Book Review: Northern Monkeys by William Routledge
Northern Monkeys was first published by ThinkMore in 2012 with the limited edition run, selling out. Given this success a second edition was published in 2013 which contained some addition material. This review is based on the latest edition.
If you are looking for a run-of-the-mill football hooligan book with pages dedicated to tales of ‘battles’ on the terraces and high streets of towns and cities up and down the country, then you are going to be sadly disappointed. Instead William Routledge offers the reader a journey which involves football, fashion and music centring on the North West of England.
The journey seeks to define the ‘Northern Monkey’ and their evolution with Routledge going back to the 1870s to look at the Victorian gangs in Manchester and Liverpool to start the story. There is then pretty much a leap to the 1950s as the book goes through the decades up to the present day. Through each passing period, Routledge tells his own story and introduces personal recollections from the people who lived through it. These tales tell of the Teddy Boys, Mods, Skinheads, Punks, Scooter Boys, Soul Boys; their music, their fashion and their mentality. It is also about the cities and towns of the North West itself and stories of nights out in the clubs and pubs of Preston, Blackburn, Blackpool, Wigan, Liverpool, Manchester, Lancaster and Morecambe.
These recollections and those of Routledge himself are the honest reminiscences of those who genuinely experienced the events. Some of the anecdotes are brutal, whilst others are dark, but most are sprinkled with the joy of being alive and living for the moment.
The chapter which most grabbed my attention was that titled Social Entrepreneurship which features interviews with Robert Wade-Smith, Barry Brown and Gary Aspden. These three tell of their success in business associated with the rise of the casuals from the early eighties through to today. The ability of all of these men to see their chance and with a few ups and downs, make it happen was compelling reading.
The excellent writing is supplemented by a range of colour images which enhance this fine publication. These include shots showing the ranges of clothes and trainers of Adidas, Diadora, Fila, and Lacoste etc. to pictures of the author and the contributors in their youth. For readers of a certain age, these images will draw a knowing smile.
Overall this is a wonderful piece of social history, a candid ‘warts and all’ account of life as a ‘Northern Monkey’ through the decades; one which will leave you with a smile as wide as a grinning chimp.