Project image for A Labour of Love - The Craftsman of the Kop

I am very excited to announce that I am now taking pre-orders for my book – A Labour of Love – The Craftsman of the Kop.

With your help, I hope to bring this work to a wider audience by funding half of the initial publishing costs for the first 800 copies. I will be funding the remainder. Publishing has been arranged with Merseyside publishers Newhall Publishing.

The best way to think of this fundraiser is as an exclusive pre-sale – if you contribute just £12, you will receive an author-signed first edition of the book on launch, and if you contribute a little more, you could also receive a handwritten dedication and/or invitations to the book launch event in Liverpool in 2022. There will be four Kickstarter rewards available for contributors:

  • £12 will ensure an author-signed first edition of the book shortly after launch.
  • £15 will ensure an author-signed first edition of the book with handwritten, personal dedication shortly after launch.
  • £20 will ensure an author-signed first edition of the book and an invitation to the launch event, to be held in Liverpool in early 2022.
  • £40 will buy the deluxe double-package – two signed copies of the book with handwritten dedications, along with a pair of invitations to the launch event and a digital PDF copy of the book in advance of launch – so you can read it on your iPad or tablet device.

My work has been featured several times in the Liverpool Echo and on well-known Liverpool fan sites and podcasts, such as This Is Anfield,RedAndWhiteKop and LFC Daytrippers.  A love-letter to my football club; a book about sport and passion; a practical guide to crafting; and the story of how my pastime picked me up from the darkest of places – I believe there is a ready market for my book, and I hope to be able to share it with as many supporters of the Reds as I possibly can, not only in Merseyside, but around the world.

The cover of the book
The cover of the book

The content of the book is best summarised in this short extract from the beginning of the work:

A word from the author

At the start of 2020, I could not possibly have foreseen that, in a few months time, I would be creating my own part-time business. I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I would have written a book about it. It’s all something I’ve fallen into almost by accident, but so far, touch wood, it seems to be going pretty well.

In 2016 (at the age of 38), I was in the shape of my life. Recently married to the woman of my dreams, I was running half marathons every Sunday and a couple of 10K runs in the week, gym three times a week – I felt absolutely great. Out of the blue, I then suffered a serious back injury (triple lumbar disc herniation) that began a spiral into chronic pain, and eventually left me unable to exercise at all and hobbling around with a walking stick.

Coupled with a painful tragedy in my personal life in 2018, coping becoming a new dad in December 2019, and dealing with a stressful career (I teach French and Latin in a secondary school on the Wirral), this took a toll on my mental health, and in January of 2020, I hit breaking point, stumbling and falling headlong into the fog of depression, unable to do my job effectively. Naturally, the Covid-19 pandemic, which followed in quick succession barely a month later, only served to shine a spotlight on my problems.

The back of the book and accompanying blurb.
The back of the book and accompanying blurb.

At the same time as all these challenges arose in my life, my coping mechanism – running, which had allowed me to decompress whenever I needed – had been cruelly snatched away. My other great release – going to games at Anfield to sing my heart out – had also disappeared out of the blue. I desperately needed a new focus and something to distract me from pain in the evenings (when it was generally at its worst).

A conversation with a counsellor got me thinking about ways I had successfully done this in the past, and it was at this point that my banner-making occurred to me. I have followed Liverpool all my life, and have been a regular match-goer for over 20 years. I had created several banners in this time, progressing from paint on a red sheet, produced during the Houllier years and reading La Machine Rouge en pleine force, to my first stitched banner, Our Lads Have Come From All Over The Place, in 2005. More recently, I made my Deus Nobis Haec Otia Fecit banner in the summer of 2019 (my first for several years) and found that I could really get lost in the focus on the task – a little like how I used to be able to zone out when running. Perhaps this could be part of the answer to my difficulties?

But bannering is not a cheap hobby, with each one costing up to £120 in materials and sewing costs. It wasn’t a hobby I could afford unless I looked into ways of making it pay for itself – so I started putting myself ‘out there’ a bit (on RedAndWhiteKop.com and on Instagram, where I had ‘met’ – we still haven’t actually met – the inspiring and supremely talented Emma Norbury) and seeing if there was a market for my work.

It turns out there was, and from my first commission, I have since taken on a further 50 (as of July 2021), with around 40 more names on my waiting list. The timing was perfect – when we had the best team for a generation, dominating the league – and lockdown had suddenly snatched football away. Lots of Reds wanted to get ready for when the football – and number 19 – finally came home to Anfield, and my old-fashioned, premium approach seemed to hit a gap in the market.

In the meantime, I also built my own website – handmadebanners.co.uk – to showcase my work (learning some new IT skills in the process) and began to build a loyal and enthusiastic following on social media.

My reasons for writing this book are two-fold – to explain my processes to those who would like to take on the challenge of making a banner for themselves, and to tell the stories behind the banners and the loyal Reds who commissioned them.

As one year began, I had no idea that I would start the next with a blossoming side-business. Another year on, I have no idea quite where this journey may lead me, but I am certainly enjoying it at the moment – I have come to treasure those couple of hours each evening when my school marking is all done, my baby daughter is in bed, and I can lose myself in my crafting.

So to all those who have commissioned a banner, to those who have cheered me on from the side-lines, and to all those who have helped to fund this book to bring my work to a wider public, thank you. It means more to me than you will ever know.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

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