‘We’ve actually got a fire in the stand on the far side of the ground. And that looks very nasty indeed.’ John Helm while commentating on the Bradford City v Lincoln City game, 11th May 1985.
Nasty it was: 56 people died. The Bradford City fire was one of numerous stadium disasters that ushered in the new football stadiums of England and elsewhere from the 1990s onward. And now, in these contemporary all-seaters, expensively-priced, highly-corporatised and tightly-controlled stadiums fans often long romantically for the stadiums of old.
One of the Bradford City fans caught in the fire that day was Paul Town who was watching the game with his father. Paul, a life-long Bradford City fan, these days, paints stadiums. His paintings chronicle architecture, everyday urban life, and northern-English landscapes. He paints from the view of a football fan, who is aware of both the joys and horrors of the old stadiums, already lost. He writes:
“The old timber stands and terraces and been replaced by a mass of concrete, steel and plastic. Whilst we all agree, its safety first, many modern stadiums lack the character of the old. If it wasn’t for the clubs name emblazoned across the shiny coloured plastic seating, it would be difficult to tell the difference between so many of the stadiums we see today.”