Football not happening at Brightwell Recreation Ground

Goalposts lean against the pavilion at Brightwell Recreation Ground

During the lockdown, on Saturday afternoons between 15.00 and 16.45, I have been revisiting the parish recreation grounds, village greens and playing fields where I have listened both to the sound of football happening and football not happening.

On November 5th 2016 I came across a North Berks League Division Five match taking place between Didcot Eagles and Steventon Reserves. I was on my way to the Hithercroft in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, but had taken a short cut across Brightwell Recreation Ground. A football match on a parish recreation ground is an ephemeral event, ninety minutes of sound on the occasional Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. This was Didcot Eagles first home match since October 1st and they didn’t play at home again until November 26th so the chances of coming across the match in that ninety minute window were slim. The sounding culture of rural grassroots football seeps out into the surrounding countryside, across fields, down lanes, through woodland and past graveyards. The chance encounter is the beauty of the situation as the calls of Jackdaws and Rooks transform into shouts of man on, stand him up, press. One of the first recordings I made for Get Rid! came as the result of stumbling across a match at Bodkins Playing Field in Long Wittenham:

This recording was made during the North Berks League Division Four match between Long Wittenham Athletic Reserves and Berinsfield Reserves. I was driving through Long Wittenham and noticed the match taking place. I didn’t have my sound recorder to hand so had to make do with my phone so there isn’t as much depth in the recording as I would have liked. Just before I arrived Berinsfield had scored and Long Wittenham were under pressure while I was making this recording.


Of course there were successes and failures, chance encounters with matches and planned visits that delivered me to Village greens where nothing was happening. After a failed attempt to listen to Didcot Eagles later in the Autumn I wrote about the absence of football, about football not happening:

…Having established that the rec was the home of Didcot Eagles I looked up future fixtures and so later in December I took the short walk to the Rec to see the last few minutes of Didcot Eagles v Grove Rangers. As I walked down Mackney Lane I was expecting to begin to encounter the sound of the game as it bled into the surrounding countryside and travelled across the woodland towards me – but instead I only sensed absence. As I turned into the recreation ground the reason for this became clear – there was no match. The Recreation Ground was empty except for some children fighting with sticks and a few dog walkers. I walked over to the pitch looking for evidence of recent action. The white lines looked recently painted and the goalmouths were muddy but whether or not the match had taken place at an earlier time that day I couldn’t be sure. The goalposts were neatly stacked against the pavilion and there was no sign of the nets. I leant against a railing and recorded the situation and imagined the sound of the ball being struck; of players shouting instructions and their voices bouncing off the flat surfaces of the pavilion and back onto the pitch; of the referee’s whistle; and the frustrated exclamations of the coach. In the absence of these sounds the ear was drawn to the wider soundscape – distant tyres on the asphalt of the bypass; the air vibrating with the movement of the rotary blades of helicopters from RAF Benson; the conversations of dog walkers; and the chatter of children in the play park.

This is the recording that I made:

football not happening at Brightwell Recreation Ground

I pursued my interest in the everyday soundings of Village Greens, Playing Fields and Recreation Grounds, in the absence of football, and made multiple recordings, recordings of football not happening:


And as the deep quiet of the lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic spread I began to think about these recordings and started to revisit the sites where I made them to record the new absence, the everyday soundings of Village Greens, Playing Fields and Recreation Grounds in the pandemic. The drone of tyres on asphalt, the regular phasing of passenger jets, helicopters forcing the air to vibrate – these sounds are now rare, discrete, they arrive and depart, they are moments in a wilder and more diverse soundscape:


Get Rid! Anthology


Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out. Georges Perec, Species of Spaces (1974)

To listen to the sound of grassroots football matches on parish recreation grounds, playing fields and village greens is to listen to the fleeting traces of a rich sounding culture. The iterative ritual of marking out the pitch, cutting the grass, fixing nets to goalposts with cable ties and driving corner flags into the earth. Then the distinctive practices of on-pitch communication; the whistle; the sound of football boot on ball, of the ball as it lands; the struck crack of the crossbar; studs compressing the soil, brushing the grass, slicing through the turf. Grassroots football is a game of noise, silence, presence, absence, activity, inactivity. The sounding comes in waves — building, receding. Pitches stand empty for days then startle into exuberant sound-making action. Football is present. Football is happening. A substitution is made; the ball takes a wild deflection from a corner — disappears into a garden — and is followed by a player who climbs over a fence and into undergrowth to retrieve it; a free-kick is given and the game stalls; the goalkeeper argues with his left-back about how many players should be in the wall; the central defender argues with the ref about the infringement; the assistant referee checks his phone for messages. There’s an injury and the players stand around in small groups talking or lost in their own thoughts. Then the game crackles into life with a high tackle; a controversial decision; a header that slaps against the post; a counter-attack; a coach barely able to prevent himself from running onto the pitch and who, instead, ends up kicking the dugout. The final whistle. The everyday sounds of the parish recreation ground, playing field and village green return. Football is absent. Football isn’t happening.

