RR: So, since we last spoke your group has experienced a bit of a name change. Why are you now “Red and White Army” and not “Ha'way The Flags?” (FWIW, I love the new name!)
RAWA: Thanks, glad you like the new name!
Ha’way The Flags was always a bit of a weird name that possibly didn’t engage everyone as initially intended. Red and White Army feels and sounds more inclusive, and we want as many people on board as possible. Whether that’s from creating chants, flags or whatever - we want to form an identity that everyone wants to be part of.
RR: What has caused the re-emergence of the group? Though Ha'Way The Flags (HTF) was always still there and bringing out the big crowd surfers for home games, we have seen a new push for this fan interaction project.
RAWA: Yes, HTF has always been there bubbling away in the background over the last five or six years, but we felt the time is right to really ramp everything up and to try to create a real spectacle at each game. For Hull we are aiming to put out three surfers - two on the top part of the South Stand and the new Hurley banner on the lower part as it is smaller than our main surfers, plus lots of new stick flags around the stands.
RR: How much time and effort does it take for you to successfully get the crowd surfers and flags out there on a matchday?
RAWA: The project is a fan-led collaboration formed alongside A Love Supreme. ALS have been hugely important and helpful in making sure the project runs smoothly, as well as fantastic support and backing from the club. The whole process much more complex than you would ever imagine, and some of the things we have encountered along the way have literally been unbelievable. Thankfully, we have a strong and dedicated small group of helpers who have been absolutely fantastic, putting the surfers out almost every week since we began. They have been the understated backbone of the group and we are lucky to have them. The three surfers for Hull is our most ambitious effort yet, and we have to orchestrate different starting points, overlapping points and make sure that they stop in different places as not to get tangled when we collect.
RR: As you've mentioned, this weekend sees the debut of a new crowd surfer with Charlie Hurley on it, which was donated to your group by the club. What prompted them to do so and do the club have plans to introduce more crowd surfers for the legends over the coming season?
RAWA: Why not, I guess? I’m all for a party and a celebration, so what better excuse! Yes, this is yet another fantastic gesture by the club which we are very grateful, the design looks cracking as well. We have an amazing legends surfer designed by fan Steven Hawman which we are looking to make in the future, so we are really healthy as far as surfers go currently.
RR: You also mentioned that that you are planning to bring out more flags on poles at the weekend. How much do they cost and how can people help with displaying those and buying their own to bring along to games should they wish to do so?
RAWA: We have THIRTY new stick flags to introduce, plus the flags that we already have – this should start to give everyone an idea of the potential of the new project. The flags start from around £30 each including the stick. I would actively encourage everyone to bring their own flags and of course scarves into the ground. A mass of scarves held high can be hugely effective and the key to make a sea of banners really come alive.
RR: Initially there were plans to have a drum section in the South Stand which would aid chants which start naturally from the supporters in the crowd, but after considerable social media backlash those plans have been nixed. Are you disappointed that this hasn’t been welcomed? Do you think that there is still scope to introduce drums at our games going forward, even perhaps away from home?
RAWA: I would never say never, however out of respect to the overwhelming response on social media we have no plans for the immediate future. The intention was never to replace The Roker Roar, but to enhance it naturally like what is done already with people cracking the advertising boards and seats and stamping their feet. The lads we had sorted to drum are amazing musicians from local bands, massive Sunderland fans and the real deal. They were set to play near pitch side around a block of 20 people so not to disrupt people nearby – so yes it’s shame we never got to know if it was something for Sunderland or not, but at the same time it is nothing to worry about. We were always aware that the drums are highly contentious issue, however the whole idea was amplified by the news of the clackers – it was the perfect storm really!
Even though we were surprised to hear about the clackers being introduced, a part of me is still really curious to see how they work and I would be secretly disappointed if they were not to be at least experienced - perhaps some may have similar thoughts about the drums after reflection.
The drum idea is out there now which is the important part and I am sure there will be many further discussions about this. Maybe opinion will change over time to allow a trial run, maybe it won’t, only time will tell – however we are not going to force something that no one wants.
RR: You’re always looking for people to come down and help on a match day – how can people get in touch to get involved?
RR: And, of course, how can people donate to the cause and what are the plans going forward for new flags and banners at home games?
RAWA: Click this link here to donate! 100% of the donations go into the flag production and we are a not-for-profit, completely voluntary group. Every donation is really important and will help us achieve a fantastic wall of colour and sound to help ignite the match day experience.
We aim to produce 50-100+ stick flags by the end of the year and are currently designing flag ideas for everyone to vote on and donate towards – we also welcome any other designs and slogans that anyone has, so please get in touch with your ideas.