17 June 2011


A tear befell many an Albionite's cheek as the final installment of Jack Straw's Falmer Watch was posted on NSC earlier today.  Jack - or Graeme to those that have had the pleasure of meeting him - perhaps didn't realise what he was getting into when he linked the first snaps in early 2009, but in hindsight he has provided a focal point for, arguably, the most documented club stadium development in history.

A testament to the man is his commitment to his calendar project.  At christmas a couple of years ago my Dad remarked on his surprise to find that Graeme personally delivered his copy one evening - and don't forget that a couple of weighty cheques have been sent to the Supporters Club and the Historians Society off the back of those efforts.

At the start of 2011 we interviewed Graeme as part of our Best of 2010 feature in the fanzine, which you can read below.

What is your routine on fridays?

Before I leave work each Thursday, the trusty step-ladder gets loaded in to the Strawmobile. On the way to work each Friday, I pick up a very good colleague of mine and we drive to the junction of Falmer Road and Village Way. I then tour the perimeter of the Amex site on foot with my trusty step-ladder, whilst my colleague takes over the wheels and drives back to Falmer station where I rejoin her after the photographs have been taken. It's then off to work, where during my lunch break, I post the best of the photos on North Stand Chat, along with a bit of text, incorperating something historical which may have happened that week, in order that in years to come, this fact helps people to put in to context when the photos were taken.

At what point did you realise you had to continue taking pictures?

Working opposite the site, whilst all the planning fights were going on, I used to look at the empty field, and promise myself that once permission was granted, I would take photos on a weekly basis, initially just for my benefit. I then thought it would be nice to put these photos on the internet so that far-flung Albion fans could also enjoy what I am very fortunate to be able to witness each week. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would follow this project right through to the end. I'm well known for liking a challenge, and never giving up.

Which time in construction in 2010 was the most impressive in terms of "oh wow, there's actually a stadium now"

There has been several land-mark events in the build, every one significant in its own way, marking the next step on the way to what will be undoubtadly a magnificent piece of archictecture.
  • First, JCBs digging holes and moving soil about.
  • Then the widening of Village Way.
  • The coach park being tarmacced.
  • The blue perimeter hoarding being erected.
  • Chalk rather than soil all over the site.
  • The East Stand steel springing up all of a sudden.
  • The arrival of the first piece of arch.  That's a story all of its own!
  • The demolition of the University of Brighton buildings.
  • The East Stand terracing being cast.
  • The other three stands rising in no time.
  • Possibly the most momentous occasion would be the raising of the arches.
  • Soon after, the temporary arch supports were removed.
  • The cladding and glazing of the West Stand.
  • The new footbridge at Falmer station.
  • Now, the structure is complete, and it's all going mad inside.
  • The next exciting bit will be the pitch area which now ready to receive the root zone soil.
Each of these occasions, so significant and meaning another step completed on the road to Falmer which we started to walk oh so long ago.

How helpful have the club been in assisting your escapades?

Martin Perry has been very helpful by  arranging monthly inside visits for me a few months ago, but unfortunately, these are on hold for the moment due to the intensity of work going on within the stands, but I'm hoping that these will resume sooner rather than later, as photo opportunities from outside are now very limited indeed.

What sort of reaction have you had from fans because of your work?

Fans have posted wonderful messages of thanks and support from day one, and I seem to have built up quite a following.

What's next?

When the stadium is completed, my work will be done, well, perhaps not quite. Most people will know that I, along with my partner in crime Ginger Bob, have produced a couple of calendars these last two years, featuring photos of the build of the stadium.  Even after the stadium is up and running, I will continue to take photos for the rest of this year in order to produce the third and final calendar of the "Jack Straw's American Express Community Stadium Calendar Trilogy". This means that if you have bought all three, you will have a sort of book, documenting the whole of the stadium build from start to fiinish, including the ramp-up events, opening day and beyond. You will even be able to buy a "Box set" in a nice box containing all three calendars. You will also be able to buy any of the three calendars, or/and the box in any combination. We will then be able to make another substantial donation to Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters Club or the Collectors & Historians Society. Yes, then my work will finally be done.

Jack Straw, we salute you.

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