from Get Rid! SARU 2018 ISBN 978-1-9996176-1-5

1. Bodkins Playing Field 20032017
2. Long Wittenham Athletic Reserves v Drayton FC 28042018
3. Brightwell Recreation Ground 03042017
4. Didcot Eagles v Marcham Reserves 01042017
5. Ashendon Playing Fields 03082017
6. Ludgershall United v Oving FC 17022018
7. The Lockway 09042017
8. Drayton FC v Hagbourne United 27012018
9. Steventon Green 20042018
10. Steventon Reserves v Hanney 66 Club 15042017
1. Oving Recreation Ground 27072017
2. Great Horwood v Long Crendon (Oving Villages Cup Final 02042018)
3. Horspath Athletic Ground 06112017
4. Horspath FC Reserves v Charlton United reserves 04112017
5. Stade, Condat-sur-Vézère 19082017
6. Condat-sur-Vézère FC v Limeuil FC 27082017
7. Sutton Courtenay Recreation Ground 17032017
8. Sutton Courtenay FC v Westminster FC 11042017
9. (Postscript) Hithercroft Sports Park

Travel! [#8] Oving Villages Cup Final and the sounding archaeology of goalkeeper’s studs on goalposts

In the first six Travel! posts I explored the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. You can find out more here. During 2017-2018 I have returned to some of the pitches to experience the sounding presence of football happening.

The Oving & District Villages’ Cup Competition affiliated to the Berk & Bucks FA was founded in 1889 and since 1892 the final of the competition has taken place at Oving Recreation Ground. I visited the Recreation Ground in July last year and listened to the sound of football not happening. You can find out more about that here.

It had always been my intention to return to the grounds that I had visited on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow and experience football taking place but somehow the season almost seems to be at an end and the fixtures are running out. I was casting about for potential fixtures to attend when by chance I came across the Oving Villages Cup Final between Long Crendon – who were also involved in the first final in 1890 – and Great Horworth. I arrived just before half-time and so missed the only goal of the game – Great Horworth held on to that slender lead until the final whistle.

The matchday programme included this information about the origins of the cup from the 1928 programme:

The Oving Villages Cup was formed by subsrcibers of the villages within a 12 miles of Oving in the year 1889, Mr James Evans of Oving being the Chief Organiser and acting Hon. Secretary. The first president was the late Rev. I Hill, the Rector of Oving.

The 2018 programme goes on:

The worthy Rector was obviously a football fan, for research by Hal mason of Sudbury Suffolk reveals that he appeared for the Pilgrims when they lost 3-1 to Foresters in the FA Cup of 1881.

The founder members of the competition were Waddesdon, Quainton, Long Crendon, Granborough, Oving and North Marston. The first two finals were held in Waddesdon but all subsequent finals have been held at Oving Recreation Ground.

Knowing that the cup final had been played on this site since 1892 set me thinking about how the sounding environment of the match would have changed over that period. A wind was whipping the black refuse bags attached to the boundary rope into feverish and sporadic sound-making – like aeolian devices – catching the wind and then collapsing inert as the breeze passed. Perhaps this is a sound unique to this year – lightweight recyclable black bags as opposed to their sturdier more heavily plasticised counterparts. What about the trees around the ground. How much has that changed in the one hundred and sixteen years since that match? The sounding environment would be completely different if the tree line had changed significantly. As the Great Horwood keeper banged his studs against his post just before a corner I began to consider the sounding history of that activity. When did this originate? If goalkeepers were doing this in 1892 what did leather studs on wooden goalposts sound like? I also started to think about the way that the formations would have changed the soundscape. 2-3-5 was the standard formation in the late nineteenth century. This would have changed the way that the sound-making activities of the footballers articulated the playing area – and what about on-pitch communication? left shoulder! Stick it in the mixer! Time!

