‘Life - it’s always been too much, and not enough…When I was a kid, I was funny, and I thought: that’s what I’ll do. It’ll be my job to make ‘em laugh.’
At a time when the news is full of the vast under representation of working class voices in the arts, it’s a pertinent moment for the release of Funny Cow - a film set in the 1970s about a working-class artist, set in a working-class environment.
Things have certainly got better in terms of representation but the world of arts and culture, and across the board is certainly not an equal place.
This week a report called Panic! 2018: Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries was released by a team of sociologists from the universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, that aimed to assess the current landscape of arts and culture and investigate inequality. It was based on almost 300 interviews with people working in film, TV, music and radio as well as performing and visual arts and found that just 12.4% of workers in the film industry were of working class origins and of these only 28.4% were women. So, the answer is simple: we need more representation – now.
Funny Cow is the story of the rise of a female stand-up comic from Yorkshire, who amid discrimination and dismissal in her workplace – the working men’s clubs and comedy circuit, uses the raw material of her life experience to ascend in an all-male world. It stars the remarkable Maxine Peake as ‘Funny Cow’ a lead character who tellingly isn’t given any other name in the film but one of several disparaging colloquialisms. She is fierce, mesmerising and incendiary, but when heckled by the audience in a club her tactic is to ‘conquer them with love’ - and in a similar vein, the film delivers tragedy, triumph and comedy in equal measures.
Written by Tony Pitts who also stars in the film and directed by Adrian Shergold, the film’s cast is also stellar and wide ranging with Paddy Considine, Lindsey Coulson, Stephen Graham, Alun Armstrong, Diane Morgan, Kevin Eldon and Vic Reeves.
The spirit of Sheffield, and northern cities like it run like a seam of Blue John through the film’s 102 minutes, especially in the soaring and shimmering songs of Richard Hawley’s original soundtrack. It’s also the final screen appearance of Sheffield’s own hero: actor and comedian Bobby Nutt, who first found fame as the voice of the miners, Sid Storey, in Ken Loach’s drama, The Price of Coal by Barry Hines. We need more stories from places like Sheffield that often don’t get look in when the focus so often pulled to concentrate on the cultural activity of London and its southerly neighbours.
You can catch Funny Cow at the Showroom from Friday.