Local media personality, respected author, cult online celebrity, modern media trail blazer… and Morrissey foot soldier. Dickie Felton is a charming man throwing his arms around Crosby – when he’s not perusing the charity shops of Liverpool or in training for his next half marathon, that is. He can also be found, on social media and in print, talking about his musical hero or championing the rights of the modern day football fan.
Prior to the autumn 2016 launch of his latest venture – Charming Man PR (what else?) – we asked the self-modeled modern media mogul about the direction he feels the media is heading in, his thoughts on footy and music and what he expects to see in the futures of Marine, Morrissey and Merseyside…
You have worked within media and marketing for years – how do you view the roles of both in Liverpool?
I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I was a reporter for five years and then I jumped ship into PR 15 years ago. The media landscape has completely changed since I worked on the Liverpool ECHO and the long-lost Liverpool Daily Post. I started in a different era… stories were mostly gleaned from the pub! Now they almost always come from social media… I still love the ECHO and read it religiously.
Yes, it’s a massive supporter of the city and some of the reporting remains top class – the coverage of the Hillsborough inquests has been outstanding, for example. The local news agenda has changed, though. Take the Grand National for instance – I used to cover it for both papers and I wrote a front page story about the death of three horses in 2000… fast-forward 16 years and horses are still dying at Aintree, yet it barely gets a mention. Instead, we have 25 pages on Colleen Rooney’s tan… the world has gone showbiz mad to the detriment of real news.
I always feel you can measure a Scouser’s love for this city by their relationship with the ECHO…
When I was at National Museums Liverpool, we were always thrilled to get our exhibitions in the paper and I’ve kept some cuttings from when I was a reporter…
You remain involved and interested in the local media, but things are changing aren’t they?
Radio Merseyside continues to thrive and is the biggest listened to regional station outside of London. But, nowadays, there is so much good critical writing out there that people can turn to independent sources for their fill of football or news or whatever. Take the success of LFC fan blog, The Anfield Wrap: they write about key issues the fans want to read about. This site, too, could eventually become a big player on the regional media landscape.
Cheers, Dickie. The media game has changed forever, we agree.
I was talking to a sports journalist on a top regional evening paper the other week and he was discussing being dissuaded by his news desk from writing an in-depth piece on a top football club’s defensive frailties, as they told him he should be writing about a player’s birthday cake that had just been posted on Instagram! More hits on the website…
The tail wags the dog?
Well, when I’m doing freelance PR work, I always tell companies that they can become the media themselves – yes, it’s important to be covered by the ECHO and Radio Merseyside, but it’s equally vital for you to be blogging and developing your own content, such as little videos or great images. Companies need to be telling their story through their own social media channels – as long as the content is relevant, interesting and entertaining, you will find an audience for it.
That’s good advice. Tell us more about the experience you’ve gathered to lead to your own PR firm.
I was communications manager at National Museums Liverpool for five years and that was lots of fun. I started off as a reporter for the ECHO about three million years ago and seemed to spend every day covering inquests, murder trials or fatal road accidents – it became rather depressing after a while. So, for the last 15 years , I’ve worked in PR, doing things like being a spokesman for Keep Britain Tidy (appearing on TV to talk about glamorous things like dog dirt and postmen dropping red rubber bands). I also do some communications work for the NHS, lecture part-time in PR and lots of freelance work.
You’ve written two books. Tell us about the first one: ‘The Day I Met Morrissey’…
It did quite well: Waterstones had it in its ‘Most Recommended’ sections and they sell it in some places around the world – Amoeba Records in Los Angeles sells it. Bizarrely, I sell quite a few in Croatia, too! Liverpool author Kevin Sampson said some nice things about it… I was made-up with that, as I’m a great fan of his work.
And the man himself, Steven Patrick?
