl in the away kit from the 2001/02 season and my lad Charlie in a new top from this season.
The last and probably most important photo was a view of Oakwell. I’d driven around and found a few locations, including one from Pontefract Road with the Barnsley Brewery gates in shot, but in the end I went for the view from the top of the away car park, close to the Metrodome. I like the houses in shot, it all reminded me of walking down the hill as a nipper on my way to a match.
Then it’s back to my little studio room and to try and put the piece together. I download all the photos, cut, adjust, snip and tuck everything into a rough image that I can work from where everything is in the right proportions and perspectives.
The piece itself features two different sets of fans, boys and girls wearing old and new kits. This is to show how football - and what it brings in terms of togetherness and feelings - is timeless. Next to me and my children is a Davy Lamp, something that is intrinsic to our town as historically this is what kept our men, women and children safe as they ventured down the pit. In the air is a kestrel, something that I add to all of my paintings that contain a sky. It’s a little signature and is another part of local history to us all in the town. Most symbolic are the two shining stars in the night sky. One for our founder, Reverend Tiverton Preedy and another for Patrick Cryne. Two men who have been our shining lights right from the start, right up until the last couple of years when we needed a saviour to keep us going in times of need.
And so there you have it. It’s more than a flag, more than a painting. It’s an insight into the mind of a lifelong fan who is just lucky enough to be able to express himself through his paintbrushes. I’d like to think that we all see a little bit of ourselves in this piece which is the most important part. It’s a representation of us all. We are the legends here. You Reds.
You can order copies of this piece of artwork and others in Neil’s collection via the following link online: bit.ly/NeilRichardsonArtist
We'd like to thank everyone who attended last night who helped out with the flags on display and for your terrific backing against Sunderland.
Come on you Reds!