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Charity begins at Hove

PDCC is about to start a major new series on cricket's relationship with popular music - Rock and Bowl. As a taster we tell the story of one man's efforts to improve the lives of umpires everywhere through the power of song. Sir Bob Geldof stole the ideas - and the song - but he isn't bitter.

In the late autumn of 1984 Christopher Hogg - Manager (and founder) of the Distressed Umpires Mentoring Programme (DUMP) - came up with a highly original fund raising idea.

The Sussex based Hogg was aware that the general public knew nothing of the plight faced by the hundreds of ex umpires represented by DUMP: the problems of poverty, homelessness, substance misuse and poor personal hygiene.

picture of styptic pencil exchange scheme in inner city Manchester
DUMP helped fund projects such as this styptic pencil exchange scheme in inner city Manchester.

"It was one thing trying to get our message across and another trying to raise money. We did the odd raffle and jumble sale but nothing made much of a difference. The public were still blissfully ignorant."

One night the DUMP supremo had a dream in which Arthur Fagg appeared on Top of the Pops as part of the Pan's People dance troupe doing an extravagantly choreographed routine to Lieutenant Pigeon's seventies smash Mouldy Old Dough.

The dream haunted Hogg and for days afterwards he pondered the true meaning of his vision: was it a message from beyond pointing him in a different direction?

Then it came to him. Instead of traditional fund raising activities he decided to release a cricket related record that would raise money and awareness - well, money mostly - for the work he was doing at DUMP. Fagg's provocative gyrating had been a sign.

Hogg and a musician friend Mick 'Modge' Poor got together and wrote a song that they believed could be a smash hit: Do They Know Their Cricket?

"The lyrics pulled no punches," recalls Hogg. "It was a hard-hitting song about the public's ignorance of the issues facing retired officials. I wanted people to listen to the words and then think: 'Wow I never realised it was so bad. How can we help?'"

picture of cricket officials
Officials from all over the country gave up their time to head to Hove for the recording.

With the song in the bag Hogg set about recording it quickly so that it would be ready in time for the lucrative Christmas market.

"Me and Modge tried singing the lyrics ourselves but it just didn't sound right. Then I had another brainwave: why not get the best, most popular, current umpires in to sing a line each? It hadn't been done before. I quickly rang round all the first class umpires and told them to get over to the studio as soon as they could".

The bemused - but intrigued - officials made their way over to the recording studio to find out what was going on. Within a couple of hours the band of white coated crooners had produced three and a half minutes of pop perfection.

Do They Know Their Cricket?

(Written by Chris Hogg and Modge Poor)

(David Constant)

It's Cricket time, no need to be afraid
At Cricket time, we go off for light and we banish shade

(Dickie Bird)

And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms out for a Wide - at cricket time

(David Shepherd)

But say a prayer, Pray for the other ones
At Cricket time it's hard, but umpires aren't having fun

(Don Oslear)

There's a world outside the pavilion
and it's a world of dread and fear

(Barry Leadbeater)

Where the only water flowing
Are the endless pints of beer

(John Holder & George Sharp)

And the ten minute bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom

(Barry Meyer)

Well tonight thank God it's Shep instead of you!

(Roy Palmer and Nigel Plews)

And there will be snow in Headingley this cricket time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is light

(John Jameson)

Where nothing ever grows
Nor runs or wickets flow

(entire group)

Do they know it's cricket time at all?

(Jackie Birkenshaw)

Here's to you

(Ray Julian)

Raise a finger for everyone

(Charlie Cook)

Here's to them

(Dickie Bird)

Underneath that burning sun

(Entire group)

Here's to them

(Nigel Plews)

They're giving out everyone

(entire group)

Do they know it's cricket time at all?

Feed the umpires (to fade)

With the recording complete Hogg set up his own record label - Hogg Sounds - to release the disc and paid a local pressing plant to cut 50,000 copies of the single. In addition Hogg produced a video of the recording session as a visual accompaniment to the song.

"The biggest challenge was trying to get the record heard. I sent copies to all the radio stations I could think of but I can't remember it getting much air play at all. The only DJ to play it was Jack Bannister on his Three Counties Radio rock show on a Sunday night. It was very disappointing."

picture of dinner lady Joyce Muff's controversial Giant Haystacks crisp
Dinner lady Joyce Muff's controversial Giant Haystacks crisp.

