Tag Archives: ska

Beverley – A short film. 80’s Britain revisited.

22 Nov

80’s Britain was a melting pot on all social and political levels. It was a time of high unemployment, racial tension, riots and the threat of nuclear war hung in the air like a mushroom cloud of gloom throughout most of the decade.

Anyone from a working class family that left school during the Thatcherite years faced the prospect of standing at the back of the dole queue. The miners were chucked on the slag heap, police brutality was common place and the youth rebelled.

Football hooliganism, Casuals, Mods, Skinheads, New Romantics, the second wave of punk, all flourished during the 80’s. At a time when material wealth was not the order of the day, the youth took the DIY ethic to heart. Creativity was shown in personal ways still echoed to this day.

Music became angrier and so did the kids.  “If the kids are united”, sang Sham 69”- a rally call that was more of a plea, as youth cultures and races clashed on what seemed like a daily basis. The police brought in the Special Patrol Group to control rioting youngsters and adults alike. The SPG idea backfired massively, as the heavy-handed tactics of the group resulted in many incidents of police brutality.

One band during the punk era did fuse a link between racial and musical cultures. The Ruts, later to become Ruts DC were the heir to The Clash’s punk reggae throne. Formed in the late 70’s, The Ruts pulled together Punk and Reggae influences and fans of both genres alike. Front-man Malcolm Owen sang about Rude boys, Jah and proclaimed the fact that Babylon was burning. The political message made perfect sense to alienated black and white youths and the music wore its influences on its red gold and green safety pinned sleeves. The Ruts were active in The Rock Against Racism movement and played many of the gigs that were held under this banner. Lead sing Owen died of a suspected drug overdose but The Ruts left a great legacy and the band continue under The Ruts DC banner to this very day.

In the early 80’s punks and skinheads clashed as the mods and rockers did years before. The skins split into two factions – There were the highly nationalistic right-wing skinheads and there were skinheads that loved the original ska and reggae once championed by the mods that came to the UK via the first Jamaican immigrants that settled in British Isles.  Punks went into two main groups- On one side you had the Anarcho punks that lived by the non-violent anarchist ethics of bands like Crass, Conflict and The Subhumans. On the other side you had the punks and skunx (skinhead punk hybrid) that were into a punk spin-off called Oi.

Oi was punks in the pub on the streets older brother. Punk was about rebelling against youthful boredom and unemployment – Oi celebrated working class tradition, football and beer culture. From the start Oi had its detractors. Yes, there were some moments that don’t stand up to the test of time and were slightly dubious but bands like Cockney Rejects, Cock Sparrer and The Business released seminal albums that still resonant with a passion and vigor that lacks in a lot of current guitar music.

Oi concerts were seen by the media to attract right wing skinheads and football lads and gigs were now turning into full scale riots. The culmination of troubles that plagued Oi was at a gig by the 4 Skins in Southall West London. The local Asian community feared that the gig was a far right rock concert, what ensued has gone done in rock ‘n’ roll history as some of the most violent scenes to grace a music gig.

Petrol bombs were thrown, the police were under attack and under prepared for the onslaught by the local community and the gig venue was burnt to the ground.  Oi fans were all brandished trouble makers and bands found it impossible to get gigs.

The 80’s must go down as one of the most violent decades in history and anyone growing up in that decade I am sure will look back with fond memories but those memories will always be tainted with the angry and oppressive nature of the decade.

One person that has a story to tell about this decade is Beverley Thompson and she along with a great crew is set to make a film about growing up in this volatile decade.

The film short Beverley will be about a mixed-race girl trying to find her own identity within early 80’s Britain. Bev’ fought against the uncertainty and hatred of the 80’s and carved out what was to become the woman she is today – One who is grounded and with a special story to tell.

The Two Tone movement united skinheads, black youth and punks in a way that put the cultural differences aside. Two Tone fused the fast paced beat of punk, mixed in a dash of reggae guitar and fused punk and dub bass lines that provided a voice to black and white youth alike. The fashion colours were black and white and it was the first time that black and white really did come together. Bands including The Specials, The Beat and The Selector, were at the forefront of the Two-Tone scene and a movement was created.

Beverly Thompson had found the home and culture that she was looking for. Two Tone bands had black and white members and fused cultural influences from far and wide. The Specials sang about life in the UK and covered a few reggae songs that both and white youth had cherished years before. Listen to Ghost Town and every nuance and word within that song sums up the violent apathy that was felt by the youth of the 80’s.

