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A Storm in a Pint Glass

Back in 1990, the Independent newspaper in its weekend edition, took the pictures of a local photographer by the name of Dave Wise and featured them in a biting article about the Headland being full of hard cases and alcoholics. Poor old David by the sounds of it was an unwitting participant in some pretty monumental shit stirring. Now speaking for meself like, I haven't got a virgin in the Gemini ideas of how they managed to come to such a conclusion. Dave Wise, Local PhotographerI regularly see residents of the Headland eating continental breakfasts on a morning on their verandas prior to embarking on invigorating runs along the North Sands past the Steetley before venturing off to one of the numerous cafe bars to meet up with other like minded people. I've never seen the pubs on the Headland busy at all. Alcohol is not an industry in Hartlepool, the idea would never catch on. Bollocks .Since the publication of the article there has been a massive explosion of drinking establishments in Hartlepool which are sustained not just by the locals but also by the residents of all the small satellite towns and villages. Hartlepool is definitely a great place to get wazzed on a budget. Alcohol without a doubt constitutes a large part of Hartlepool's social fabric but we don't need a southern get on a two day visit to conclude that we are a load of alcoholics and then duly report it from a nation wide platform such as a national newspaper.

People who live up the Headland and for the matter the rest of Hartlepool are passionate about their town and don't like public school southern wosses bad mouthing it.  Now I'm not going to say that what was printed in the Independent was accurate, far from it, but I've lived in the South of England and there is a marked contrast between the way we enjoy ourselves up North and the rather pedestrian idea of a night out down South. By our very nature, us Northerners sometimes take our enjoyment to the extreme, and I think that this was severely misinterpreted by the author, Graham Coster. Well anyhow that's enough of me talking crap,  I'll let our friend Mr Coster's arse do it instead.  I've done some research and dug out a lot of the articles that were printed about the time including the original Independent article that resulted in the shit hitting the fan. All the authors are recognised whenever possible.


The Original Independent Article by Graham Coster

Drinking hours on Hartlepool's Headland are not the same as licensing hours.

The local pubs have to lock their doors at 11 on a Saturday night -- but it you're lucky, you'll find one where you can stay on inside till four in the morning.

Sunday opening isn't till 12. 80 you drop in to the corner shop at ten and get a couple of two-litre plastic bottles of cider (at this time in the morning you have to ask for some "green milk", and take them round to Tony's house.

Today begins with a fight, and it'll end in one. At Tony's everyone is eager for the video of Tyson versus Douglas, taped from the small hours. Sensationally, the invincible champion has been nailed in the tenth round. The bad news is, Geordie who'd set the timer to record it hadn't expected the challenger to last more than two. We sit around the TV working our way through all the cider and watch the tape run out at the end of the seventh.

Even if you hadn't been planning to hit  the Middlesborough Tavern at lunch time you've got to now, because they'll have the fight on too. Sunday's pre-liquid-lunch drinks  at Tony's are an embattled tradition. Since the licensing laws were relaxed there's less reason not to do most  of your drinking in the pub. No chance of an afternoon lock-in these days -- once you're in the bar at 11 on a weekday morning you can stay there. Formerly you'd order four pints of  ale just last orders rang, stow them on the shelf underneath your table, and if you manipulated them subtly there'd always be just the one in front of you for hours ahead if ever the police came by. When you eventually got thrown out, you'd take a bunch of people back home and set about the crate of Newcastle Brown. Liberalized opening hours, everyone has ruefully agreed, have taken the challenge out of drinking: when it was harder to drink, you tried harder, and drank harder.

Hard: in this part of Hartlepool the word is on everyone's lips. The etymology is complex; usage is measured and equal to its subject. It is spoken neither in braggadocio nor in irony. Here it has nothing to do with taking a Stanley knife to Millwall matches. "Hard men" are strong men -- because their work in oil rig construction or North Sea fishing is exhausting physical labour - who in their free time play hard, which mostly means mighty drinking. "Hard woman" means her man has knocked her about: she's had a tough time, and is now necessarily hardened to it. (Among the endless round of bar propping stories, I heard one about a local woman who'd put a man in intensive care by burying her stiletto heel in his skull). Hard means difficult, intense, determined, proud, emboldened, and often pitiless.

The Headland is the hardest part of Hartlepool. Out at the end of a single arterial road, enclosed by a steep concrete battlement and, beyond that, by a sea of crashing waves, it has been insulated from success and change. It has not begun to become multi-ethnic.

 Independant Front PageThe Headland has lost all but one of its banks, and gained some old people's flats and nursing homes. Apart from the fishing and the rigging, work for the men is likely to be contract construction labour down in London for a fortnight at a time; there is nothing much else. People don't move in, or move away. Everyone in the small community knows everyone else's business. Several people told me that the Headland was nicknamed "Little Chicago." Because there is nowhere else to go but the pub, that is where everything that happens is registered and has its temperature taken. A weekend is restless itinerary: leaving one pub for another to meet someone there, then on after a few drinks to a third to avoid someone else, before returning to the first.

