Forest and County fans joining forces to archive Nottingham’s football fanzine heritage

A new National Lottery Heritage Fund project will establish a digital archive of two of the city’s original fanzines, The Pie and The Almighty Brian

By Julian McDougall

26 April 2024

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting a new project led by the monthly Nottingham arts and culture magazine LeftLion, who are curating a digital archive of the two original Nottingham fanzines: County’s The Pie, launched in 1987, and Forest’s The Almighty Brian, born a year later. The former published 87 copies between 1987 and 2009, while Brian spanned 48 issues from 1988 to 1995.

The project will establish a free online archive of both titles, together with holding a series of events celebrating the genre and producing a documentary featuring interviews with contributors and scenes of the people who created the two titles meeting up again some three and a half decades later at Meadow Lane and the City Ground. There will also be a digital archiving resource so more of the original zines can follow suit.

Jim Cooke, who co-founded the County fanzine and sold it in the record store he ran, Selectadisc, remembers: “When we first started The Pie, the majority of the media were portraying us all as hooligans. We just wanted to communicate with each other and show that we were ordinary decent people who loved our football club. Also, most football matchday programmes were pretty bland and we thought we could liven things up a bit.”

His counterpart at Brian, Julie Pritchard, shares these sentiments. “Fanzines became a key factor in clubs and media finally seeing football fans as human rather than yobs to be kettled and truncheoned. I started Brian because no one else had done one. I’d been waiting, ever since I first picked up some copies of When Saturday Comes and Off The Ball, hoping that someone would want to write about the glorious enigma of Brian Rice and the correct pronunciation of Kjetil Osvald.”

The project remembers the analogue times in which fanzines were produced and circulated, documenting them not only for nostalgia and education but also to observe the trajectory to the wide variety of fan podcasts and social media networks which are now part of football culture. These early club fanzines occupied the space between the corporate world of the programme and the culture between fans. The more political aspects – where fanzines combined with protest – got some zines banned from club shops, so a purchase from the streets around the stadium would become a kind of activist gesture. Looking back at the archives, The Pie and Brian were mostly on good terms with the clubs. Neil Warnock was interviewed when he took over at Meadow Lane and Brian Clough himself was pictured with a copy of Brian.

Both zines lasted for as long as the circumstances, resources and energy of their producers allowed and, since both were sold out of Selectadisc, the impact of the internet was even greater, as it led to the demise of record shops. Not only did online fan forums appear, but also the culture around buying fanzines and music together was no more. The shop closed in the same year that The Pie’s last issue was published.

The digital archives of both fanzines will be launched in May at and All back issues will be free to view and will also be submitted to the British Library and the University of Nottingham Library’s digital catalogues.

The zines’ creators share enthusiasm at the interest in what they achieved. “After all this time it will be great to be leaving some sort of legacy other than in boxes in people’s attics dying of rusty staple blight,” says Pritchard. “We have a rich and diverse football fan culture and the archive will allow folk to take a deep dive into Nottingham football history.”

Cooke agrees: “It will be great to see our stuff out there to show people what the spirit of the time was and as it all pre-dates social media and the internet. It might also show what a physical effort it was to put an issue out as we all had full-time jobs and used whatever money we accumulated by selling The Pie to put back into the club.”

The project, led by Jared Wilson, will also include the creation of some free resources showing how to digitally archive a fanzine to a library standard. The films will be premiered at the Celebration of Nottingham Football Fanzines event at the Metronome venue in Nottingham on May 23 and hosted on both fanzine websites afterwards.

This article first appeared in WSC 442, May 2024. Subscribers get free access to the complete WSC digital archive

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