As the weeks to Christmas ticked by the record suddenly got its big break. The BBC's regional Manchester based news programme North West Tonight had five minutes to fill after an item about bus shelter vandalism in Warrington and decided to show the video, followed by an interview with a passionate Chris Hogg live on air.

"I overstepped the mark," recalls Hogg, still rather red-faced at the memory. "The presenter was waffling on about Nigel Plews being the new Sting or something and I just blurted out 'send us your flipping money now'. They cut me off and went straight to an item about a dinner lady who had found a crisp with Giant Haystacks face on it."

One person who saw the broadcast was ex Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof who was in Manchester that night as part of a solo tour. Geldof had been watching the main BBC news and had been very upset by the reports of mass starvation coming out of Africa. In an instant he had decided that the music business must try and do something about Third World hunger but was not sure how. It was whilst pondering this that Do They Know Their Cricket? video came on. The rest is history.

Hogg is surprisingly phlegmatic about it. "Sir Bob never publicly acknowledged the role we played in Live Aid - which is a shame. Their song was remarkably similar to ours. I just have to keep telling myself that it was the Africans who got our money instead of umpires. It was probably for the best; they would have only spent it on styptic pencils."

Geldof used the success of Band Aid to secure his own place in history as a political agitator, for which he received a Knighthood in 1986. His less successful project to address world bus stop abuse - Gimme Shelter - was a rare blip on his relentless rise to sainthood.

picture of Ken Shuttleworth
Bowlers like Ken Shuttleworth became big stars in the Medium Pacers craze.

DUMP continues to this day, operating from a tiny office in the outskirts of Colchester. It has had its successes: deaths from hyperthermia are rare these days and the number of umpires living rough is down by a half.

"There's still a hard core of them on The Strand sleeping in cardboard boxes and harassing passersby for the price of a light meter but by and large there's no need for them to be on the street anymore".

Hogg is proud of that and just as proud of the enduring success of his record label: Hogg Sounds.

"Although Do They Know Their Cricket? didn't sell we had a massive hit in Norway with our follow-up release: a disco version of Puff the Magic Dragon by Colin Dredge."

The lanky Somerset seamer became big business in Scandinavia where his bucolic good looks and idiosyncratic vocal-stylings made him a teen favourite to rival The Wurzels. His 1988 album Scrumpy Jack Flash became the biggest selling LP in Finland's history.

Dredge's success paved the way for a number of other English bowlers to launch secondary music careers in a movement that became known as the Medium Pacers.

Hogg Sounds found itself at the forefront of the new craze.

"If they could swing it and sing it, then we signed them up," says Hogg who appointed himself head of A and R. "we promoted the label with the line: Our singers bowl out-swingers."

picture of Derek Douglas
Retired umpires such as Derek Douglas (above) are enjoying the chance to show their DJ skills at DUMP's weekly dubstep night at Brighton Komedia.

Peter Hartley's spiky power pop was a big money spinner and the blue-eyed soul of Arnie Sidebottom led to him selling out Oslo's biggest venues in record time.

"Scandinavian taste is a funny thing. They didn't like anything by out and out speed merchants - Bob Willis's Goose Steps album sank like a stone; but put Mike Bore in a studio with Shep's Banjo Boys and you had a gold record."

Although the popularity of Medium Pacers declined steeply after its early '90s peak the label still puts out the occasional new release.

Reggae fans are in for a treat this year when Hogg Sounds re-releases the classic Mervyn Kitchen in Dub on CD for the first time. There's even talk of a box set of Medium Pacers classics in the wake of its re-discovery by soft rock aficionados at the Guilty Pleasures club in London.

So how did Chris Hogg feel when the revival of Live Aid as Live 8 in 2005 brought the project back into the public eye once more?

"I'm very proud of Do They Know Their Cricket?. It might not have sold as well as Band Aid but it was quite influential in its own way."

"It wasn't just Geldof who borrowed from us. When Australian bowler Tony Dodemaide faced bankruptcy the Aussie music community launched Dodem-Aid. Suddenly there were cricket charity records all over the place."

"This time it's me following them! I'm working on a new version of Do They Know Their Cricket? for release in December. A lot of the younger umpires like Ketts (Richard Kettleborough), Goffy (Michael Gough) and Bods (Martin Bodenham) are very keen on their music and have jumped at the chance to get involved. It's going to have a more contemporary street-wise feel. Bods has done a dub-step remix. If Nigel Long can get out of his Third Umpire duties at the Cross Arrows I'm pretty sure he'll be laying down one of his mash-ups. It's all good."