AFC Wimbledon is a football club that rose from the ashes of its predecessor, Wimbledon FC after the club was franchised and moved to Milton Keynes.
Hope Is The Thing With Feathers is an investigation into this football club. The determination, solidarity and resilience of the fans involved with this “phoenix club”. Their relationship with the club is a key theme of the work. To my subjects the club is a tribe; they feel a sense of belonging that was once lost and has now been firmly returned.
The title is in reference to an Emily Dickinson poem that tells the story of resilience in times of uncertainty through the emblem of a rare bird. In my work this emblem can be seen on the club crest. The work documents the space the club has inhabited on its journey from non-league to where it is today in the third tier of English football. AFC Wimbledon is the resurrection of Wimbledon FC and the spirit of the club lives on through the fans. Without the resilience and devotion of these fans, there would be no AFC Wimbledon.
Erik Samuleson: Chief Executive
Erik is retired from work. Despite being the chief executive of the club, he is still a volunteer and does not take money for his role. When he heard the news of the club moving to Milton Keynes, he was in a cab and heard the news over the radio. His stomach went through the floor and he wondered around in a haze.
Haydon The Womble: Club Mascot
Haydon, as he would like to be known, asked me not to use his real name for this project. He likes to keep his identity private and doesn’t like to be recognised as the mascot, like a superhero. Haydon is heavily involved in the community, running the London Marathon in his costume. He was a torch bearer for the London 2012 Olympics, but unfortunately had to run as himself because the Womble was considered a fire hazard.
Dennis Lowndes: Ladies and Girls Chairman
Dennis is also a match day volunteer groundsman, he too takes no wages for his involvement with the club. When the club was just starting out, Dennis and his son, Matt Lowndes, washed the kits for the team at their homes. Matt is also the creator of the We Are The Resurrection flag.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
- Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
Barry James: Matchday Groundman
At the first AFC Wimbledon game at Gander Green Lane against Sutton United, Barry made a sign saying Wimbledon AFC is born. When the teams played again, Barry remade the sign acknowledging the history between the two clubs. When I took his photograph, I asked him to think about the loss of Wimbledon FC. He shut his eyes.
Paul Raymond: Matchday Volunteer
Since the inception of the club, fans have been desperate to help out in anyway they can. Paul is no different. As well as his role as a volunteer, he buys Jaffa Cakes for the team and has done since the club was in the lower leagues of English Football. He has asked the team's medics if he can continue his role - they say the Jaffa Cakes are a great source of quick energy for the players.
David McKnight: Head Groundsman
Before each match David and his team of volunteers sprinkle 10,000 gallons of water onto the pitch. As well as being the head groundsman, David is the clubs historian and a driving instructor.