George Jackson. Photo: Short Eared Dog Photography (detail) View full image

Communal passions

Grange Park Opera's new opera, Gods of the Game, explores the similarities between football and opera. Ahead of its world premiere on 6 October, conductor George Jackson explains

Gods of the Game is written as what they're calling 'Five a Side' – five composers are collaborating, almost anonymously: as the conductor, I don't know which composer has written which section. It's about the game of football itself, but also about the corruption and politics. It is somewhere between musical theatre, theatre and contemporary opera, with prominent chorus parts and also a football fan chorus, mostly singing in unison as they would in a stadium. It's not just a traditional opera – it's much more inclusive, a community-led project. It's really exciting to be part of a collaboration like this.

It looks at the relationship between football and opera, exploring the similarities between the audiences as well as the idea that opera has always been used to enhance football, whether it's Nessun Dorma or the Three Tenors. And of course, in Italian culture, football and opera are the two centrepieces. It's looking at these relationships in more detail.

I am a football fan, although I was even more so as a kid. Brentford, my local team, is doing very well. I was their mascot as a kid. I remember getting to run on the pitch when I was nine or ten, scoring goals in a warm up with, I think his name was Kevin Dearden, who was the goalkeeper for Brentford in the 90s.

Whether it's going to the theatre or opera, or going to a football match, there's something special about the feeling of community. It's the idea that you're getting rid of the individual ego and focusing on something as a group.

There's a misconception that opera and classical music are elitist because of the price, but if you go and see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, a ticket for that is far more expensive than going to the Royal Opera House. There is this misconception that it's elitist because it's expensive, but it's not. That's an enormous thing to clear up. It's not necessarily a cheap night out, but it's not as expensive as other things could be.

People might be intimidated by the traditions and the customs that go with going to an opera or going to the theatre, but in the same way you could be intimidated by the customs of going to see football or cricket, for example, which have their own rules. It's just a case of going and learning, and not being afraid.

Gods of the Game is a Sky Arts commission and will be broadcast on 13 November (tbc).