Supporters Remembrance Events
The Supporters Munich Remembrance Events, run and organised by Elaine and Mike, the founders of Munich58, that take place under the Munich Plaque at Old Trafford each February are now attended by over 1,000 people and, thanks to MUTV and YouTube, are watched by a global audience of hundreds-of-thousands.
But it’s not always been like that. This is the story of how the Supporters Remembrance Event grew from humble beginnings to what it is today.
The Early Years
Going right back to the 1950s and 1960’s, it was a tradition for supporters to congregate on the Old Trafford forecourt each year on February 6th to pay their respects to those who died and were injured in the crash.
For many years, the gathering was very informal with only a handful of people there. In fact, when Elaine and Mike attended their first Remembrance Event in the late 1990’s, there were about 6 people there.
There was no singing, no poems, no prayers and certainly no television coverage. Some people laid flowers and others stood alone in silence, thinking what might have been.
2000 – 2001
Fast forward to February 2000. Gez Mason, one of those few United fans who had attended the annual gathering for many years, took it upon himself to sing The Flowers of Manchester, on his own under the Munich Plaque.
The following year he pinned an A4 sheet of paper to the stadium exit door under the Munich Plaque informing people that not only would he be singing The Flowers of Manchester at 3PM on 6th February, he would also be doing it an hour before kick off at the home match nearest the anniversary of the crash. His promotion of the event may have done the trick as it resulted in a few more people attending, especially the event on match-day.
In 2001, we founded Munich58 and launched munich58.co.uk. It became the perfect platform to promote the Remembrance Events and subsequently their popularity grew annually.
2006: Change of Singer
In 2006, Gez relinquished the role of “lead singer” and Pete Martin, a Salford-born United fan with a musical background, volunteered to take on the role.
Recognising that the number of people attending the events was growing each year and that not everyone knew the words to The Flowers of Manchester, we (Pete, Elaine and Mike) produced and printed a songsheet – a single sheet of A4 paper containing the lyrics to the song.
We printed a couple of hundred copies (our home printers took a bit of a hammering each February) and handed them out to those who attended the two events.
In 2008, Pete wrote a song called “Fifty Years” especially for the 50th anniversary. After getting agreement from us for its inclusion, the song made its debut at the Supporters Remembrance Events that year, with the lyrics being added to the songhseet. As an aside, I don’t think we had double-sided printers so we made the font smaller!
Guardians of The Event
Although the Supporters Remembrance Events have always been and will continue to be “by the fans, for the fans” the active role taken by Elaine and Mike both on the day and through this website, has lead to them becoming the “guardians of the event”, managing the content, timings, promotion and in latter years, liaising with Manchester United (more on that shortly).
For the next few years, although the number of people attending the events grew, the structure and content remained the same, apart from Pete renaming his song from Fifty Years to “The Pride of Football” – well you do only have one 50th anniversary!
In 2013, a young Salford-based United fan Kady Cavannagh who had been attending the Remembrance Events for several years, asked us if he could read out 2 poems that he had written about the crash. Kady’s poem readings have now become a permanent part of the events.
A couple of years later, we received an email from United fan and Manchester-based poet Steve Douglas. Would it be OK if he read out his poem called, simply “Busby’s Babes”. Steve too is now part of the events.
United’s Offer of Support
In 2014, having witnessed the growth in numbers attending the events, Phil Townsend, the then Director of Communications at United, approached Munich58 directly with an offer of help. He was at pains to stress that the club did not want to take ownership of the event and that it will always remain “for the fans by the fans”.
Consequently, since 2015, the club has provided the PA system and a raised platform/stage for the speakers and singers, which helps those towards the back to be able to see and hear, promoted the events on the Club’s website and social media channels and financed the printing of the full colour memorial brochure, designed by Elaine.
The Munich58 Brochure
What started in 2006 as a single sheet of A4 paper containing the words to The Flowers of Manchester has, in 2022, become a full-colour 24-page brochure containing the words to the songs and poems, a detailed running order for the event, the stories behind Munich58, the remembrance events and how they have evolved over the years and the history of The Flowers of Manchester including the amendment to the lyrics in 2020.
The brochure is designed by Munich58 co-founder Elaine Giles. Physical copies are distributed at no charge, to those who attend the remembrance events each year with a digital copy available for downloading (at no charge) via this website. The printing costs for the physical copies are funded by Manchester United, for which we are extremely grateful.
2015: Rev John Joins Us
In 2015, Phil Townsend introduced Elaine and Mike to Rev. John Boyers, the former Manchester United Club Chaplain and consequently, since 2016, he (Rev. John) has taken an active role in the events, introducing the participants, reading out the names of those who died, overseeing the 2 minute silence and leading us in a short closing prayer (note to potential future attendees – this is not a religious ceremony).
Managers & Wreaths
In 2015 the the First Team Manager, Louis Van Gaal laid a wreath at the event, which was a wonderful and unexpected gesture. This was the first time any current Manager had attended the event.
Unfortunately this caused chaos with fans clamouring to shake the hand of and say hello to the Manager as well as take photos of and in some cases, attempt to take a piece of the club wreath!
Consequently, after discussions between ourselves and the club, it was decided to include the laying of a wreath by a club representative as part of the event.
In 2019 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Bryan Robson laid a wreath on behalf of Manchester United and in 2020, two wreaths were laid – one by Bryan Robson behalf of The Club and one by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Casey Stoney, the Manager of Manchester United Ladies Team, on behalf of the players.
In 2021, both Ole and Casey laid wreaths as part of the pre-recorded event (see COVID section further down for more information about the 2021 event)
Although COVID-related restrictions had been lifted in time to hold an in-person event in February 2022, there were still Premier League COVID regulations in place and consequently no First Team players nor the Manager were allowed to attend the event.
Two wreaths were laid in 2022. One by ex-United player and now Club ambassador Wes Brown which was laid on behalf of everyone at Manchester United and one by 2 players from United’s Under-13 team on behalf of the youngsters at The Manchester United Academy.
The Tribute Book
The Munich58 Tribute Book, has been a feature of the munich58.co.uk website from the start and now contains over 2000 comments and tributes from football fans, both Reds and non-Reds from all over the world.
Every year since the early 2000’s we have printed all the comments, bound the pages into a book and it under the Munich Plaque with the floral tributes from other supporters.
Since 2019, laying the Tribute Book by Mike has became part of the Remembrance Event, taking place at the same time as the wreaths are laid.
In 2021, with the COVID-related restrictions in place, a physical gathering was not possible but the anniversary didn’t pass without a remembrance event.
With the support of United and MUTV we held a pre-recorded remembrance event which, in terms of content, was as close as possible to the physical events of previous years. The event was broadcast on MUTV and via United’s YouTube channel at 3:04PM on February 6th and had over 140,000 views.
The recordings were done towards the end of January in a COVID-safe environment with each of the participants being allocated a time slot to ensure social distancing was adhered to.
2022: Back to Normal
With the lifting of COVID-related restrictions, we were once again able to hold our Supporters Remembrance Event under the Munich Plaque at Old Trafford. It is estimated that around 1,000 people were in attendance to pay their respects. You can watch a recording here