(looking North towards the village hall)

man on
make your fucking mind up
I fucking have
I’m talking to him the whole time
press him mate
time – time – time
hey – hey
come on Crendon keep going boys
come on
big win
hey heads
come out
get out
yeah that’s it options
heads on the way
turn him
turn him son
man on
two here – two here
drive – drive
go – go
head down

when the final man comes in

come on Crendon this is good
come on
move around
come on
that’s yours – that’s yours
one more
well done
well done mate
well done
ref – ref
stay on
go line – go line
head it back in
play on red – play on red – play on red – play on red – play on red
come on come on
fucking edge
i’ve gotta go
gotta go
coming in
one more
that’s it
come on boys, it’s coming
keep pushing it boys
you alright boy?
got spare here

brainless that is

hey let’s get in then
be aware – be aware
back again

whoever shouts gets the free-kick

get on with it
go on
come on – come on
get up – get up
that’s it
well done – well done
give it


(looking south-east from behind Great Horworth’s goal – black bag crackling in the breeze)

(looking south-west from the halfway line – black bag tied to the boundary rope fills with air)

Travel! [#7] Presence, absence and the speed of sound on Ashendon Ridge

In the first six Travel! posts I explored the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. You can find out more here. During 2017-2018 I have returned to some of the pitches to experience the sounding presence of football happening.
One of the most distinctive sites that I came across in my close-season travels was Ashendon Playing Fields that sits on a ridge to the South-West of Waddesdon. The football pitch is on a considerable slope that runs between a covered reservoir at the top end and St.Mary’s Church at the bottom. The church is sited on the far side of the appropriately named Lower End – a lane that runs North from Main Street. I visited the playing fields – home of Ludgershall United –  twice in the close season. On my second visit to the playing fields the soundscape was dominated by the sound of the wind:
There was a strong wind, so strong that many of the distinctive sounding characteristics of the area – the vibrations of distant jets, helicopters, and light aircraft; the phasing white noise of the passing traffic; the calls of red kites and wood pigeons – were obscured by the many and various sounds of the wind as it shook branches; whistled through bushes and shrubs; and turned the long grasses around the pitch into a multitude of whispering aeolian devices.
So the resonating gong-like tarmac of the A34 and M40; the tremolo of light aircraft and the beating of rotor-blades; the complex polyphony of hedgerow birds; and the calls of Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves and Red Kites were obscured by the dense texture of aeolian sound – the complex movement of the wind coercing the grass, leaves, branches and hedgerows into sound. You can read more about the sound of football not happening on Ashendon Ridge here. The presence of football provides a different form of distraction from the everyday sounds of the Playing Field. The ear is drawn towards the on field communication of players the sound of the ball being kicked and the reflection of that sound as it returns from the pavilion. The ear follows the play listening for meaning to support what can be seen. However, the auditory experience of watching grassroots football is always just a little disconcerting as depending on how far away from the pitch the spectator is standing the eye sees the players strike the ball before the ear hears the sound – similarly when the ball thuds into the earth following a particularly powerful goal-kick the visible action precedes the audible one. The football pitch is a good place to discuss the relative speeds of light and sound.


I returned to Ashendon to watch the Aylesbury & District Division One game between Ludgershall United and Oving FC. The game finished 5-5. The slope of the pitch has a clear effect on the sound of the game as unusual levels of fear and anxiety are unleashed each time a long ball is floated downhill towards the opposition penalty area. The most innocuous looking through balls can become deadly weapons as they rise above the slope challenging the laws of gravity.

(Ludgershall United v Oving FC at Ashendon Playing Fields)
too long
don’t take that – don’t let him take that
don’t fucking
hey – hey
come in
win it
stand – stand – stand
come in
now – now – now
how was he off – how was he off
how was he off when he came from behind him
behind him ref
no way
he ran past him
when he shot – when he shot
know the fucking rules
when he shot
the linesman flags up for anything
hey boys – hey boys
concentrate – concentrate
ludgershall wake up
you can feel it as well
hey line
shout to him
fuckin’ hell
win it
behind you
go on
where’d that come from
just watching
fucking concentrate
talk to each other
yeah but why hasn’t he jumped for it
he knows
we’re putting pressure on ourselves
did you do that flick
we want this game yeah
come on
boys – boys
come on boys
i’m doing what i’ve been told
yeah but then you talk
pick it up
fuck sake mate
tell me one fucking thing
carry on
watch your man
chase him
do you want a free kick for that – matey boys pushing
fucking what are you on about
bang it
well done boys
very good – very good
settle down
man on – man on
well done
pick him out
oh fuck off
get in there
everyone has their man
drop – drop – drop – drop
get in there – get in there
seconds – seconds
stand him up
go on then
go on – go on – go on – go on – go on – go on
now – now
boys more talking
are you playing left then
left wing
close him down
he doesn’t want it either
yeah come in left back
ref – ref
how long
your throw
come on let’s get set boys
keep going yellows
keep going
Ludgershall line
one of you
come back – come back
well done
turn out of there
yeah well done
he was going nowhere
what’s the point
well done you
ref – ref
how can you see that
come on
Oi! boys
concentrate now
bounce back
none of us
we dig in we do not concede again
and again yellows
no silly fouls boys yeah
i’m here now

Travel! [#6] Bowling Alley

This is the sixth in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.