 For those without work, caged lions after, another week's idleness, spent mostly in the pub, the weekend will be exactly the same as any other time, but can be harder, more intense. For others it is a complex chess game of rendezvous with friends or reconnaissance of enemies. You can't get away from anyone. And if you're going to spend that long in the pub you'll end up having a skinful. But never mind the Alexandria Quartet; here is classical concision. At the end of Saturday night and a great number of rum toddles in the Fleece, Geordie defined life on the Headland for me: "Get drunk, get fucked,  don't give a shit, and get locked up.' That was an evening that had ended in mellow, dreamy sozzlement -- people comically, absurdly drunk, prancing and moueing to Engelbert Humperdinck on the juke-box, spilling their beer so it leaked off tables into women's handbags.

 The drink itself brings chance, literalises all the clichés: a surrender to emotion, taking you out of yourself, the feeling that anything can happen -- letting the glass think for you. This night turned out a good one.

Back to the Middlesborough on Sunday morning for the Tyson fight: professionalised aggression -- two men who had trained and planned and anticipated doing just that now. We all sat round and marvelled as, from the first bell, Douglas took the fight to Tyson as no-one had ever done, and used his reach, and thumped in a punch every round that slowed the champion down, and both of them knew, soberly and seriously, exactly what they were doing, even Tyson as he was inexorably losing.

 Eleven hours on, and late again in the Fleece, a thin, wary man all of a sudden slammed his glass down with a heavy slop, and harangued two women who hadn't said a word to him all evening, saying something about being "fucked off with you" and "had it up here to here." Then one of the women was screaming abuse at him, and straining to fly at him, and the thin man was demanding that the other woman's husband sup his beer up and come outside right now. Back home we all waited, and soon the husband came back in tears, his hands covered in blood.

 The next morning in the paper shop a dignified elderly man in front of me was jabbing at his Daily Star and leading off about Nelson Mandela. "I was watching them on TV," the man was saying, "down on Trafalgar Square, drinking bottles of champagne to him" -- he was sadly indignant -- "and there's us up here without even the pride of a pint.'

Copyright The Independent.

Come Back Graham We'd All Love to See You Again

Something tells me that Graham darling will not be visiting the Headland again in a hurry lest one of the friendly locals buy him a pint for painting such a whiter than white picture of our beloved Headland. Following is a series of articles that followed up the initial publication of the above article.

Mail Comment Saturday March 31 1990

Vendetta goes on

The  Independent Magazine's vendetta against Hartlepool continued today with a vitriolic attack on the Mail's coverage of the controversy.

It comes as no surprise to us that the Independent, rather than redress the balance, has chosen to once more stick the knife in Hartlepool and its people and we are at loss to find a motive for another departure from fair and accurate reporting.

A pissed up bewerIt is ironic that a quality newspaper which prides itself on balanced reporting would criticize a newspaper like the Sun or Daily Mirror for doing the sort of hatchet job the Independent has done on Hartlepool.

 But the Independent decision makers have hardly chanced their arm with their precious circulation. The paper sells only a handful of copies in Hartlepool so anything insulting they rely about the town is hardly likely to result in a downturn in sales.

 In a leading article in today's magazine, the editor blithely states that "the evidence of Mr. Wise's photographs alone would seem to suggest that is  something  of a  drinking  problem there." The stupidity of such a remark defies logic. By carrying the same perverted logic forward, would pictures of a few people from Basingstoke injecting  themselves with heroin induce the editor of the magazine to assert that the town had a serious drugs problem.

The attack on Hartlepool by the  Independent only serves to show that they can be as biased, unfair, damaging and stupid as the tabloid gutter press they despise so much.

The magazine's assertion last week that Hartlepool was "the town where drink is king" was ignorant and unfair. Today's hysterical attack seems to prove that its editorial policy is both arrogant and stubborn.

On the right is an article printed in the Hartlepool Mail with poor old Davy Wise who tries to explain  why he took a load of pictures of people off their trolleys in various pubs up the Headland and then sold them to the Independent for a few bob.
Take it away Dave. 


This article was printed in the Hartlepool Mail and was sent in by one of the readers who, in the great tradition of preserving anonymity, signed it it "A Former Headlander Who Would Like To Live There Again". This was featured in the Letters to the Editor. 
 In this article Mr Mandelson gets a little annoyed and gives the Independent a slap on the wrist for being so naughty.    
Featured in a one page spread in the Hartlepool Mail, this article expresses our Labour Leaders disgust at the slurs cast against the town. Apparently he was going to demand that the Independent publishes an article highlighting the positive side of the town. Instead he decided to mastermind the downfall of the fascist Tory regime. 
This article was sent in by an exiled Hartlepudlian now living in Glasgow. Within the article, he explains that residents of the Headland should be caged in and fed bananas. 
Darts Captain writes that the Headland folk are indeed fine folk and that they do not drink in the pubs up there but instead do charity work.    
This article was written by the deputy sports editor at the time Richard Coomber, a southerner by birth and yet slightly put out by the article that was published in the Independent.
This is a report published in the Hartlepool Mail on the 26th of March 1990 by Carol Malia which contains the opinions of the locals with regard to the Independent article.
This article published in the Hartlepool Mail on March 31st 1990, was a letter originally sent into the paper by a resident of West View. Poor old Ernest is not quite sure of what to make of Mr Wise so has a go at him anyhow.    
This article was sent into the Hartlepool Mail by a resident of Marine Crescent up on the Headland in defence of her local community.     
This is an article published in the Hartlepool Mail on the 27th of March 1990 by Margaret O'Rourke. It's an interview with Dave Wise once again defending himself. 

 Ian Smith