Without a doubt one of the highlights of Sheffield’s Sensoria festival was last night’s preview screening of Eve Wood’s documentary ‘The Beat Is The Law (Part One)’. Focussing on the city of Sheffield as the undercurrents of Thatcher’s Britain and her ongoing conflict with the miner’s began. While the subject of the miner’s strike is one that has been covered in great detail already this time around the focus is purely on Sheffield and the accompanying musical scene that was evolving in the eighties.
This is not just a film for the locals who may or may not have been around to witness the events first hand but it serves as something of a cultural document, music fans will not be disappointed as the film digs a little deeper than the more obvious references you might expect to see when people talk about Sheffield. The story of bands like Clock DVA and Chakk might not be ones that are as well known as say the history of the Human League or Pulp but that doesn’t make them any less relevant or interesting.
The story is told largely in the form of interviews with people from the time, and one thing Sheffield has proven itself more than capable is bringing forth individuals who can tell a good story. Jarvis Cocker is always a safe pair of hands for a witty one liner while there is something about Richard Hawley just sitting smoking a cigarette that has a good natured air of the curmudgeonly about it.
One of the film’s strongest themes is one of defiance, both socially and musically. A resistance to a government’s ill treatment of a community and a musical scene which resisted the traditional (for the time) models of how a band should a) get signed b) create a record. It showcases the entire creative scene which comprised not only of bands but of interconnected artists such as Martin Bedford who provided the characteristic artwork for The Leadmill venue for over ten years.
As a film it’s compelling viewing, you don’t have to to be from Sheffield or necessarily a die hard music fan to appreciate it. Because when you scratch beneath the surface this film is about so much more than that.