I came across Oving when tracing the route from Brightwell to Winslow. The village lies to the east of Quainton and just south of North Marston. The Recreation Ground is on a lane called Bowling Alley and since 1892 has hosted the Oving Villages’ Cup Final.

17th July 2017
09.52 : Oving Recreation Ground

(At Oving Recreation Ground looking towards Bowling Alley)

The clop of horses’ hooves on Bowling Alley; a pheasant; breeze in the leaves of the tree-line behind me – their size apparent from the resonance they create – slight dryness in their scrape; collared doves call; a pheasant – again – calls once, twice – then a flurry of calls; distant roar of a motorbike; two thumps from the bird-scarer; the murmur of chat in the lane; the faint cackle of the breeze through dry leaves; the bird-scarer more regular now; occasional birdsong from Wrens in the hedgerow; the call of Red Kites – how far away?; a rook calls – then the barely audible response of friends; a car in the lane – all of the sounding details of its approach and departure can be heard as it amplifies the imperfections of the road surface; only nearby wind sound now – leaves brushing against each other – the screen of trees to the North and East of the Recreation Ground are silent; the pitch-shifting passage of a train is overlaid with the sound of swifts, car doors slamming and a chorus of wood pigeons; single jackdaw call; slight fluctuation in sound from pigeon wings; children’s voices; a deeper rumble as a truck passes – rattling; a dog barks; the pitch-phasing of a passenger jet; wood pigeons wings; breeze; chains on steel sheet.

On my second visit I took a closer look at the cluster of pavilions at the south-east corner of the ground. One looked as though it may have been constructed in the nineteenth century – it is certainly more rustic in style – and could conceivably have been in place for the Oving Villages’ Cup Final of 1892 won by North Marston with a 6-0 victory over Waddesdon. There is also a small painted green corrugated iron hut – almost obscured by hedges – that looks like an old-style scout hut.

27th July 2017
11.25 : Oving Recreation Ground

(The cluster of pavilions at the south-east corner of the recreation ground)

Light movement of wind activating the screen of beach trees to the north occasionally answered by the horse chestnuts laden with conkers; cars sounding the wet road surface – extra resonance; a lawn mower or chain saw sounds; occasional calls of children; wood pigeons to the south and perhaps a distant bird-scarer; someone kicks a football; a car passes with the tremolo of a vintage engine; the flap of wood pigeon wings; leaves in the hedgerow brush against each other; perhaps the mechanical drone that can be heard is a lawnmower; fast cars in the distance provide waves of pitch-shifting sound; the first sound of air-traffic – a light aircraft or helicopter; a swallow; sparrows in a back garden; a jackdaw calls; the detailed sound of a car’s passage along Bowling Alley the sound rising and falling as it passes windows in the tree-line and hedgerow – it sounds a puddle by the gate; a distant train perhaps or an articulated truck on the trunk road; farm machinery – a circular saw with a high-pitched growl as its teeth cut into the wood; a dog panting as it passes; ‘morning’; wood pigeons; very little sound of hedgerow birds; another fast car on the A road; the drone stops and the air is clearer; wood pigeons call across distance; there is more detail in the sounds of the trees; a passenger jet to the south-east with a slow rolling pitch phase as simultaneously a car sounds the wet surface on Bowling Alley triggering a babble of rooks; the jet engine continues to resonate above the cloud cover – I imagine each drop of moisture vibrating with the sound; a military helicopter passes flying below the clouds the sound reflecting and imitated by the sounding road surface.


Listening to the sound of the A34 flooding across the fields of Oxfordshire

(Drayton FC v Hagbourne United Reserves at the Lockway)

It was in April this year that I began to take an interest in the way that traffic sound shapes the listening experience at several of the pitches used by teams in the North Berks League. In spring last year I wrote this about the experience of recording the sound of football not happening at the home of Drayton FC:

The A34 runs from Salford to Winchester. The Southern leg of the road cuts through Oxfordshire from North to South. The soundscape at Drayton FC to the East and Milton United FC to the West of the road is dominated by the sound of the internal combustion engine; the resonating tarmac; and the rattle of trailers and trucks . Drayton FC play in the North Berks League and their pitch is on the South-West edge of the village. The centre circle is 175m East of the A34. If you stand in the centre-circle – where this recording was made – there are benchless breeze block dugouts; a line of low trees; and an electricity pylon that stands in the field between the pitch and the road. The embankment of the A34 rises above the field and the sounds of the road flood down the embankment and saturate the surrounding area with a band of consistent high frequency noise. The rattle of trucks; the phasing of tyres on asphalt as they approach and depart; the liquid drone of the road – these are the sounds that dominate the listener’s attention.