In early life Bev moved to Leicester, the culturally diverse area of the East Midlands. Here was a place that Beverley truly felt at home and was another place where black and white youth mixed on the streets, this was cemented by joining Leicester City’s hooligan firm The Baby Squad. The football casual scene was bowling about in Diadora, Lacoste and Fila and Bev’ became one of the first female football casuals.

Without giving too much more away about the story here, Beverly is a project that will encapsulate a time and youth culture in England that I think will add a new angle to history of 80’s Britain. Stories like Beverley’s deserve to be told and being able to see this on the big screen is one that is one worth backing.

The short film will include music by The Ruts DC and The Stone foundation, the latter being part of a current crop of bands that fuse together a soulful mod vibe with a cool slick indie-ness. The Former as discussed earlier, were pioneers of fusing reggae and punk and are doing what they do best and are still making music.

Beverley the film is an independent project that is being funded by donations. Produced by award-winning producer Cass Pennant and written and produced by award-winning filmmaker Alexander Thomas everything is in place to make this a seminal piece of film, except the finances to make it and this is where YOU come in…

Every donation, no matter how big or small will help to raise the funds needed to make the film. Vivid Riot has got behind the project and we kindly ask you to do the same.

Independent film is the real deal. It is about real ideas and real people. People like you.

Here we speak to filmaker Alxendar Thomas and Beverley about the film.

Beverley.

From the synopsis, I have noticed that this film will be about your struggle growing up during the 80’s – Culturally how to you feel the 80’s compares to the current decade?

In a lot of ways there are parallels between the 1980’s and the current economical and social situation. We are suffering from a recession, high employment, public sector protests, greedy bankers, a conservative government and immigration used scapegoat for bad policy.

However, there are a number of distinct differences such as the drugs culture, including the introduction of a mass market for class A drug use. Crack-Cocaine was introduced to the UK in the late 1980’s and was epidemic by the 1990’s.

The class system still exists but the lines are blurred. It is easier to get credit, so material objects are more available to lower income families. Mass production has created huge conglomerates and monopolies. Young people growing up in this fast moving technical age do not have the privilege of naivety – sticks used as swords  have been replaced with real knives and the air rifle with real guns!

Off the top of your head, what are your three best and worst memories of the 80’s?

Three best memories of the 1980’s: Pre-1985, the Fashion and music, getting a Doberman dog, falling in love with Mark Kelly.

Three worst memories: Bob Marley’s death, moving schools and city just before taking my CSE’s, and having my heart broken by Jason Cummins.

In your own words, what would you like the overriding message to be from the film Beverley?

I thought at the beginning of this process I had an overriding message – to tell a story from a mix-race perspective – now it’s becoming something else – should ethnicity define us or should we aspire to see pass racial identity? I am still on a journey of discovery so at this point don’t have a defined message.

But overall I want it to be an interesting story and hope every-one finds their own personal message whether they are black or white, mix-race, male or female – if a story is human you will find yourself in there and identify with the complexity of life.

Pick three or five songs that sum up the 80’s for you?

You’re much too young –The Specials

Mirror in the Bathroom –The Beat

Holiday – Madonna

Night Nurse – Gregory Isaacs

Pearls Cafe –The Specials

Do you really want to hurt me – Culture Club

Silly Games – Janet Kay

Which three fashion items define the 80’s for you and why?

Pre- 1985

Black and White Monotone clothing

Leg warmers

Monkey Boots

Post 1985

LaCoste

Aquascutum

Benetton

Fila

Kappa

When is the film likely to be released?

We are planning to start filming in January, so hopefully ready for the Spring 2014.

Thanks and is there anything else you would like to add?

The film is gathering energy even at such an early stage, there is a vibe that something exciting and special is happening. I think British film has a very high standard and our audience will be severe critics so we know we are at the foot of the mountain will a long way to the summit but we are more than confident and raring to go to make a film that will be refreshing and thought provoking.

Those that say it can’t be done need to get out of the way of those who are doing it!

ALEX.

You msut be doing a good job Alex, as you have won a number of awards for your film work, what would you say is your main driving force and inspiration when making film?

Inspiration comes from a broad range of sources: books, theatre, music, other films and even every day occurrences often provide fertile ground for ideas.

It takes an incredible amount of passion and hard work to make a good film. It’s therefore very important that you find ways to make the subject matter personal and become attached to it. If you don’t deeply believe in the film yourself or don’t have enough emotionally invested in it then it’s likely to fall in around you at some point and you won’t have the commitment and mental resources to dig yourself out when it does.

With Beverley, what are you trying to convey to the audience?

