film / music

David Lean goes punk

19 October 2023

Coming to our favourite independent cinema at the end of this month is a punk film festival (from Monday 30 October to Saturday 4 November).

As part of the This Is Croydon programme The David Lean Cinema is celebrating our borough’s punk history. The festival includes six different screenings, all featuring special guests, and most with Q&As. The launch film is Basically, Johnny Moped, which is followed by a Q&A with director Fred Burns and Moped’s Johnny Moped and Marty Love. The festival closes with the 2022 production The Damned: A Night of a Thousand Vampires with Director Martin Gooch and Captain Sensible taking part in a Q&A. David Lean’s Patron Joanna Scanlan will be introducing the screening of How to Talk to Girls at Parties (based on Neil Gaiman’s short story set in Croydon in 1977).

The festival has been curated by former chair of the David Lean Cinema Campaign, Adrian Winchester, who was himself part of Croydon’s punk scene – he briefly played bass in Johnny Moped, and also wrote Are They Hostile?, a 1980 single released by The Bad Actors. The 2022 documentary Are They Hostile?, featuring Croydon bands from 1977 to 1985, took its name from this, and is one of the festival screenings.

We caught up with Adrian to find out more about the festival’s curation.

Croydonist: What was the idea behind the theme?

Adrian: Punk gave bands the freedom to do things differently and it’s easy to forget how diverse some of the music was. In that spirit, the festival doesn’t adopt a rigid definition, and includes a wide range of films from 1977 right up to the present day. Although music and musicians is bound to be the main focus, there’s also a fascinating programme of Captain Zip’s films showing fashions and youth cultures.

When it comes to rock music, there’s good reason to focus on punk, partly because the 1970s ‘new wave’ explosion made an impact that extended far beyond music, as seen in fashion and the design of punk fanzines and publicity material. I don’t think we will witness anything quite like it again, so it’s interesting historically, but there’s also a sense of Croydon being directly involved in a way that would be far less evident if we (e.g.) wanted to present a progressive rock film festival. The festival therefore complements Croydon’s year as London Borough of Culture by spotlighting bands with Croydon connections, but it also recognises that other London bands, together with venues, shops and fans made a huge contribution to the punk phenomenon.

Croydonist: How did you go about curating the festival?

Adrian: I didn’t want the focus to be entirely on nostalgia linked to the period from 1976 to the early 1980s. There has been a resurgence of interest in punk; the annual Rebellion Festival in Blackpool is bigger than ever, and features plenty of young bands. So, although I felt that including Punk In London (1977) was crucial as it depicts the peak of the ‘new wave’ as it happened, I’m also delighted to include two films that only appeared last year. One is The Damned: A Night of a Thousand Vampires, which features an extraordinary and highly-theatrical 2019 concert, showing that The Damned remain a formidable creative force.

There’s plenty of variety, so anyone returning to see two or more films will have very different experiences. I’m grateful to our Patron, Joanna Scanlan, for mentioning her film How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017), as it’s the only one that tells a fictional story, and it even works as our film for Halloween.

The festival has involved a lot of research and correspondence. In some cases, the director has personally supplied us with the only copy of the film available. Tracking down who owns the film rights was a challenge in some instances, and even with A Night of a Thousand Vampires, I needed approval from the Hamburg offices of Ear Music, The Damned’s record company.

I consider introductions and Q&As an important part of what makes a festival special and 11 guests are due to participate. The preparations have been extremely time-consuming, so it’s just as well that I started planning in February…

Thank you to Adrian for chatting with us. The festival is sponsored by punk specialists Damaged Goods Records. Book your tickets on The David Lean Cinema website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates. The David Lean Cinema resides in Croydon Clocktower, Katharine Street, Croydon, CR9 1ET. 

Images courtesy of The David Lean Cinema

Posted by Julia

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