This week I returned to the Lockway to listen to Drayton FC v Hagbourne Reserves in the North Berks League Division 3. There is no sound baffling between Drayton and the A34 not even a screen of trees. It made me wonder what a fence would do; a tightly packed screen of beech trees; a glass and steel acoustic shield. How long has the sound from the road been this pervasive? Has it got quieter as engine noise has reduced or was rubber on asphalt always the dominant sound at this distance? The calls of the players and coaches are submerged beneath shimmering white noise.

Only when the play came over to the eastern edge where I was standing was it possible to clearly hear the on-pitch communication. If i had been standing on the A4017 Steventon Road on the other side of the houses whose gardens back onto the pitch I am almost certain that the only sound I would have heard from the West would have been that of the A34. The shouts of players and coaches would be lost in the complex wave of traffic sound – hemmed in – unable to resonate across the surrounding streets and fields.

man on, man on, man on
one more
go to
well done
well done boys
keep going – keep going
‘lucky mate
keep going – keep going

nil-nil start again – nil-nil start again
keep switched on it’s nil-nil

keepers – keepers
two again
stay there
hey – hey
out wide
not too deep
have a go…
hit it
you bastard
big head
come up

country lanes, aeolian dugouts and another reversing truck

The more times that I travel between the same two fixed points the more I feel compelled to find new routes; seeking to exhaust the possible combinations of country lanes, trunk roads, suburban streets, village high roads and dual carriageways. Of course I prefer not to make the journey much longer than the quickest possible route but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me and I head down a country lane I’ve passed by hundreds of times in a bid to understand my surroundings; to surprise myself; to make strange. Perhaps the goal is to turn from the less travelled lane onto a road I have driven down a thousand times but fail to recognise it because I have approached it from a new direction.

Surviving my daily commute – then – means finding as many different combinations of routes as possible between the fixed points of home and office. One of the routes I have explored peels away from Oxford’s Eastern By-pass Road towards Horspath and passes – on the right – the training ground of Oxford United and – on the left – Horspath Sports Ground which is home to Horspath FC. On the most recent occasion that I took this route I was travelling home on a Saturday afternoon. I knew that Horspath FC Reserves had a match with Charlton United FC Reserves in Division Two of the Oxfordshire Senior League. So as I headed east along Horspath Road I turned left into the car park at the sports ground and walked past the athletics track towards the football pitch.

(players and spectators disperse after the final whistle at Horspath Sports Ground)


unlucky then
chin up
switch, switch
man on
man on – man on
well done
come here
turn and turn
get it back
corner flag, corner flag
man on
come and help me out
get back
put him under
you can’t play a high line
drop in
don’t concede another
back a little bit
that’s the one
win it
why’ve i got one ‘ere?
why’ve i got one free?
just get behind the ball
come on
someone bring him over
do not lose him
watch your line
kick it
hey hey hey
pressure him
get ‘em up – get ‘em up
well in
still on
fucking hell
chase it
did that go off?
well done
defensively get set up line
drop in
give it him
get rid mate
coming through
going to make a decision isn’t they
don’t even say that
come on last minute
do me a favour
you’ve gotta see it out man
big head – big head – big head
man on – man on
clear your lines
box him in mate
fucking get up and box him in
listen to me
come over then
keep on talking
away you go
go on
fucking got – fucking – there’s no one behind you
seconds – seconds
get out
out out out out out
no foul
move away
man on
other side of him
no foul – no foul
time time
they don’t give him enough quality
come on raise it
we’ve got our heads down
come on we’re up here
we mustn’t concede boys
we haven’t been good
that’s three points
last little bit
turn it ‘round
go on put it through
keep it under control yeah
go on
behind you
less than a minute left
get out – get out – get out – get out
(you mean losers)
head home – head home
go right
big one
no bounce
free header
head it forward
oh fucking hell
get out there
feet feet feet
win that win that
just turn him ‘round
clear your lines now
good ball
time now boys – time
get rid
man on
time time
get up – get up – get up – get up
get out
keep pushing
man on man on
hit it
oh for fuck’s sake
fair play
you shouldn’t be up there
you don’t need to be there
come on boys
last minute
that’s time wasting
what’s the point of that?
I returned to the sports ground the following Monday and sat in the dugout. There’s a City Council depot just to the north and a series of country paths frequented by dog walkers to the east. There was a strong wind and the perspex and aluminium dugouts became aeolian devices as the wind squeezed through gaps and rattled loose panels. Each dugout is different. One has what look like classroom chairs equally spaced within it and the other has a bench. Each has a small technical area marked out in front.

