A brilliant new feature-length documentary, Memory Lane has been produced, designed to educate people about Tottenham Hotspur’s past and inspire young people about its future. All proceeds will be donated to the Exposure charity. It’s released at a time when the spiritual home of Spurs faces demolition, making way for a modern new stadium.
This is a must see for all Tottenham enthusiasts, football enthusiasts, history enthusiasts and anyone else who’s interested in the story of Tottenham Hotspur, wherever you live and whichever team you support.
I am a young person who lives in Tottenham. I’m not a football fan so most of the football references in this film flew over my head like a ball in an open goal.
However, living there, you literally cannot miss the massive stadium, the amount of traffic and parking restrictions when a match is on, the cheers of the fans, and the singing through the streets at night when they win.
I was excited for the release of Memory Lane – I wanted to find out what Tottenham Hotspur had been like in the past, and how it became the successful club it is today.
Overlaying many of the montages in Memory Lane are the melodious tones of ‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory’ and ‘Oh When the Spurs Go Marching in’, songs often sung by groups of Tottenham fans.
I found that I could recognise many of the shots in this film, from the marshes where the club started out, to Tottenham High Road where it is established today.
The film also includes real newspapers from important times in Tottenham’s past, juxtaposed alongside interviews with historical experts, writers, football legend Micky Hazard and, most importantly, passionate supporters of Tottenham today.
The club was started in 1882 by a group of young grammar school students. The film suggests that these young lads did so for something to do in the winter; however this group of young people created something amazing: a football club that would become Tottenham Hotspur, whose fame eventually spread worldwide. (This goes to show that young people in Tottenham have always been smart and creative, from back in 1882, all the way up to today!)
These ‘grammar school lads’ named their team after Sir Henry Percy, a soldier in the 14th century, whose bravery in battle had earned him the nickname Harry Hotspur. The name Tottenham was soon added to avoid confusion with another team. Soon, Tottenham Hotspur also gained the affectionate nickname Spurs. I’d always wondered where they got the name from!
The canal and marshes by the River Lea, where I used to cycle with my family, was the first football ‘ground’ of Tottenham Hotspur. This originally small team grew more and more popular – so much so that as many as 14,000 people came to see the games! In 1888 the club had to expand and eventually moved to its current home at White Hart Lane.
Its famous emblem, a cockerel, which still perches proudly on top of the main stand, was made by an ex-player – showing he wanted to give something back.
One of the famous footballers of the past was Walter Tull. Walter was the first outfield black footballer in Division 1, having great success on the pitch despite the racist calls of an uncaring audience.
In 1935 Germany played against England at White Hart Lane. However this was Germany under the Nazis – they put up the swastika flag on the roof of the stadium. The large Jewish community in Tottenham at the time were already discriminated against by some right-wing groups. However, a photo in the film shows one young man climbing up to pull down the Nazi flag.
Controversially, opponents later began to call Tottenham fans ‘yids’, a derogatory term for people who were Jewish. However, to get back at this horrible use of a racist word, the Tottenham fans began to change the meaning, using it in a positive way to reflect that it didn’t affect them, and they could rise above petty hatred.
But Tottenham Hotspur would face its biggest opponent yet, not another football team but the threat of moving. Yes, Tottenham Hotspur almost wouldn’t have been in Tottenham at all!
I’m guessing you remember the Olympic Games – you might also remember the idea that Spurs’s owners had, to move the club to the Olympic stadium in Stratford, after the Games were over.
People in Tottenham began to campaign on the streets for the club to stay right where it was – for them, moving the stadium away didn’t just mean a business deal. It wasn’t about having to potentially rename the club (Stratford Hotspur, anyone?). It wasn’t even about people having to drive longer hours to get to Stratford. It meant Tottenham’s football club was putting its own business before hundreds and thousands of fans, and wanting to move for its own profit.
Spurs legend Micky Hazard explains, “They were leaving, and taking away people’s lives and people’s memories.”
Memories are incredibly important to many people. As one interviewee and die-hard Spurs fan put it, “It’s not just the physical… the actual High Road… It’s all the times you’ve done it before… It’s a memory maker place…”
And then… something happened.
Namely the riots of August 2011, in which many of my favourite High Street shops were smashed and had to relocate, and even the towering CarpetRight building was burnt to the ground. I remember watching it on the news, thinking, “How could this happen in my area?’”
Luckily, so did thousands of other people. They began to clean up Tottenham and called for regeneration in the ‘I Love Tottenham’ campaign.
It was then that central government, London government and local government encouraged the club to abandon the plan to move away from Tottenham – I think because a rich, important club in Tottenham meant there was a reason to regenerate this area.
If Tottenham Hotspur football club had moved, then perhaps less money would’ve been given to the Tottenham regeneration that is continuing and succeeding today. The film deals with this sensitively and, mostly importantly, portrays people’s hopes for the future.
The best thing about this film is the sense of pride that Tottenham Hotspur fans had. I found it horrifying that Tottenham and its football team have faced so much unneeded discrimination, from football rivalries to racism.
However, every time they rose above this, and every time the fans showed the world the real Tottenham Hotspur, and the real Tottenham.
As the film’s narrator says, “We know what it means to be Tottenham,” in every sense of the phrase. I feel this as a young person, who is proud to be from Tottenham.
At the end of Memory Lane, the solidarity, the memories and, most importantly, the community of Tottenham Hotspur is illustrated with a chorus of ‘Oh When the Spurs Go Marching in’ by everyone interviewed.
Even if you don’t support Tottenham, I would encourage you to watch Memory Lane to learn about the real story behind my area and the football club of Tottenham Hotspur.
See the amazing trailer below, featuring ex-footballer Micky Hazard:
You can access the film and make a donation to Exposure from The Fighting Cock, who supported the making of the film.