Sunday, 27 April 2008

It's a Mean Old Scene - book review

It's a Mean Old Scene: A History of Modern Bradford From 1974, Redbeck Press, £9.99

"Be warned, this is no typical local history book, no gushing amateur Bronte biography, no rose-tinted recollection of the grind of life in the mills, no wistful trip down memory lane ending in a demand for a return to the days when trolley buses rattled along the streets and families of ten left their front doors open all night. Indeed, take a look at the title: It's a Mean Old Scene was one of Bradford's most infamous and possibly perceptive pieces of graffiti that endured throughout the 1970s.

With candour and thoughtfulness, Greenhalf tackles head-on real life in Bradford since the mid-1970s. He is one of the few people in the city to comment openly about the race question, neither side-stepping the issue with deft politically correct moves not spouting mindless, bigoted invective...

This book is a curious mix of social commentary and personal recollection. Some of the best chapters to my mind are the ones which focus on Greenhalf's journalistic exploits. Particularly notable is the moving passage on the Bradford City disaster, which begins with a newspaperman's cynicism and blossoms into a portrait of the human condition.

It's 'dark twin' is the piece on the Ripper murders, and Greenhalf's soul-bearing on how deeply the gruesome killings got under his skin must have taken great bravery to write - it is certainly not glib, easy reading...

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the things Jim Greenhalf has seen, one thing shines through this book, and it's possibly something he might be hard-pushed to admit to himself: he has a great and deep love for Bradford. Unlike many people in the city, Greenhalf cares."

DAVID BARNETT, Telegraph & Argus, Bradford, May, 2002.


Mark said...


I was delighted to discover that I am not the only person who was struck by that brilliant piece of graffiti at the top of Great Horton Road (if I remember the location correctly).

"It's a mean old scene" - I have been looking for a way to use those words for 20 years now and have just started a new blog (actually about online marketing etc) that uses them -

I will buy your book when it is back in stock at Amazon. Good luck!

Laban said...

As I recall the graffito was on All Saints Road, between the top of Dirkhill Road and Great Horton Road, on the wall which overlooked the disused railway line which ran past the Park Avenue footy/cricket ground and under Great Horton Road.

The phrase is the opening line of John Mayall's blues song "Double Crossin Time" which came out in the late 60s.

helen said...


I'm trying to peice together bits of my fathers past does anyone remeber when this was first painted on the wall in Bradford

Eben said...

I remember it with fondness... (along with the wonderfully spelled "Thath Out" beside it! The pic on the cover of the book was taken before the the council removed it and it was replaced, only to have a car crash into it before miraculously reappearing when the wall was repaired. After some members of the Bradford Traveller community helped themselves to the top 2 layers of stone on which the graffito was written (whilst disguising themselves as workmen,complete with stripey tent thing) the Graffito reappeared yet again as "its STILL a mean old scene"

Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

I simply loved it!

Book reviews are always great. Even though I am not a writer, I am a reader who is always chasing the latest and best masterpieces, just like It's a Mean Old Scene.

Anonymous said...

I remember the council getting rid of the mean old scene writing on the wall and I remember it re-appearing some years later with a slight twist, it read - Its still a mean old scene. It was like the return of an old freind who had a great sence of humour. Unfortuneatly the message didnt last long. David Cameron could benefit from this interesting insite into modern day living in one of the countries major cities.

Anonymous said...

Nearby the same chap had written "tomorrow is first day of the rest of our lives" and had spelt tomorrow with two m's.

The author's nickname was F M Boots and he lived in Dirkhill Road in a back-to -back terrace with a purple door on which was painted a picture of Jimi Hendrix.

It was at the top of Morley Street, not Gt Horton Road.

The vicar of a Manningham Church wrote a piece in the T & A quoting the phrase.

Cialis said...

This sounds like an interesting book!

Anonymous said...


Can anyone advise where I can buy this book?


manfred said...

How many times did I plan to photograph that sign? Looking out from the top floor of a fully-loaded bus hauling itself uphill it seemed to take forever to reach those depressing words and turn past them. LS Lowry meets the blues. I'd really love to download the photo if anyone has a copy.