(the dugouts at Horspath Sports Ground)

7th November 2017
10.10 : Horspath Sports Ground
the call of a wren in the hedgerow; the perspex dugout creaks in the light breeze as the draught forces its way through the joins; traffic sound is constant from the eastern by-pass Road – A4142; passing cars and trucks on Horspath Road to the south emerge from the drone and then recede as they slow down and drive through the village; small birds overhead; distant call of Rooks; a single car passes on the nearby track; the perspex shakes again in a stronger wind now; the sound of tools; detailed birdsong from the hedgerows is hard to identify – perhaps a Robin; the whisper of wind in dry beach leaves; rattle of a trailer; a solitary crow calls three times; a reversing truck – distant; a dry leaf is blown along the turf; a hammer; no wood pigeons here; no red kites; air traffic is lost beneath the shimmering white noise of the bypass; wind begins to form recognisable tones as it squeezes through the gaps in the dugout; possible sound of a distant seagull; dog walker whistling, then shouting his dog’s name; another reversing truck; a small bird flies across the pitch in a series of inverted arcs; truck rattles away from the depot; jangle of a dog-lead beyond the screen of trees; finally the vibrations of a passing jet; another reversing truck.


Ligue de Football Nouvelle-Aquitaine, dishcloths and disalienation

For several years now I have been visiting a small hamlet in France called Chassagne located close to St.Amand-de-Coly a village with a distinctive fortified church. The nearest large town is Sarlat-le-Caneda to the south. We usually visit in August and although the Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and CFA (Championnat de France Amateur) seasons begin early in the month the local leagues tend to start several weeks later so it is rare that we are able to see any grassroots football. For some time now I seem to have developed a tendency to orientate myself in a place by seeking out local football pitches; investigating the material culture of the sites – the dugouts; scoreboards; fencing; goalposts; club-houses; advertising hoardings and floodlights. I’m never sure exactly what it is that I am trying to understand by contemplating these things. Perhaps there is a connection with my experiences of home and the terrain that I navigate in Oxfordshire – driving from one football pitch to another; from empty field to empty field. I find myself thinking about Frederic jameson’s Postmodernism or the cultural logic of late capitalism and in particular this:

Disalienation in the traditional city, then, involves the practical reconquest of a sense of place and the construction or reconstruction of an articulated ensemble which can be retained in memory and which the individual subject can map and remap along the moments of mobile, alternative trajectories.

(Jameson; Chapter 1)

The area we visit is full of hamlets and villages and is definitely not a city but perhaps any complex arrangement of spaces can be considered or read as such in the terms that Jameson uses.

During our visit this year I took a walk through Condat-sur-Vezere, headed to the stadium, and noticed that there was a match scheduled for the last Sunday of our stay – Condat-sur-Vezere FC v Limeuil FC in the first round of the Coupe Nouvelle-Aquitaine. In the weeks leading up to the match I visited the ground to record the sound of football not happening. The Coly a tributary of the Vezere River runs to the south of the stadium; the D62 to the north.

19th August 2017
14.19 : Condat-sur-Vezere

(the home dugout at Condat-sur-Vezere FC)

shifting cloud of white noise from the River Coly; wind through the screen of trees on the far bank; a voice; there seems to be a distant melody; flies buzz past; occasional waves of traffic on the D62 their sound rolling down the embankment spilling across the pitch and reflecting from the dugouts; the distant feral drone of an industrial process – perhaps the factory across the Vezere in Le Lardin; small birds in the low trees and bushes; slow moving waves of harmony as tyres sound asphalt moving from left to right – right to left; laughing; a blackbird sounds the alarm; a dog barks; a wood pigeon calls close by and then again in the distance; the drone of the factory is submerged by a breaking wave of birdsong and local traffic; someone cuts their way through the undergrowth; the white noise of the river is constant the slow flow sounding the rocks and banks; a large rattling truck with flat tyres grinds towards Saint Genies; clanking; chains; a shout; air vibrates with the distant rumble of jet engines; a magpie calls; the feral drone of the factory heads up the valley.



We arrived at the match during the second half and stood near the club-house and behind the assistant referee. There was a small bar and the constant sound of conversation; spectators on their phones; children playing; and sporadic applause. There were around seventy to eighty spectators at the game leaning up against the barrier that surrounds the pitch and gathered underneath the scoreboard.

