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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

When Roots loses its charm

I was talking to an independent film-maker called Nigel Buck (see his showreel here - warning, it may make you feel you've chosen the wrong career) earlier this week about something else when he drew my attention to this pilot, put together last year, for a documentary that never got made.

The documentary was to have been called Folk the BNP and the pilot features a brief roundup, for television commissioning editors who hadn't followed the story, of what the BNP was attempting to do on the folk scene.

Buck cut the promo for two other film-makers called Andrew Graham-Brown, who owns a production company called AGB Films, and Evie Wright, who was the moving force behind the idea. They showed it around, thinking that it could have been timely for the general election, but as is often the way in the creative industries it failed to find a taker at the time.

"We thought of it for Cutting Edge on Channel Four," said Graham-Brown. "And we heard back from them eventually. But it was one of those stories that had to be done there and then really. And the BBC looked at it but said it was quite like a Storyville they'd made about the goings-on in Barking and Dagenham."

Wright still seems committed to making something in the subject area - describing the project as "dormant but not over" as far as she's concerned. "I've got some footage of Nick Griffin talking about folk immediately after he came off stage after losing the election in Barking and Dagenham," she said.

Graham-Brown mused out loud about the relative merits of attempting to get a three-part series about folk music made, incorporating this story as one  of its elements. "Wierdly, the promo went on YouTube and it got 80,000 hits in a really short space of time - I've got no idea who was watching it. We thought that might impress the commissioning editors. But it hasn't yet." Watch this space...

This made me wonder about the song that kicked some of this hoo-hah off. I've seen Show of Hands several times this summer at festivals and a recurring theme was encores during which the audience muttered appreciatively: "They're not finished yet. They haven't done Roots." Only to find at the end that it hadn't been on the play list.

"I suppose I should sing it more," said Steve Knightley. "Everyone expects. It's just hard work committing to it vocally and morally night after night. It was starting to feel slightly charmless. It's like Arrogance Ignorance and Greed and Country Life: it demands conviction and sometimes my energy flags."

It struck me watching the promo that he must have spent a great deal of time talking about that one song, justifying it, explaining it.

"We have been playing it on occasion - we did it at the last gig. But it's been feeling as if one's forcing oneself to emote or convey anger or indignation long after the original energy of the song brought them naturally. Imagine being in a three year West End run of Look Back in Anger.

"It's nothing about the merits of the song, just the demands of the performance."

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