Go Away: Newport County

The front cover of an A to Z map of Newport on a red background

Newport, Newport, it’s a hell of a town. The crime rate’s up, the house prices are down. Their twin town is just a hole in the ground. Newport, Newport, it’s a hell of a town!

Yes, Newport, the answer to the question, what do people who’ve needed to get a passport in a hurry, the world’s best golfers, and the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries have in common? All will have set foot in Newport in the 21st century, this being not only the home of arguably the most depressing passport office in the world, the 2010 Ryder Cup and the 2014 NATO summit. The latter of those surely the result of a miscommunication that saw that year’s Eisteddfod take place in New York’s Rockefellar Plaza.

Newport came into being around the 5th century when Saint Gwynllyw founded the church that would become Newport Cathedral, and has now become the seat of the Bishop of Monmouth, which suggests it was either a very small church, or the Bishop of Monmouth has a huge arse. Newport Castle was built in the 14th century. Most cities would treasure such a historical monument; in Newport they built a roundabout through it. Wales has loads of castles you see, can’t move for them; roundabouts though, now there’s a novelty.

The city grew in significance during the Industrial Revolution, as it became the key port for coal from the South Wales coalfields. As a result the docks grew rapidly and by 1830 Newport was Wales leading coal port, and until 1850 it was larger than Cardiff, but what a twenty minutes they were. The last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in mainland Britain happened in Newport in 1839; the Newport Rising, saw 3,000 Chartists, led by John Frost, march on the Westgate Hotel in the centre of town, where they were met by an attack by a militia summoned by the Mayor. Such carnage at a hotel wasn’t seen again, until they tried to call an end to breakfast 15 minutes early on the Rovers Supporters Club Retford Branch’s last away weekender.

Like many post-industrial towns, Newport no longer enjoys the prosperity it once did, and opportunities in the city are limited. But remember, if you can make it here, you can make it practically anywhere. It’s up to you, Newport. Newport.

What’s it famous for?

Music. A remarkable number of indie musicians have come from Newport, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. The city is home to, amongst others, 60ft Dolls, The Darling Buds, Feeder and Goldie Lookin’ Chain, not to mention prominent members of Elastica, Bush, St Etienne and Idles. Its musical pedigree led to Newport being dubbed ‘the new Seattle’, by US music journalist Neill Strauss in the New York Times. A lofty title that can lead us to only one conclusion, that Neill Strauss has never set foot in Seattle.

Other famous people from Newport include the actor and professional Welshman Michael Sheen, children’s television presenters Johnny Morris and Josie D’Arby, and celebrity pain inflictors Dirty Sanchez.

How to blend in

Carry a guitar with you at all times; affect a warm and friendly tone as you flit effortlessly between voicing the inner thoughts of animals and attempting to rile up and lead a Welsh nationalist march on Westminster. And if all else fails inexplicably roll naked over barbed wire whilst pepper spraying your mates in the face and having someone fire at you with a paintball gun.

What’s the stadium like?

Rodney Parade is, as you might have gathered, earned its name through the city’s infatuation with Only Fools and Horses. Since the mid 1980s Newport has played host to an annual celebration of the sit-com, which ends every year with a fancy dress procession around the athletic grounds. The populace all dress as the show’s characters, and in height order, smallest to tallest, walk round the stadium. The culmination of which, coming just after the Trigger Traipse and the Boycey March, is the much anticipated Rodney Parade. So popular is this herd of gormless put-upon younger siblings that the fields have come to be known by this annual highlight. Indeed some wags choose to refer to it as Dave Parade.

Though it has only been Newport County’s home for around a decade, Rodney Parade is actually the second oldest ground in the Football League, having been first used in 1877. However, its first 125 years were wasted on oddities like athletics, cricket and rugby union, whatever that is. In recent years Newport County experimented with making Rodney Parade the League’s first beach football venue, however trying to ping passes through donkey divots and off deckchairs wasn’t to everyone’s taste and the spoilsports at the Football League made them change it back to grass.

With their sand plans thwarted, Newport officials have instead launched a bid to make the ground the first football venue visible from space by surrounding the surface with luminous amber asphalt, giving the field a distinct ‘approaching flood waters from a nearby iron ore plant’ vibe. Away fans are housed in the newest of the ground’s stands, the Bisley Stand where, according to the Football Ground Guide, the food on offer includes ‘monster’ pasties, which we hope is a reflection on their size rather than their contents. Always check the ingredients, kids.

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