(the club-house at Condat-sur-Vezere FC)

When I arrived back in England I asked a French friend – Gerald – who has lived in England for thirty years to listen to the recording and see how much of the on pitch communication he could transcribe. He also picked up some of the conversation amongst the spectators:

12s …pas que pour faire la fete…    :    Not only to party

47s Vas-yy’a pas de gardien    :    Go ahead there’s no keeper
1:24 Allez les bleus – on se les met    :    Go on the Blues, let’s have them
1:33 allez les gars on s’en…   :    Come on guys let’s…
1:51 la perd pas    :    Don’t lose it
2:12 bien joué Nathan elle est pas facile la …  Allez allez    :    Well played Nathan, it is not easy the… Come on…
2:19 y’a pas de caractère    :    There’s no character
2:38 En fait c’est lui le coach     :    In fact it’s him the coach
3:14 Nadège? Ah merde Janine    :    Nadege? Ah shit Janine
3:17 Ouais ou alors on lui enverra    :    Yeah or else we’ll send her…
3:20 Envoie moi la confirmation des ordres déjà    :    Send me the the order confirmation first
3:45 l’arbitres’il vous plait    –    Refereeplease
3:46 ca je m’en fou    :    this, I don’t care
3:48 je sais qu’y a Maurice… Maurice?    :    I know there’s Maurice… Maurice?
4:07 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
4:12 la partie de but au début mais alors    :    A game of goal at the beginning but then (doesn’t make sense)
4:41 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
4:48 Vous avez des mecs sérieux    :    You have some serious guys
4:52 mélange pas les torchons et les serviettes    :    Don’t mix dishcloths and tablecloths (…apples and oranges)
5:14 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
5:18 Moi je vois que ça après voila c’est Géraldine…    :    Me I can only see that and then after it’s Geraldine
7:00 Va dans le mur    :    Get in the wall
7:20 On est a Condat ici    :    We’re in Condat here
7:22 Allez les garsil faut y’aller    –    Come on guys, let’s go
8:37 Excuse je suis la j’ai loupé un but alors…    –    Excuse me I’m here, I missed a goal then…
11:12 Allez les gars montez les bleus    –    Come on guys go up blues
Gerald then summarises the transcription:
So to conclude it looks like someone called Janine (or perhaps Nadege) ordered some mixed dishcloths and tablecloths but the order was lost and Geraldine will look into it but if she can’t sort it out then Maurice will get involved. Maybe. And someone scored from a free kick around 7:05 possibly because Benoit didn’t get in the wall.

When I asked Gerald to listen to the recording I wasn’t specific about whether I just wanted the on-pitch communication or whether all of the conversation was of equal value. I have often recorded and transcribed pitch-side conversation relating to the game – for example discussion with the linesman here –  but have rarely concentrated on the everyday conversation evident in Gerald’s transcription; the discussion of dishcloths, tablecloths and relationships; the conversations of bar staff; and spectators catching up with each other is an essential element of  the sounding experience of the match.

Travel! [#5] Ashendon Playing Field

This is the fifth in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
The village of Ashendon sits between Upper Pollicott to the south and Westcott to the north-east on a road that heads north from the Aylesbury Road and connects with the A41 to the north-west of Waddesdon. At its southern end the road – at that point called Cannon Hill – climbs to a crossroads and then descends into a shallow valley before rising to a ridge on top of which sits Ashendon. As I entered the village I noticed a set of goalposts; turned left into a small car-park; and headed up the hill to the west end of the pitch. I didn’t have any sound recording equipment with me so I sat, listened and made a note of what I could hear.
6th July 2017
13.57 : Ashendon Playing Field
(Sitting behind the goal looking down the slope)
Reversing van pulses with white noise; passing car approaches and departs a slow-motion wave of sound; wood pigeons call in the distance; cars pass matching their sound envelopes – a meeting of waves; gentle breeze disturbs the trees; a blackbird calls from beyond the pavilion; a fly passes close by; the wings of a small bird – flapping; rattling cement mixer and white van meet, pause, continue; the squeal of brakes; a chaffinch calls; the leaves of the Oak treeshake in unison and form a barrier of sound between my position and the lane; two airplanes – one to the North, one to the South – the sound of their droning propellers rises and falls – left to right, right to left; one is dominant now and blends with the leaves in the breeze –  a drone powered by diesel and air pressure; a passenger jet – distant rumble; a rook calls in the gap between passing cars; antiphony between air traffic and the approaching protesting roar and squeak of a large trailer; a train sounds its horn to the South.
Ashendon Playing Field is the home of Ludgershall United FC who play in the Aylesbury and District League. The pitch has a distinctive slope and I imagine that a fair number of strikes on the goal at the east end of the pitch – at the bottom of the slope – finish with the ball being lost in the churchyard to the east.

