Utopia for Charles is ‘Behind the Mic’

Utopia for Charles is ‘Behind the Mic’
Charles McGuigan with his art project

A BA Art and Design student and avid football fan has used a course project to collect photographs and interviews of Scotland’s top sports reporters and commentators.

Now Charles McGuigan (55) from Stirling, is looking forward to expand his creative project and find a space to exhibit his work, and show the football loving Scottish public just what the top sports journalists think are the best football players the country has ever produced.

He has snared the opinions and portraits of football writing luminaries such as Chick Young, Hugh Keevins, Archie MacPherson, Graham Spiers and Tom English!

Charles – whose creative specialism is photography on his Forth Valley College course - was given four words by his lecturers and asked to choose one. He chose ‘Utopia’ and came up with the concept of ‘Behind the Mic’, where he would attempt to interview Scotland’s top sports reporters, and ask them to name their best Scotland football XI ever. He would also take their photograph to make the exhibit complete.

The fact that the retired Finance Manager is a devoted football fan, inspired him, as this project was his own idea of ‘Utopia’.

Charles, said: “There aren’t many of my classmates and lecturers who are football fans, and I received some blank looks when I suggested my idea. But when I look, listen and read these sports reporters talking about football for a living, that has to be my idea of the best job in the world!

“So ‘Behind the Mic’ for me would be as close as I could get to Utopia by interviewing and photographing these guys, and asking them all to name their best ever Scottish XI.

“I must have sent out 50 handwritten letters to as many sports journalists from print and broadcast media as I could think of. I thought no one receives handwritten letters these days, so that would be an added quirky foot in the door to get a response. However, I only received one reply… and that was from the very well-known BBC reporter Chick Young.

“He e-mailed me back and we arranged to meet in Paisley as he is a massive St Mirren fan. I got a great photo of him in Brown Lane where there is a mural of the 1987 Scottish Cup Winning St Mirren team. He was absolutely brilliant and very interested in what I was trying to do, so we went to a café where we chatted for hours, with him answering all my questions.

“Chick was great and helped put me in touch with his colleagues and things started to snowball quickly. Next up was Tom English, who invited me into the BBC to have a chat. Before I knew it I had a 5-a-side team of journalists who had all agreed to have their photo taken and to give me their best Scottish team.

“This then turned into a squad of 14, which formed the full basis of my course project and more than enough for me to complete by exhibition piece and these included high profile people such as Leanne Crichton, Gordon Duncan and Mark Wilson. It really was fascinating to hear what all these top football people thought about the game and to hear what their best Scottish XI was. There were some surprises, but a lot of the same names were cropping up along the way.”

Charles, is now very keen to take his exhibition a stage further, interview more football reporters and pundits such as James McFadden, Michael Stewart and Neil McCann, and maybe find a literary agent and a publisher to turn his project into a book for sale to the Scottish public.

He added: “After I retired from finance my wife suggested I apply to the College as I had always enjoyed photography. I did and could not believe that I was accepted onto the BA Art and Design course.

“I love the course and would recommend the College to anyone. It is such a friendly atmosphere and the support you get from lecturers and other staff is amazing.

“The College has given me the confidence and the opportunity to go and try creative things like ‘Behind the Mic’ and I am so grateful for that.”

If any venue would like to offer Charles exhibition space for his ‘Behind the Mic’ artwork project, they can contact him by emailing Charles.mcguigan@hotmail.co.uk

 The full list of sports journalists photographed and interviewed by Charles:

  1. Tom English
  2. Chick Young
  3. Jonny McFarlane
  4. Laurie Finlayson (student at City of Glasgow College)
  5. David McKinney (lecturer at City of Glasgow College who used to be a reporter.)
  6. Adam Binnie (Works for PLZ Soccer)
  7. Hugh Keevins 
  8. Gordon Duncan (Host of Radio Clyde Football Phone-in)
  9. Mark Wilson  (ex-Celtic and Scotland defender)
  10. Archie MacPherson
  11. Leanne Crichton
  12. Graham Spiers
  13. Kerry Pollock (Works for PLZ Soccer)
  14. Roddy Forsyth (BBC Radio 5)
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