New Music Documentary for Birmingham Popular Music Archive produced by swish films

MACE has supplied a number of titles from the ITV Central regional news collection to the documentary, Made In Birmingham.

See their press release below:


Regional industry news Birmingham Popular Music Archive and swish films are delighted to announce that filming and post production has been completed on the new music film, MADE IN BIRMINGHAM: Reggae Punk Bhangra. Directed with a refreshing robustness by Deborah Aston, MADE IN BIRMINGHAM is an hour long min music documentary that charts the cultural, social and political background to three music genres – Reggae Punk Bhangra – that have strong positive associations with the city.

Funded via the Digital Archive Fund, c/o Screen WM, MADE IN BIRMINGHAM draws extensively on a host of regional, national and international film archives, including the Media Archive for Central England/MACE, ITV, Oom Gallery, and Artclips / Paris.

From such archives, material has been unearthed that hasn’t been seen publicly for 25 years or more, and it’s all as fresh as a digital daisy ! In the context of MADE IN BIRMINGHAM, this footage has now been ‘re-purposed’ for current and future use. When the film is screened in Film Festivals and cinemas, the archive material will be re-presented afresh to public audiences.

And what marvellous archives they are…. MACE’s holdings yielded up fantastic finds, most notably the Central TV programme, from the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, Here and Now. Broadcast weekly, Here and Now documented the city’s rich Asian and Afro-Caribbean cultural life, especially the emergence of reggae music in the city, whether indigenous (eg, Steel Pulse, Musical Youth, Beshara) or visiting/touring (eg, Mighty Diamonds).

MADE IN BIRMINGHAM has all this in abundance, sourced from this gem of an archive at MACE.

On another tack, researchers at swish films tracked down live footage of iconic Birmingham punk band, Au Pairs, shot at New York night club Hurrahs in the early 1980’s by film maker Merrill Aldighieri. Now in a Parisian film archive, little known – and little seen – footage of this woefully undervalued, but enormously influential Birmingham band has been ‘re -purposed’ and included in the film. For the film, interviews were undertaken – at Maison Mayci Patisserie in Kings Heath – with 20 key musicians and commentators including UB 40 saxophonist, arranger and lyricist Brian Travers; Boy Chana, Rajinder Dudrah. and Ammo Talwar, from Punch Records; Au Pairs Peter Hammond and Paul Foad; Dennis Seaton of Musical Youth; S-ENDZ from Asian fusion crossover group Swami; Denise Johnson, singer and backing singer with UB40 and Simply Red; Amlak Tafari of Pato Banton’s band and the mighty Steel Pulse; Alan Apperley of The Prefects and Nightingales; Vix of Fuzzbox; Pogus Caesar from Oom Gallery…

…and Janice Connolly aka Birmingham’s much loved housewife comedienne, Mrs Barbara Nice, recalls her little documented time in the punk band The Ever Readies.

Also contributing in interviews from various archives are The Beat’s Ranking Roger, Robin Campbell of UB 40, Kevin Rowland – The Killjoys, Dexy’s Midnight Runners – and the legendary David Hinds, Steel Pulse’s eloquent word smith and talismanic front man.

A key film drawn on for archival interviews is MOTOR CITY MUSIC YEARS, the 90 min, 3 x 30 min parts, film directed by Jonnie Turpie for Central Tv and Channel 4, and co produced by swish’s Roger Shannon. Originally made to celebrate Birmingham’s selection as the UK City of Music in 1992, this was the first film to associate, and culturally interpret, the city with music genres such as Heavy Metal and Reggae.

Deborah Aston’s new film groups the interviews and archive footage into three themes – Getting Started; Sense of Community; Creating an Identity – and in doing so explores the interconnectedness of the three music genres, and how individuals and communities express themselves through music and the positive impact this cultural mix has had on the identity of the city.

The film is unapologetic about the city’s influences globally on popular music, pointing out that in Steel Pulse, UB40 and Musical Youth the city has a world class legacy in reggae music – in fact, leaving Bob Marley and The Wailers aside, the three best selling reggae bands in the world at one point were from Birmingham; the cult post punk band The Nightingales played more John Peel BBC sessions than any other band, excluding Peel ultra fave, The Fall ; and regarding Bhangra, Birmingham is identified as the city where this most cherished of international popular Asian music was actually honed, creatively nurtured, innovatively developed, and from where it rose to global prominence in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s.

Jez Collins form the Birmingham Popular Music Archive and Researcher at Birmingham City University said:

I established the archive as a way of celebrating the rich musical heritage of Birmingham. For the last 50 years individuals and groups have continuously produced a vast array of different music and yet as a city we’ve never recognized this. I simply wanted to use our music heritage to engender civic pride as other cities have done, Manchester, Liverpool, New Orleans, Chicago and so on. This all contributes to the profile of these cities let alone the cultural tourism that arises as a result. Working with the Centre of Media and Cultural Research team at BCU has resulted in an archive that is about much more than just the ‘music’. People’s memories are linked to the venues, gigs, friends bands, record shops etc and this is reflected in both the archive and this brilliant film, which swish films have produced. We get to hear first hand, what was happening culturally, socially and politically, and how individuals and communities used music to express themselves. I really hope that the film brings some much deserved attention to the city and its music, what better expression of our culture can there be, as we look to secure the City of Culture title, than a film that encompasses three musical genres such as Reggae, Punk and Bhangra and impact they have had on the global music industry.’

MADE IN BIRMINGHAM – Reggae, Punk Bhangra will play at selected national and international Film Festivals and subsequently will be screened to audiences in Birmingham.

MADE IN BIRMINGHAM – Reggae Punk Bhangra is a swish films production for Birmingham Popular Music Archive.

Directed by Deborah Aston

Executive Producer, swish films, Roger Shannon

Executive Producer, Birmingham Popular Music Archive, Jez Collins

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