Born and brought up in Birmingham, writer and architectural historian Simon Inglis wrote his first words on football and football grounds at the age of six, following a visit to Villa Park. He went on to study History and the History of Architecture at University College London, trained as a teacher in Leeds, taught history at a comprehensive school in Walthamstow and travelled in Central and South America for six months before becoming a freelance journalist in Manchester. He has lived in north west London since 1984.
Played in London is his latest book for the Played in Britain series, following on from Played in Manchester, Engineering Archie and A Load of Old Balls. He also co-wrote Played in Birmingham and Great Lengths.
For details of other titles by Simon Inglis, including his much celebrated work, The Football Grounds of Britain, visit the other books page.
Nuts about heritage – Simon Inglis meets Banbury historian Brian Little at the clubhouse of the Banbury Chestnuts Bowling Club. (photograph © Simon Gill)
In addition to his books, over the years Simon has contributed to a number of television programmes (including the BBC's Football Focus and One Show), on various channels (including Sky Sports, BT Sport and J Sports in Japan), and many more radio programmes (including a brief stint as a presenter of BBC Radio Five's 6-0-6 phone-in).
He has also written for a wide range of publications, such as The Observer, The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Mail on Sunday, the Jewish Chronicle, Radio Times, World Soccer, 4-4-2, When Saturday Comes, Business Traveller Magazine, plus numerous other specialist and architectural journals.
During the 1990s, in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, Simon played a lead role in the drawing up of design guidelines on modern stadiums, in his capacity as a board member of both the Football Stadia Advisory Design Council and the Football Licensing Authority (now the Sports Grounds Safety Authority). This work culminated in his editorship of a revised edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (the so-called Green Guide) in 1996.
Simon has curated exhibitions on football and stadium architecture for the Building Centre (London) and the British Council (touring to China, Thailand, Egypt, South Africa and Qatar), and acted as a consultant to Sport England on the National Stadium project during the late 1990s.
His involvement with English Heritage began in 2001 as a consultant on their pilot study of sporting heritage in Manchester (for the 2002 Commonwealth Games), which led to his launching the Played in Britain series in conjunction with English Heritage in 2004.
In addition to his writing and research, Simon has spoken at many conferences around the world, has hosted various events, and during the 2012 Olympics curated a Played in London exhibition and a series of lectures at The Gallery in Clerkenwell.
He has also been a major contributor of photographs for the series, taken during more than 30 years of fieldwork. For Played in London alone he made over 900 field trips.
When not mooching around old billiard halls or bowling greens, Simon is an active member of his local community in West Hampstead, where he may occasionally be seen compering community film nights on Fortune Green or organising quizzes. Despite claims once made on Wikipedia, he has never knowingly attempted a career as a stand up comedian, although he will admit to having played the drums in an obscure media band for the best part of twenty two years.
Simon Inglis is also an avowed fan of Aston Villa, albeit at a distance in recent years, partly owing to all those billiard halls and bowling greens, partly to his growing disenchantment with the Premier League. He otherwise retains a soft spot for the writings of RS Surtees, for the Guardian crossword, for cinema, for second hand bookshops and for urban wanderings generally. He is currently inactive sportswise, but hopes to be back on a tennis court soon following a hip replacement operation.
Simon cites two pieces of crucial advice in his early years. Firstly, an influential art teacher at King Edward's School in Birmingham taught him 'always to look up' when walking around towns and cities. Secondly, a veteran editor pronounced that 'a journalist is only as good as his filing system'. Simon maintains that he has mastered the first piece of advice, while struggling continually to live up to the second.
Inglis is the iconoclastic historian working wonders for the story of sport in this country under the innovative patronage of English Heritage. His pocket-sized collection of ancient sporting spheroids sounds risible, but is absolutely fascinating. Inglis is becoming a living national treasure and must be encouraged at all costs.
— Andrew Baker, Daily Telegraph