Leeds United and Leeds Playhouse show why fans and audiences are so important - Anthony Clavane

The words lit up in red neon above the doors of the new Leeds Playhouse building perfectly sum up one of this week’s biggest stories: “I get knocked down, but I get up again.”

James Brining outside Leeds Playhouse. (Tony Johnson).

The world-famous lyrics, of course, are from the mighty Chumbawamba’s legendary hit Tubthumping.

The anarcho-punk band have strong local connections and their singer-percussionist Alice Nutter is one of six writers commissioned to create monologues to mark the venue’s 50th anniversary.

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Forced to close its doors last March, the Playhouse has adopted the inspiring mantra to epitomise the way it has bounced back from the pandemic.

It won’t have escaped the attention of its artistic director, James Brining, that this is also a mantra used by football teams to motivate themselves when involved in David and Goliath battles.

Brining, who is a devoted Leeds United supporter, will have been proud of the role Whites fans played earlier this week in the David and Goliath battle framing the narrative of the European Super League scandal.

For those of you inhabiting a different planet to the rest of us, a group of greedy top clubs launched a brutal offensive against all that is good in football (and, indeed, life itself) by attempting to set up a breakaway league.

It would have been a closed shop and produced a mind-bogglingly obscene income stream.

The move provoked a furious response from fans around the world – and the backlash forced the six English clubs involved to perform a humiliating U-turn. The power grab unravelled at a rapid pace and the plan blew up in their greedy faces.

Rejoice. So, what has this got to do with the re-opening of Leeds Playhouse I hear you ask?

Well, on Monday evening, when Marcelo Bielsa’s side ran on to the hallowed Elland Road turf for their warm-up, they were wearing shirts bearing the slogan: “Football is for the fans.”

As I was watching, on the news, hundreds of protesters gathering outside the cantilevered football stadium before the Liverpool game (the Merseysiders were one of the Greedy Six), I also happened to be reading Brining’s encouraging quotes about welcoming people back to his refurbished venue.

Yes James, I thought, how very true: theatre is also nothing without its audiences.

For the past few months I have been watching top matches and top plays on the box. To state the bleeding obvious, it’s just not the same. Streaming sporting and cultural events online is all very well, but there is no atmosphere, passion, engagement.

I cannot wait to get back to Elland Road to see Bielsa’s boys continue their exhilarating journey in the Premier League.

And it will be amazing to go back into the Playhouse, especially as it has undergone a £16 million redevelopment.

Nutter, who along with Simon Armitage, Maxine Peake and three other writers will be showcasing a new drama about Yorkshire life across five decades, told a national newspaper that she and her former bandmates were proud of the I-get-knocked-down-but-I-get-up-again mantra.

“Most of us still live in the city,” she pointed out. “It does represent the resilience of people in Leeds.”

Indeed it does. When I was a sixth-former at Roundhay school, I worked part-time as an usher at the Playhouse. I used to sit in on new plays by northern playwrights such as Alan Bleasdale, Willy Russell and Alan Bennett.

At the weekends, I would stand on the Kop terraces at Elland Road and watch my footballing heroes. The late 1970s and 80s were tough times for the city, but these experiences gave us hope.

Those of us who have a passion for both sport and art know they are not mutually exclusive experiences.

Then, as now, they produce atmosphere, passion, engagement.

As Leeds 2023 chairperson Ruth Pitt, the woman in charge of plans for the city’s year-long cultural celebration, says: “Anyone who doesn’t associate sport with other forms of culture is missing a trick. Leeds now has a Premier League club to put it on the global map and a festival of culture to aid recovery.”

We’ve had our ups and downs but – as the club anthem famously notes – through good times

and bad, we march on together.