Beverley is a short film set in Leicester in 1980. It follows a mixed race girl’s struggles to carve out a sense of identity in a confusing, shifting, cultural landscape. Whilst the film follows Beverley’s journey, it simultaneously explores British cultural history and concepts of British identity. The backdrop to the film is one of the most explosive post-war British subcultures, the 2 Tone movement which saw the coming together of black and white musicians and the union of the musical influences of Jamaican based Ska and British based Punk. The film therefore raises questions about identity on an individual and national basis and explores the relationship between these concepts.

The film will have a very clear point of view. I want the audience to be in Bev’s shoes. She’s a resourceful, strong-willed character – and I hope to raise a few questions in the audience’s mind about the position she finds herself in and what the implications of that are.

How did you become involved in the Beverley film project?

I worked with Cass on the film Casuals. I was brought on board as the cinematographer for that film, but with such a project, where it’s very DIY you have to get involved in all aspects of the process. So during that time Cass and I were working together very closely and we made a good team. We continued to collaborate after Casuals and that has culminated in this film.

What films would make your top three of all time list?

It would change depending on my mood to be honest, but always up there somewhere would be Raging Bull, La Haine and This Is England.

What makes Beverley different to the projects you have worked on in the past?

It’s the first fiction film I’ve written that’s based on or inspired by a real person and real events. Also, it’s set in 1980 so that’s a new territory for me too. It’s required more research than my other films: I’ve learnt a lot about British culture, history, and identity and about its post war subcultures (especially Two Tone). I’ve also thought a lot more about identity than I’ve done before. Gary Young states in his book Who Are We? “The more power an identity carries, the less likely its carrier is to be aware of it as an identity at all. Because their identity is never interrogated they are easily seduced by the idea that they do not have one.” The process of developing this project has required me to draw upon the few occasions when I have been deeply aware of my identity in certain circumstances.

What attracted you to Beverley’s life story and then how did the thought of making it a film happen?

Cass and I both found Bev a very interesting character when we worked on Casuals. Cass really knows his British subcultures and wanted to make a film with the Two Tone movement as the backdrop – and he connected this desire with many of the social issues that Bev’s story raises. He asked me to research and to see if I thought there’s a story we could make in there. A three hour interview with Bev followed. There was a lot that resonated with me, and although I knew it was going to be real challenge to condense things into a short script, I was extremely excited at the prospect of making the film.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just to say a huge thanks to those that have donated towards the making of the film. In order to make something that does any kind of justice to the material, era and subculture we’re dealing with it will require a huge amount of generosity from strangers and well wishers and an incredible amount of hard work from everyone else who works on the film which will go largely unrewarded except for the product we create at the end of it. So to those who have supported the project so far and to those who will do in the future we owe a huge debt of gratitude. For my part I can promise a hell of a lot of hard work and dedication in return.

To donate to the film click the link http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/beverley

To follow on Twitter – https://twitter.com/BeverleyFilm

To like on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BeverleyShortFilm

Advertisements

Beverley – A film in progress. Get involved.

11 Nov

 

Beverley is a film about a mixed race girl’s struggles to carve out a sense of identity in a confusing, shifting cultural landscape. A move from the decaying, poverty-stricken, urban environment to the relative comfort and theoretical safety of white suburbia does not provide the hope and opportunities Bev may have wished for. A familiar enemy is ever present – a threat that extends beyond her own safety – more importantly she must protect her brother and sister. By asserting her will and using her guile, Bev tries to shape her new environment into something palatable, but the result is the opposite of what she is trying to achieve.

WHY TELL THIS STORY?

At the heart of the film is the question of identity and in particular British identity, it’s the battle of one individual to define and assert their own identity in a society that doesn’t allow them much cultural capital. At the same time that battle is mirrored by the battle of society at large to define its own identity, something that Britain was struggling with in 1980 and really it’s the collision of those two forces that causes the tension, which is the heart of the drama in this film.

We feel that this mixed race identity that we’re seeking to investigate in this film Beverley, really hasn’t been significantly covered. Beverley herself says it best: “The issue of race is complex and none more so than for the mix-race population. How can you create an identity where none existed before you?”

The other reason we wanted to make Beverley as the next film project is simply that the 80s was the most diverse time for British youth subcultures and the one we’ve not seen in fiction film is the 2 tone movement. Beverley would be a fascinating film about this period which was really about British identity and multiculturalism.

The story of British culture and identity is not complete until a film is made that does justice to the legacy of Two Tone music and fully investigates the experience of mixed-race Britons.

To donate and get involved visit here: http://igg.me/at/BeverleyRelaunched/x/6095900