New film about austerity in Britain

This video from Britain says about itself:


18 okt. 2012

A surreal and gritty musical set against the backdrop of the cuts. Linda, a strong woman in her late 40s, works with young offenders. Facing unemployment and the pending closure of the centre where she works, Linda thinks only of Connor, a defiant 14-year-old who has no one, apart from her. Linda risks her relationship, her home and her reputation to help him. But as she fights for control, she realises she has none…

By Lynne Harwood in Britain:

Cinema Preview: Framing a fightback

Tuesday 15th April 2014

The anti-cuts film Big Society The Musical, set in Liverpool, is about to get its premiere. Its director LYNNE HARWOOD explains why and how it was made

In the the summer of 2010 David Cameron came to Liverpool to make his speech about the “big society,” as the city was to be one of the places where the idea would be launched.

At the First Take film production company where I work, as in many community and arts organisations throughout the city, we were bemused.

Isn’t this how we’d been living and working all these years? In the community? Making a difference? But then, if the government was supporting this ethos, surely it was a good thing? Surely it would mean more funding to enable the work we and others do to thrive?

By the end of that year we knew not only that it was all empty rhetoric but a blatant insult, as the very organisations that had been working in the communities for years were being threatened.

For First Take this was made apparent when we lost a grant for our project Rainbow Lives, a film project to raise awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in later life when people need home or residential care.

It was in January 2011 that I came up with the idea of Big Society The Musical. With the Liverpool and Merseyside community at its heart, Big Society includes over 350 voices and is led by local talent Paula Simms, Joe Maddocks and Jennifer John with a musical, score by Andy Frizell. A feature-length film based on current realities in Liverpool, it is our artistic response as the cuts are being implemented.

While as a piece of social realism it tells the story of how the cuts affect individuals there are surreal all-singing, all-dancing moments. Marrying the action of protest marches with the spectacle of a West End musical it weaves in a personal story of finding a voice. It’s designed to be a creative response to the cuts and to empower communities to work together and provide a vehicle for new voices to be heard.

It follows Linda, a feisty woman in her late 40s who works with young offenders. Facing unemployment and the pending closure of her youth centre, she thinks only of the defiant 14-year-old Connor, who has no-one apart from her.

Linda risks her relationship, her home and her reputation to help him. But as she fights for control, she realises she has none. Her response — the tag for the film — is: ‘When no-one hears you shout, sing!”

First Take encouraged local people to come together for the three-year project, which in one scene depicts over 200 people singing a key musical number. But in order to make the film a reality we had to convince people to get on board and support it by volunteering and giving their time. Along the way we had to beg and borrow from many. Apart from Liverpool City funding, the film also got financial backing from Unison North West, The Co-operative Community Fund and SHAP.

By February 2011 Liverpool opted out of the “big society” as the government was cutting funding from the very organisations that make the idea a possibility.

During that time we worked with over 350 members of the community, writers, trainee filmmakers, performers, a composer and nearly 30 local businesses and community centres, including Mersey Fire and Rescue who helped us pull off a major pyrotechnics stunt setting a car ablaze.

Everybody volunteering. Everybody working to the same end, to create a piece of work in response to the austerity measures and to try to make a difference.

But the amazing news is the film has already met with success — it has been chosen to open the London Labour Film Festival in two weeks time. It is a festival of cinema celebrating working people and I hope you’ll be able to get along to see our contribution to it.

Big Society The Musical gets its premiere at the Odeon Cinema Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2 on Monday April 28. For tickets, contact

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