You’ll Never Walk Alone enjoys a rare screening at The British Music Experience and Getintothis’ Del Pike wallows in nostalgia at a great rediscovered classic.
You’ll Never Walk Alone is a French film of some 25 years, a chronicle of Liverpool life in 1992, particularly in those streets where music emanates from every window.
It’s a film that inhabits a very precious place in the heart of Paul Fitzgerald, long time city muse and writer for Getintothis. Nary a day goes by without him mentioning it in some sphere or other, so it comes with little surprise that Paul is the curator of this very special event tonight.
Bringing together the makers of the film including director Evelyne Ragot, the film received a rare screening to a roomful of familiar faces from the Liverpool music scene, old and new. Finding myself sat between Chris Griffiths (The Real People) and Bill Ryder-Jones throughout the film reminded me of the continually evolving heritage the city possesses and what this film essentially celebrates.
Roisin Burns’ short film Passing Tides, dealing with family loss shared between herself and Bill Ryder Jones is a moving piece that builds emotion through images of the Mersey Coast and Bill’s home in West Kirkby. A beautiful companion piece to The French Fillm.
A short Q&A hosted by Bido Lito!’s Craig Pennington shone light on the production and allowed Roisin and Bill to explain their influences and aims.
You’ll Never Walk Alone is a thing of great beauty. Its two main stars are undoubtedly Ian McCulloch and Michael Head, Mac caught at his wry best, commenting endlessly on the wonders of The Killing Moon, Mick in his Mum’s kitchen, working out tunes with brother John.
While these two local heroes are the lynch-pin of the film, the real enjoyment comes in the cameos from that rich seam of Liverpool talent at the start of the 90s. We see Edgar Jones laughing out loud, before LOL-ing was invented, at Zippy and George on his Mum’s telly; Connie Lush sweating it out in a boozer and The Real People, all long curly hair and attitude playing to a packed house at the height of their reign.
This is post-Thatcher Liverpool, a shell of the supposed swinging city of the 60’s. Mass unemployment, a Toxteth still scarred over a decade after the riots, and pre-developed docklands, echoing and vacant. It’s a grim snapshot of a dying city, people on their knees with little else but the constant thrum of music to keep them sane.
It’s hard to believe the film was made by a French crew, as it’s a film that feels like it can only be fully understood by Liverpool folk.
Take the ridiculous nature of Michael Head’s celebration of Runcorn, the gateway to Liverpool for those returning from London. Only a Scouser would get the significance of that. Or Mac’s theory on how we measure the desperation of the city by how loud the chanting is in the Kop.
One of the most moving scenes in the film is a scene at Paul Fitz’s Nan’s birthday party which sees Paul wedged between his Nan and his mother’s barbershop quartet, in the living room. His Nan’s words of wisdom as Paul interviews her resonate as she extols the importance of music in life, (“If you don’t have music… You’ve missed out”) before breaking into wonderful song herself. It appears staged, but as Paul clearly states after the screening, this was his life, this is what he grew up with.
Scenes in the Head household, although very different, further amplify the importance of music, in this case an escape from hardship. He speaks openly about his drug addiction in the film, and this juxtaposition with images of him with his Mum and young daughter hit home the realities of working class life at that time, and the struggle to maintain sanity and be a good Dad. Scenes with Mick and his daughter in a dilapidated New Brighton are particularly stirring.
There is ugliness in the film, a wasted Allan Williams shouting at revelers, run down rows of shops and endless shots of urban decay, but there is beauty too.
Misty shots of the Mersey and early morning In Sefton Park reflect the season and the city but scenes of hedonism within the sweaty walls of The Academy and Bootle’s legendary Quadrant Park, house party scenes and joyous jamming with The Stairs reflect beauty in the mood of the moment. Footage of Paul’s Karaoke Night at Hartley’s Wine Bar, the only karaoke at that time outside of London, show frivolity and fun in a much needed landscape.
It’s a vital film, and Paul’s brother Stuart makes a point in the Q&A after the film of stating the importance of making a sequel to show the Liverpool music scene now. He rightly points out that it is no longer grey and black and is indeed a post City of Culture (rather than Post-Thatcher) that has thrived and developed.
Roisin Burns also points out the lack of female performers in the film which draws our attention to the rise in recent years of the likes of Pink Kink, Stealing Sheep, She Drew The Gun and Eleanor Nelly to name but a few great female artists.
Such a special night tonight, not only for the chance to see a great film but also a chance to assess how lucky we are in Liverpool to have such an embarrassment of talent and the importance of never giving up the dream. Liverpool is a much better place now than in ’92, not perfect but a wonderful wonderful city nonetheless. We loved “The French Film”.