33 years ago today 97 Liverpool supporters were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough
I never feel I have the right words for today. The enormity of the tragedy — and the years of pernicious denial on the part of the South Yorkshire Police, governing bodies, and media — makes it hard to find the words.
My thoughts, and those of everyone at The Liverpool Offside, are with the families of those lost and with the survivors, all of whom must live with the enormity of the disaster today and every day. Thirty-three years ago supporters left to watch a game of football, and 97 never came home; so many others have since lost their lives or struggle with their mental health. We honor all those affected. You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Because I lack the right words, I wanted to collect and compile the words of others — words which I hope will be helpful to honoring the memories and experiences of so many.
Of course, this list cannot be exhaustive. Please add additional content that has stood out for you in the comments.
Be warned that most of the accounts below contain information that could be distressing. At the end of the list please find mental health resources.
The club website memorializes those lost at Hillsborough.
Both Anfield and Goodison Park feature memorials for the 97 (both were recently updated to memorialize the 97th victim of the disaster, Andrew Devine, who sadly passed away from his injuries in July 2021); there is also a monument memorial at the Town Hall.
Images of the memorials in Sheffield can be found here.
From The Anfield Wrap: a three-part series entitled “Hillsborough Survivor Stories: In Their Own Words” (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)
Previously, Damien Kavanagh, who is featured in the three-part podcast, wrote an account of his experiences.
Simon Hughes compiled accounts from survivors for a piece in The Athletic.
Adrian Tempany, author of The Sun Shines Now (listed below in the Book List), wrote about his experience for The Guardian. His account also exists in the first chapter of his book.
Nigel Huddleston wrote about his survivor’s guilt for The Metro in 2021.
A short YouTube video containing Survivor Stories can be found here.
History & Overview of the Hillsborough Disaster
The full findings of the HiIlsborough Independent Panel is accessible here. Physical copies are available by order.
A powerful documentary on Hillsborough by ESPN as a part of their 30 for 30 series is available for subscribers. If you’re in the UK, this is available through the BBC (though it was unable to air for two years due to the inquest).
BBC Radio Merseyside has a six-part podcast unpacking the Hillsborough Disaster and its aftermath.
ITV released a dramatization of the life of Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams, who lost her son in the disaster. While not a documentary, Anne captures the horrifying immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster as well as the dignity, dedication, and sacrifice of those who campaigned for justice in the long decades after. At present it is available only in the UK.
RedHanded, a True Crime podcast unaffiliated with sport, did an episode on the Hillsborough Disaster as a result of their own lack of knowledge on the subject. It came out in 2022 and is thus a very contemporary account.
Overview of the Trials
David Conn produced a podcast for The Guardian about how the justice system has let down the Hillsborough families.
Phil Scranton, who led the Hillsborough Independent Panel, spoke to The Anfield Wrap about the trial.
Karl Kopak wrote a reaction to the 2021 trial outcomes for The Anfield Wrap.
Miscellaneous: Hillsborough Chants and Wider Culture
Outside Perspective: Jim Burke writes about what the disaster should mean for all football fans, and how he’s haunted by the understanding that what happened on April 15, 1989 could have happened to any football fanbase.
Excerpt: “As I write this, the feeling that this could have happened at any number of stadiums and involved the supporters of many clubs is hard to shake off. Underlying it is a sense of anger that the lie of what happened that day was allowed to continue for so many years, with Government and media complicit in the effort to keep that version of events at the forefront of many minds. It is to the eternal credit of the families, fans and people of the city of Liverpool that they did not bend for one second in their quest for justice. A campaign that transcends what is ultimately petty football rivalry.”
Dan Morgan wrote at length about the problems with normalizing Hillsborough in chants like “Always the Victims” — something that is and remains relevant as a horrible part of the match-going experience for Hillsborough survivors and family members of the 97. That the chanting is so often ignored by clubs is an ongoing problem in the game.
Book List: Suggested Reading
Adrian Tempany, The Sun Shines Now: How Hillsborough and the Premier League Changed Britain. There is a new edition in 2017. Focuses on the events of April 15, 1989 as well as the broader sociopolitical impacts of it.
Phil Scranton, Hillsborough: The Truth. New edition in 2016. Account of the disaster by one of the leaders of the Independent Panel, whose findings directly led to the quashing of the original verdicts. Deals both with the disaster itself and the institutional cover-up in the decades afterwards.
Kevin Sampson and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Hillsborough Voices: The Real Story by the People Themselves. Contains a collection of varied accounts aiming to do justice to the memories of those who were at Hillsborough.
The above reflects the texts I have read myself; a longer list can be found here, compiled by News From Nowhere, a wonderful independent bookshop located on Bold Street in Liverpool.
Mental Health Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255 for 24/7 immediate support if you or a loved one are experiencing mental distress. For more information, see their website.
Crisis Text Line. For text-based help, please text ‘hello’ to 741741. Help is available 24/7.
More general information about mental health is available here from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Samaritans. You can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day by calling 116 123 (free from any phone); it is possible to get in-person help from some branches. Help is available in Welsh as well via the Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you identify as male, help is available from the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), reachable by phone on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) and also via their webchat service.