A man whose goal is to get rid of racism.
Anti-racism campaign charity Show Racism The Red Card is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Jamie Diffley met the North East man behind the organisation
Ged Grebby has always had a knack for generating maximum publicity for his political beliefs.
In 1995 he made the front pages when he organised a rooftop demonstration at the home of Hexham MP Peter Atkinson in protest against the Criminal Justice Bill.
But Grebby also has a knack of staying out of the public eye.
"I didn't get in the roof," he smiles a decade later. "As organiser I had to be on the ground rather than up there."
Ten years later Grebby is still grabbing massive publicity while remaining relatively anonymous.
The 42-year-old is the brains behind the Tyneside-based national charity Show Racism The Red Card, an educational project set up to highlight racism in society.
But he is by no means the face of it. Instead that job is shared out among some of the most famous footballers in the country.
Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, in fact, think of any top footballer and they have probably lent their support Show Racism The Red Card since it was set up in Grebby's house in 1995.
"I learned quite early on that role models are the key for a campaign like this," says Grebby. "It's no good me going into a classroom and trying to preach to children because they just won't listen, but with role models they will. Footballers are the biggest role models.
"People like Shaka Hislop, who was involved from the start, and John Beresford were gods on Tyneside and today's footballers are superstars."
Grebby, who is married with a 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, is happy not to be famous. Despite working alongside some of the top names since the campaign was launched, he admits to still getting starstruck, especially when Newcastle United are involved.
"It happened quite recently," he laughs. "I was getting Nobby Solano's autograph for my brother's wife and Alan Shearer drove up unexpectedly. I just started shaking and got his autograph. I've met him a few times and interviewed him for the campaign but it's still Shearer.
"It's always a different buzz when I meet any of the Newcastle players. I was the same with Jenas when he helped us with an event."
Football, he says, is an isolated world. The majority of players know each other, which has helped him get access to the biggest teams and the most well-known names. The reputation of Show Racism The Red Card within that world is extremely high.
At the start of this season 40 English clubs agreed to pose for team posters holding aloft anti-racism red cards. Newcastle United, Sunderland, Middlesbrough are all involved, alongside heavyweights Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. A further 20 clubs in Scotland have done the same.
And it's not just football. Newcastle Falcons and the city's ice hockey team, the Vipers, are also on board.
The posters are designed and printed by Newcastle City Council free of charge, saving the charity tens of thousands of pounds.
Grebby is surrounded by them as we speak in the North Tyneside offices of the charity. From the outside there is no indication of the work that goes on within, just an anonymous white door with no markings on whatsoever.
It's not an oversight on his part or him being modest. It's a matter of security. Not everyone, it seems, is keen on a charity dedicated to fighting racism.
"I've had a couple of death threats," Grebby admits when pushed. "They made stickers saying `Hang Ged Grebby', but I don't want to talk about them. It only gives them publicity."
He will talk about his beliefs, though. He comes close to ranting when he talks about racism. He criticises the three main political parties for using asylum seekers as a political football and lambasts a national newspaper for a recent campaign against Gypsies.
"How can you declare war on a section of society?" he says. "That's the kind of behaviour you expect under Hitler."
He also takes a swipe at former TV pundit Ron Atkinson, sacked from his ITV job over racist comments about then-Chelsea player Marcel Desailly on air.
"Black players came out and said he was never racist to them, which may be the case, but to say the `N' word is just unacceptable."
Although the charity is non-political, Grebby's own beliefs were forged at an early age.
His grandad came to England from Ireland and brought with him an anti-racism stance.
And Grebby remembers the dark days at St James' Park where members of the National Front would distribute leaflets outside the ground.
Kevin Keegan, then a player, was once handed a leaflet with a monkey on the front and the question: `Do you want this man to get your job?' Keegan handed it to a club official and demanded action, a tale he retold years later for a Show Racism The Red Card video.
Inside the ground was not much better.
"I remember Howard Gayle playing and getting sent off," says Grebby. "There were 40,000 people there doing monkey chants.
"It was scary. Most people weren't comfortable with it but it was a sizeable section of the crowd and there wasn't much you could do about it."
Grebby never joined in with the chants but he does recall a form of racism from his schooldays.
"We used to love Alf Garnett when we were young at school," says the former Forest Hall Middle School pupil. "We used to say the word `coon' because he did and have a laugh about it. We were only young and it's all about learning.
"They say now that Alf Garnett was ironic but that was missed by a lot of people. There were a lot of racist programmes in those days. Love Thy Neighbour was horrendous and although Rising Damp had a black character who was a doctor and actually intelligent, there was still a lot of racism there."
Grebby joined Geordies are Black and White and became a member of the Labour and Young Socialist Parties when he was still 18.
After studying geography at North Staffordshire Polytechnic, Grebby worked for a shop before moving to a printing firm as a studio planner.
But his interests lay out of work.
He was an active member in Youth Against Racism in Europe, which sent educational packs to schools.
A magazine got into the hands of then Newcastle United keeper Shaka Hislop, who pledged pounds 50, urging more donations.
It was when he got on board that Show Racism The Red Card was born. "I was looking at other things and Shaka was a spur," says Grebby.
Grebby set up his own charity that year ( 1995 ( from the bedroom of his home. Using his campaigning background, he secured around pounds 30,000 in funding. Last year the charity had a total expenditure of pounds 250,000.
Using local stars he began to hammer home the anti-racism message and received prominent attention.
The charity's video for schools has gone on to sell 13,000 copies and the campaign is up for an award from the Players' Football Association (PFA).
Shaka Hislop was honoured at the recent PFA awards for his work with the campaign. It was Grebby himself who recommended the Trinidad and Tobago international for the honour.
"Shaka inspired us to take it further in the early days and he was a driving force," he says. "He has joined some of most memorable names in football on that merit list and he deserves it."
Shaka Hislop may have got the plaudits but it is Grebby's tireless work which has raised awareness of the ugliness of racism in society.
And things, he said, are getting better. The emergence of people such as Andy Cole and "Sir" Les Ferdinand raised the profile of black players in Newcastle at the same time as the campaign really began to take off.
Today it is one of the most prominent anti-racist campaigns in the country. From humble beginnings in Grebby's bedroom, the charity now has offices in Glasgow and London as well as North Tyneside.
Although still in evidence, racism in society is not as prominent, says Grebby.
"I remember watching Blind Date with my daughter and picking who we thought would win," says Grebby. "There was a black guy in an orange shirt and she turned round and said, `I want the guy in the orange shirt to win.'
"She looked beyond his colour and just saw a person."
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||May 10, 2005|
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