City music beat goes on into new decades

WITH Made In Sheffield, her documentary about the city music scene in the Seventies listed among Time Out's Top 50 music films of all time, Eve Wood was encouraged to carry the story forward into the Eighties and Nineties.

And this proved to open up an even richer seam of material in terms of the music itself and pictorial records of it, with the result that The Beat is the Law, premiering at Sheffield Doc/Fest tonight, is only the first part of the story.

It follows musicians emerging on the post-punk Sheffield scene in the early Eighties as the city was reluctantly re-inventing itself from its industrial heritage and forming bands like Hula, Treebound Story, Pulp, Clock DVA and Chakk who established their own label, Fon.

Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley, Pulp's Russell Senior and Mark Brydon of Chakk are among those interviewed.

It finishes with Fon releasing House Arrest, their first UK dance hit, which will set up part two.

"We wanted to end on a success though it was also a time of political defeat and also Jarvis going off to London as Pulp had failed to make the breakthrough," says Wood.

"This film is about the next generation after the Made in Sheffield bands (Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, ABC, etc) and when their story starts.

"It's the route to their success I am interested in. The story before people become successful is more interesting than when people are successful."

Wood, originally from the Netherlands, chose to use the politics and industrial turmoil of the time as a motif.

"It seemed to be the heart of the story, even if many of them weren't politically active. It had more to do with them being on the dole and rehearsing in old industrial buildings. Also the influence on the music – the industrial funk thing.

"I came to Sheffield in 1996 and was quite surprised to find how political people in the city were in those times and how deep the anti-Thatcher feeling was," says Wood.

"Although in that sense I was an outsider I knew about the city's industrial past. My husband is from a steel family."

Wood felt it was important to find a context. "So many films about bands and music scenes seem artificial. This has got a direct point to it".

The film includes much archive footage of the bands and also the city during that period.

"I didn't know what was out there when I started. One of the good sources was SIF, particularly Steve Jinks and Garry Wraith.

"Steve had made a film about the Leadmill which had never really gone anywhere until now. It's really nice when you discover these kinds of things. Then it was like a jigsaw fitting them into the film."

She chose industrial backgrounds for the interviews. "All bricks and windows," she says.

"We filmed at places like Yellow Arches, Archipelago and Matilda Works, places where they used to do their stuff. It felt appropriate to do that."

Wood detected a different undertone to the way people talked. "For the people we interviewed for Made in Sheffield it was the best time of their lives."This time bad things had happened and there were bad feelings about some of the things that had gone on," she says, "and in some cases people preferred to leave things unsaid."

Towards the end of The Beat is the Law there is reference to the infamous Nine O'Clock Service, about which there is still considerable secrecy.

"A lot of talented people went into it. On the face of it it was an exciting thing, a rave service, and people were attracted to it before it all went wrong," she says.

"This is another wound that needs to be healed."

Writer-director Eve and producer husband Richard are not yet sure how they will approach part two of The Beat is the Law, which will take the story up to 1996.

Much will be dependent on how well this DVD sells but in the end they see the two parts being combined into one film, hopefully to be broadcast one day.

After the Doc/Fest, the Showroom will be screening The Beat Is The Law Part One from Monday to Thursday November 12, when there will be a panel discussion chaired by music journalist John Robb with special guests including Russell Senior (Pulp), Jake Harries (Chakk) and Eve Wood plus live music.

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