I’ve met him several times and he’s always been completely charming and witty – I’ve always been the pathetic awestruck fawning fan stumbling over my words in his company! I’ve met him at organised signing sessions and also bumped into him in hotel lobbies and things – he’s always been great and stopped to chat. I went to watch him play in the US and he signed my arm, which was tattooed immediately. A part of me will always be Morrissey – though my mum tried to wipe it off with her hanky the first time she saw the tattoo… I was 33 at the time! These days, she’s quite proud of the fact that Morrissey has autographed her son’s arm.
What is it about him that still fascinates you?
There is absolutely no-one like him. He just stands-out by a mile… and what’s remarkable is that he has stood the test of time. He first appeared in 1983 with The Smiths and 33 years later he is still making music, touring to sold-out arenas and saying the most wonderfully controversial and eloquent things. I almost see him as being part of the family and I still reach for his music when I’m feeling deliriously happy or a bit downbeat. He’s just so against the grain and I think he’s the only artist who ever dares to speak out against the monarchy and the meat industry.
And the music?
It remains absolutely outstanding. As far as I’m aware, he doesn’t have a record deal despite being Britain’s last great pop star… which says everything about the ‘pop-idol-the-voice-fame-academy-whatever’ music-industry of 2016.
Tell us about the other big cultural love in your life: football.
Liverpool FC was my other great passion in life: I had a season ticket from 1987 to 2012 and saw every major final at home and abroad for 25 years. But, like lots of fans of Premiership clubs, I found myself getting disillusioned with the modern game and the corporate fat-cats making money out of loyal supporters. The cost of “goin’ the game” has escalated beyond belief and it’s well-publicised how LFC wanted to further increase ticket prices to stratospheric levels next season – only a very well organised campaign by supporters shamed the owners into a u-turn. I just don’t think that top-flight football is for the fans anymore… it’s for TV, big business and players (some of them quite average) who earn ridiculous fortunes.
You did something more than just shout about it…
I became heavily involved at my local football club, instead: I have a season ticket for Marine, who play in the Northern Premier League, and it costs an average £6.15 to get into the matches. Since I packed in Liverpool, I’ve gone to most Marine games, home and away. It’s a wonderful experience following a community club.
It’s something other than money, though, too… right?
It’s the exact opposite to the Premier League – kids go free and can roam around with their mates. Rival fans can mix and enjoy a pint together. You can even share pizza with the referee and the players after the game. You can reach out and touch the players if you want to… they are that close. The league Marine play in is seven below the Premiership, but the standard is still very high and the pitches are good – I think people have this notion of a non-league team playing in a cabbage field.
There’s more to life for football fans than the top flight, then?
It’s sad to say, but I think it’s all over for regular match-going fans. I’ve drifted so far away from it that I’m not sure I’m even concerned with offering solutions… the only way clubs might listen, is if you walk away.
Well said. We couldn’t agree more.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get goosebumps when I hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and see all the flags on the Kop. I also think Klopp is the most important appointment LFC have made since the 1950s… the roof was coming off against Dortmund. Liverpool fans do have the sense of history, occasion and living in the present. However, and this is the whole point, if the club reach the Europa Final there will be a paltry 9,000 tickets for Liverpool fans. What is the point? The corporate sponsors win again… I was lucky enough to be in Istanbul and I think a decade ago was the last time supporters could travel in massive numbers to European finals. Not anymore. That mass following of a club to the greatest night in their history is over and that’s terribly sad.
That match-going experience is still out there somewhere…
When I became a dad was when I also became acutely aware of how un-child friendly top flight football is – there are still very few child tickets available at Anfield and it’s near impossible to get them. I worry that the next generation of fans are missing out on following their team. That’s why we also pop over to Wigan from time to time, as it’s very family friendly and affordable. And, about twice a year, we take the train up to Glasgow to watch Celtic: we went up last month for the Hearts game and my ticket was £29, my lad’s £10 and the train was £22 return. All in, we paid £61 for travel and match tickets. I think £61 is the cheapest ticket at Arsenal…
What’s next then, Dickie?
I write almost daily – but never feel like anything is up to the required standard to be published in book form. I have hundreds of ideas for a new book, though, and maybe one about non-league football will eventually be published in 2067…
Pic by Mark McNulty