On my second visit to Ashendon I had my equipment with me. There was a strong wind, so strong that many of the distinctive sounding characteristics of the area – the vibrations of distant jets, helicopters, and light aircraft; the phasing white noise of the passing traffic; the calls of red kites and wood pigeons – were obscured by the many and various sounds of the wind as it shook branches; whistled through bushes and shrubs; and turned the long grasses around the pitch into a multitude of whispering aeolian devices.


(looking west up the slope from the touchline)

Travel! [#4] Standing around on Warborough Green

This is the fourth in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
Warborough Green lies to the east of the Parish Church and is flanked by ancient lanes to the north and south both of which peter out into the surrounding fields although the southern lane becomes a path that leads to the neighbouring village of Roke. To the east there are hedgerows, open fields and a view to the Chilterns. The church clock strikes eleven; the sound of horses hooves on the pathway are reflected by the white-washed walls of the timber framed houses to the south; a push-bike is walked across the grass; swifts sound their alarm and chase insects low across the cricket square; a dog walker is disturbed by my presence when I explain that I’m there to record the sound of football pitches not in use:
I just don’t like people standing around doing things like that actually
When looking on aerial maps the goalposts for the currently unused 11-a-side pitch are visible although I couldn’t locate the post holes. There weren’t any teams using the pitch in 2016-2017 although at various times prior to that Warborough & Shillingford FC and Warborough & Cross Keys FC used the pitch. Both teams have now folded as far as I can tell. I have only paid one visit to Warborough so far:
10th July 2017
10.43 : Warborough village green


(steel goalposts for small-sided football viewed from the former site of the 11-a-side pitch)


Jet engines above; distant vibration; frequencies phasing in a slow motion Doppler effect; a fierce babble of birdsong from the hedgerows; a fly passes; shouts of children the wings of passing Wood Pigeons slap together; farm machinery passes on the A 329 beyond the church; horses hooves sound the lane accompanied on the opposite side of the green by a free-wheeling bicycle; the call of Red Kites; passing cars slowly skirting the green are almost inaudible; swallows dive  across the cricket square – their complex multiphonic calls beat against each other; a car door shuts and a wood pigeon is disturbed – flapping ineffectually to gain greater height; collared doves and red kites call simultaneously from opposite sides of the green; another jet – high above the cloud cover makes the air vibrate again – I begin to wonder whether we are ever entirely free of this vibrating presence; the horses hooves on the surface of the lane reflect back off the cottages on the south side of the green; a blackbird starts an alarm call; my ear catches the far distant sound of a train – at least that’s my first instinct – it could be a fast moving truck on the A4074; a trailer rattles; the alarm calls of the blackbird are joined by the high pitched percolating call of the red kite; the two bird calls cease almost simultaneously leaving a space in the soundscape for the occasional calls of swallow and swift; a dog walker approaches; dog panting; the clink of a chain.



(looking west towards the pavilion)


The high-pitched sound of red kite calls counterpoint the slow phasing of aircraft; the sound of football boots being clapped together reflects off the buildings to the south; the flap of pigeon wings and the pointillist babble of birdsong mark the boundaries of the green; the church clock strikes eleven providing respite from the rumble of the vibrating air; the nearby vibrations of a light aircraft are replaced for a moment by the distant rumble of jets – I begin to wonder if the sound is a helicopter rather than a plane but I can’t see the source; a dog barks – just once; as the air traffic recedes the mid-range hiss of the road returns; swifts and swallows continue their brittle song; a distant collared dove calls from the east of the green whilst the sound of rooks arrives from the west; a tractor moves slowly on the A329; birdsong continues to articulate the boundaries of the open space; the clank of a trailer; a car engine – closer now.



While writing this I have just heard that Benjamin Mendy is set to join Manchester City from Monaco for £52M and that Kilian Mbappé may be joining Real Madrid for £161M. Curious to think that the football played on the village green at Warborough over the last hundred years is related to the sport of millionaires; corporate finance; and institutionalised narcissism that saturates the media. Instead of falling victim to the boundless details of the life of modern football I would prefer to take a moment to imagine myself sitting on the green at a future date listening to the calls of players and coaches – put ‘im under; get rid; time; straight back in – reflecting back from the pavilion; the occasional clapping of spectators; the ball striking the crossbar; a dog barking, straining, desperate to chase the football; the green falling back into silence as the players, coaches and spectators disperse; the call of wood pigeons as they return to the centre circle.