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mates, but one of the fnest in the world. His greatest poem –
‘V’ – is about returning home to Leeds to discover that Leeds
United hooligans have desecrated his family’s grave. In the
1980s and 1990s many Manc bands – Joy Division, New Order,
Te Smiths, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and so on – broke
through. Tey are seen as part of Manchester – but when a
band like the Kaiser Chiefs or a great singer like Corinne Bailey
Rae emerges, their Leeds roots remain hidden.
Leeds is, and always has been, a hotbed for talent. Yet,
as even a national treasure like Bennett has admitted, we tend
to be backward in coming forward. Bennett’s parents reacted
to his writing ambitions by, he says, ‘being embarrassed by
his career’.
Billy Liar
is both a famous book and flm, written
by Leeds boy Waterhouse. Billy’s dad tells his son: ‘A writer?
You? Don’t be so bloody daft. What makes y’think you’re
so bloody special? Anyway, you’ve a good job.’ As McCann
says: “I know these people, I’ve been around them all my
life. But there are parts of this ‘Leeds-ness’ that I think we
should also cherish, for example the dry, cutting ‘tell it how
it is’ humour, attitude or observation that have provided such
fertile ground for its writers.”
A new generation of edgy, ‘tell it how it is’ Loiners has
invaded the citadels of London, throwing itself about town and
faunting its talent. Parts of the south may sneer – and critics
will always point out that the words “Leeds” and “literary” are
rarely, if ever, used in the same sentence. As a Harry Enfeld
character once mocked: ‘Don’t talk to me about
sophistication – I’ve been to Leeds.’ And yet Peace,
Phillips, Mellor et al are part of a crack force of
prickly outsiders who have, in the last two decades,
barged through the privileged ranks of the elite.
As in the 1960s, a disproportionate number of the
new generation of writers are from Leeds and its
surrounds. Back in the golden age of kitchen-sink
writing there was Waterhouse, Bennett, Harrison,
Willis Hall, David Storey, John Braine, Stan
Barstow... throw in Jack Higgins and Barbara Taylor
Bradford (and, at a stretch, Barry Cryer, who formed
an unlikely comedy duo with Harrison) and you
have the beginnings of the Leeds Movement.
So – with apologies to Te Commitments
– “say it once and say it loud: I’m Leeds and I’m
proud.” Or, as we sing at Elland Road: “We are
Leeds, we are Leeds, we are Leeds…”
Anthony Clavane’s Promised Land: A Northern
Love Story was named Sports Book Of Te Year
for 2011 by Te National Sporting Club.