The London Branch of our supporters’ club are celebrating a big milestone for their Hit The Bar! fanzine, with the 300th issue being released this Saturday ahead of United’s trip to Vale Park.
Copies of the fanzine will be available from London Branch sellers in the away end at Port Vale on Saturday for just £1. It will also be available to purchase in the Blues Store through next week and at the final game of the season at Brunton Park next Saturday afternoon.
The first issue of Hit The Bar! was released shortly after the formation of the London Branch for exiled blues fans in 1974. It celebrates its 300th issue as one of the longest running fanzines in English football with it thought that only the Arsenal Gunflash fanzine, first released in 1949, has been in existence longer than the Hit The Bar! fanzine.
Speaking about the longevity of Hit The Bar! London Branch Chairman, Ian Jardine, said: “Reaching the milestone of 300 issues of the London Branch newsletter and magazine, Hit The Bar!, is a tremendous achievement for Carlisle United and its supporters. A relatively small club when it comes to fan base and then something created and run by the London Branch of the Supporters' Club it is amazing that it has created 300 issues over 44 years.”
The fanzine began as a single page publication aimed at keeping members of the newly formed London Branch informed on events within their supporters’ club and over 300 miles away at Carlisle United. The first issue, published on 20th November 1974, was hand-written on a single side of A4 paper, advising of the appointment of the London Branch’s first committee and subscription fee of 50p for the season.
The 100th issue was produced in 1989 and by 2003 as the London Branch prepared to celebrate it’s upcoming 30th anniversary, Hit The Bar! had reached issue 200, in the process having grown to a sixteen page printed fanzine. The 250th issue of Hit The Bar! was celebrated in 2009 with a 160 page volume collated by Jardine telling the story of the first 249 issues and 35 years of the London Branch.
Issue 300 will include an interview with United Captain, Danny Grainger, letters from two of the London Branch’s Vice-Presidents - broadcaster and author Lord Bragg of Wigton and author, journalist and broadcaster Hunter Davies - well wishes from famous Cumbrians and former editors, as well as contributions from London Branch members and United fans.
Discussing the 300th issue Hit The Bar! Editor Lee Rooney, who is departing from the role after this issue, said: “It’s been a real pleasure to put together the last 24 issues of Hit The Bar! over the last four years and it seems apt to bow out with issue number 300.
“To United fans living outside of the county, the magazine represents a vital link to the thoughts and views of fellow Blues, even in the age of social media. While it can be a time consuming job putting together each issue, it’s always enjoyable to see fans carrying a copy on the terraces at away games.
“While many fanzines have died off due to the rise of digital media, Hit The Bar! continues to go from strength to strength, which is a testament to the quality of content submitted for each issue. Here’s to another 300 issues!”
The 300 issue milestone ensures Hit The Bar! remains one of the longest running football fanzines in the country, having been produced for longer than When Saturday Comes, first published in 1986, Arsenal’s Gooner, first published in 1987, Leeds United’s The Square Ball, first published in 1989 and Manchester United’s United We Stand, also first published in 1989.
Writing in the 300th issue of Hit The Bar!, television presenter, actress and Carlisle United fan, Helen Skelton, said: “I am so very grateful to have spent so many Saturday afternoons on the terraces at Brunton Park. A brunton pasty, a bag of shredded newspaper to throw and M People playing out on the tannoy. Memories that form such a massive part of my childhood. My Aunts, Uncles and cousins did and still go to most home games. Many travel all over the country to watch “the blues” play away too. Football fixtures always have and always will determine when and where my family, immediate and extended catch up. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Happy anniversary, best wishes to you and your readers.”
Hit The Bar! issue 300 will be released this Saturday ahead of United’s trip to Port Vale. It will also be available to purchase for the price of £1 in the Blues Store and at United’s final League Two match of the season at Brunton Park on Saturday 5 May.