The best seat in the ground

18th July 1997 at 01:00
The Homes of Football. Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, until August 16.

Museum curators are fond of saying that exhibitions can be enjoyed by the whole family. But that often inaccurate claim really is applicable to The Homes of Football.

This colourful touring show kicked off in England in 1991, when it consisted mainly of 120 large, beautiful colour photographs by Stuart Clarke, whose speciality is not glamour shots of Gazza and the like but studies of life in and around football grounds: the fans, the hamburger stalls, the stadium architecture.

Since then, the exhibition has grown to incorporate 20 life-size papier-mache figures (including a hapless ref, a flying footballer and a drunken fan enjoying a post-match supper of hot dog and chips), displays of local and national memorabilia, football strips, banners and flags, a Manchester United turnstile, and table football and Subbuteo sets that you can play.

As the official photographer for the UK Football Trust, Clarke has visited virtually every football ground in the British Isles at least once - and he's got 60,000 pictures to prove it.

This means he can tailor each show to its venue. So for the Paisley exhibition (a 50th outing for The Homes of Football), pictures of Love Street stadium - home of St Mirren - are to the fore along with displays of local memorabilia and match reports.

Clarke has also recreated the brick walls of Love Street itself, which are being professionally "graffitied'' with comments written up in the visitors' book during the course of the show.

Another unusual touch is the addition of a papier-mache figure of Jim Morrison, the late and still much lamented lead singer of The Doors. What is the connection with Paisley? Morrison, Clarke points out, wrote a song called "Love Street'', which includes the obscure phrase, "There's a store where creatures meet'' - and that's what St Mirren fans chose to call their fanzine (now also late and lamented).

"For me, that's what's so great about this exhibition,'' says Clarke, who used to be able to mount the show by himself but now needs a team of 10 part-time helpers. "It changes every time we put it up, so I never get bored."

A loyal supporter of his local team (Coniston in the Lake District - he actually played a season with them), Clarke admits he has what must be one of the best jobs in the world, combining, as it does, his three loves: photography, travel and football.

The exhibition is free and open Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm. For further information, tel: 0141 889 3151. An illustrated catalogue is available, priced Pounds 9.99.

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