‘If there was a revolution it would start in Liverpool’ – Ken Loach on how he takes inspiration from Hillsborough campaigners

I unfortunately missed an opportunity to hear Ken Loach give a talk at my local cinema before a screening of Spirit of ’45 – he’s certainly one of the most socially aware filmmakers working in the UK with a keen sense of justice and compassion for the rejected and disaffected.

Via Liverpool Echo:

THE Spirit of ‘45, the title of acclaimed director Ken Loach’s latest film, is still alive and kicking – at least in Liverpool.

Press material for his latest work, which features archive footage and contemporary interviews with people from around the UK, including Liverpool, stresses that the spirit of the age was “to be our brother’s and our sister’s keeper”.

Which seems to chime with this city’s Hillsborough campaigning and latest number one: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by The Justice Collective.

Ken, the Nuneaton-born adopted Scouser who has a long and strong association with Liverpool, says: “The Hillsborough campaign shows the strength people have when they stand together. Liverpool embodies that spirit of not giving in and we can certainly all learn from this campaign and what has come out of it.”

 The Spirit of ‘45 features interviews with Liverpool’s Tony Mulhearn, Doreen McNally, John Farrell, Eileen Thompson, Sam Watts, Tony Nelson and Terry Teague – and, recalling the era, Ken, 76, says: “We had won the war together; together we could win the peace… The central idea was common ownership, where production and services were to benefit all.”

Fast forward nearly 70 years – how different are things now?

Ken says: “People, by and large, are good neighbours and they do look out for each other. The problem is we have an economic system based on the reverse. It’s based on competition and people doing deals with each other to get the best for themselves.

“After 1945 we set up these big institutions and organisations that belonged to everyone, including the National Health Service, the railways and so on. That’s been dismantled – first by the Tories but, later, with the connivance of the Labour Party.”

As a result, he believes there is now a need for a new political movement of the left.

He explains: “I think there has to be a new party. The problem is that the left has stayed fragmented. There are so many campaigns – for example, keeping this hospital and that community centre open. The task is to link them together.”

But won’t large sections of the national Press simply be waiting to squash such a new party?

“That’s why it would have to be very clever,” says Ken. “It would need to have a very sophisticated PR campaign.”

Is there no turning back, then? No way the current Labour Party could provide what disaffected people on the left want?

Ken says: “The spirit of the age after the war was one of mutual support – being your brother and sister’s keeper. But that has been written out of history because it doesn’t suit any of the main parties. It certainly doesn’t suit New Labour, which removed Clause Four from its constitution – the bedrock of the Labour Party in 1945.

“I think the Labour Party now is beyond saving.”

But there are those who insist that this country will always be conservative with a small ‘c’ and there will never be a genuinely left-wing party in power.

 Ken says: “Yes, but that doesn’t take account of the 1.5 million people who marched against the Iraq war and the great campaigns to save the NHS, protest against benefit cuts and show support for the disabled.

“I think there are a lot of people around who would support a new party which nailed its colours to the mast – which supported the NHS, was against privatisation and for taking the railways back into public ownership.

“There is a groundswell – it’s about organising it and being skilful with the PR.”

Ken knows all about campaigning – and has done much of it alongside Liverpool friends including Ricky Tomlinson and Tony Mulhearn, whether it be addressing meetings in support of the Shrewsbury 24 justice campaign or anti-cuts rallies.

And while his CV includes Cathy Come Home, Up The Junction, Poor Cow, Kes, Sweet Sixteen and The Wind That Shakes The Barley, there are many Liverpool-related works. These include Z Cars, The Golden Vision, Riff Raff and Raining Stones, which helped relaunch the acting career of Ricky Tomlinson; Ladybird Ladybird, starring Crissy Rock; Land And Freedom, featuring Ian Hart, and Route Irish (Mark Womack and John Bishop).

Meanwhile, the master of social realism’s 1996 documentary The Flickering Flame focused on the sacked Liverpool dockers – and, back in 1968, he made the film The Big Flame in Liverpool, a fictional story set in the docks and written by the late Jim Allen, who was from Manchester.

Ken recalls: “Jim Allen said Liverpool was the battleground of Britain – if a revolution was to start anywhere, it would start in Liverpool. The city is full of very articulate, thoughtful people and it’s always a joy to be there – I always feel connected because the people make you feel welcome.”

The Spirit of ‘45 is released on March 15. In Liverpool, FACT (www.fact.co.uk) will be showing it from March 17, when Ken will take part in a Q&A by satellite link up.


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