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Good all-rounders, the story of Pacific Cricket Club
Good all-rounders, the story of Pacific Cricket Club
Thu, 11/04/2013 - 12:34
Published:11 April, 2013
by AMY SMITH
IF you believe Hollywood movies, outgoing sporty “jocks” never mix with the introspective record-collecting “musos”.
Go tell that to the Pacific Cricket Club, who brought together record labels and bands in an unofficial sports league. Different music tastes and chart rivalries were laid aside to meet on the Tufnell Park playing fields in the early 1980s.
Peter Hollman was 24 in 1983 and working at Pacific Records, a music distribution company that sold import/export records for “completists”.
The Pacific sales manager Geoff Wilmot had initially formed a football team. They began playing bands including Spandau Ballet, Bow Wow Wow, Jah Wobble, Mark “Bedders” Bedford from Madness, actor Keith Allen, the record companies Stiff, Island, WEA, Rough Trade, and record shops Virgin, HMV and Our Price.
“The music business is quite incestuous,” says Peter. “Everybody seemed to know everybody. And then my manager Geoff said ‘Why not cricket?’ So we would play football in winter and cricket in the summer.”
Peter diplomatically describes the celebrity cricket teams as having “more enthusiasm than skill”.
The Pacific Cricket Club enlisted Nigel Wilkinson, co-owner of nearby Honky Tonk Records, as captain.
Nigel picks up the story. “I bought into Honky Tonk Records as I was living in Fortess Road, Kentish Town, at the time. As well as specialising in punk, soul and reggae in the shop, I also ran a record label with local bands and had a rehearsal studio at the back of the shop.”
“In 1982 we decided to get some of the other regulars together who said they liked cricket to play some friendly games. The first matches were pretty chaotic as we played in Regent’s Park. We never played on a proper pitch, so there were a few injuries and we got changed behind the trees.”
The team began with what Nigel describes as the “old-fashioned amateur ideal” with an inclusive attitude to all players and compares the early team to the punk attitude.
“Some days we were bleedin’ awful like a punk band, but with practice came some improvement, but as long as everyone had had a good time and participated that was the main thing.”
Though Pacific Records folded in 1991 and Honky Tonk Records is no longer running, the Pacific Cricket Club has survived. I suggest to both Nigel and Peter that there may be a link between music and cricket.
“I think that cricket is the most cerebral of sports,” said Nigel. “It has stronger links than most with the arts.
“Of course there are famous examples of artists being linked to cricket, such as Harold Pinter. And I was always amazed how many punk and ‘new wave’ musicians loved cricket.”
Nigel recalls a particularly intimidating match when actor – and talented spin bowler – Peter O’Toole captained the rival team. And both men have fond memories of playing reggae musicians.
“Despite their partaking of naughty cigarettes in the slips, they could certainly play,” remembers Nigel. “They would whistle deliveries down too quick to see, past your head and then whack the bowling to all corners of the ground.”
Peter recalls playing a team made up of members of British reggae group Aswad. “There were only two white guys,” he said. “One was their manager and the other was the record company’s post boy.
The band members hardly moved they were so relaxed. They would always send the post boy to go and field the balls.”
When Peter first starting working at Pacific Records he was shocked that the staff bonded over sport. “It seemed completely natural that people would come in and talk about sport. Yet when I went to New Zealand, sport and music were two completely different cultures. Over there music fans disassociate themselves from the sport fans who are seen as macho, misogynistic and too male-centric. But in England it’s different. Maybe it’s an English or a London thing.”
The club began to develop and despite still playing without a proper home they were asked to play in a number of leagues.
“We brought in a few good players and between 1984-1986, we were unbeaten,” says Peter. “We used to play Arsenal in the Islington Cricket League, I’ve still got the letter inviting me to play for Arsenal on their cricket tour.”
The team now plays in the Middlesex and Essex Invitation League. And while they are good-natured, the matches are fiercely competitive.
“Our longest running rival is Washington, a pub team from Belsize Park,” said Peter. “We’ve had some great tussles.”
The team has since had to contend with a different battle – that of trying to find a permanent home. After the council decided to dedicate Tufnell Park playing fields entirely to football, the team agreed to move onto Wray Crescent, Islington’s last remaining cricket pitch.
However, play was suspended at the Finsbury Park ground in 2011 due to health and safety concerns that centred around a resident’s Porsche.
Thankfully, a successful campaign saw the ban lifted and in January this year the council announced they will be installing a new practice net with an AstroTurf surface at Wray Crescent in time for the beginning of the season.
Hopefully this good luck will continue: Pacific finished in second place last year and are hoping to top the league when the season begins in April, especially as it’s the club’s 30th anniversary.
• If you are interested in playing for the team, email Peter Hollman at [email protected]