Being rota’d in to interview guests at a random selection of films during Leeds International Film Festival can throw up a lot of surprises. Throwing up being one of them (I’m not good with horror films).
But on the other hand, without being ordered to be there, I might have let this little gem slip the net, possibly forever.
High On Hope celebrates the 20th anniversary of the acid house scene in Blackburn, through a combination of retro footage, animation, and revealing interviews with some of the people who raved their little hearts out at some of the biggest parties the North had ever seen ”â as well as the people who made them happen.
“I said to Tony Wilson, I said ”ËMadchester? What’s all that about? Where can you go in Manchester after 2am?’ And he couldn’t answer me. There was fuck all in Manchester, it’s a myth, it was all in Blackburn.”Â
So says one of the film’s stars, Tony, owner of some of the balls and brains behind the 1989-91 warehouse revolution, as he leans on the bar at the HiFi club in Leeds after seeing the film there for the first time.
The night might have been nerve-wracking enough for Tony, but for film-maker Piers Sanderson the evening was a twin terror. Not only did he have the audience approval to worry about ”â being the first punters in the UK to see the film ”â but also that of the characters whose illegal activity is documented in great detail on screen.
In fact, scrap that, make it a triple terror ”â the music in the film hasn’t been licensed yet due to the monumental costs involved, so he’s not even sure whether this showing is legal. You can take the boy out of the rave”Â¦
Tony and his partner-in-crime (literally) and polar opposite, Tommy, began their soirees small, as just 50 people in a workshop. But soon up to 10,000 people were turning up to these things ”â all of them in disused industrial buildings left empty by hard times.
Sick of rip-off clubs that told them what to wear, of music they didn’t like, and of violence in the streets every weekend, people united to party in risky freedom (and popped the odd pill of course). If you’d expect these same people to look back in regret at their days of youthful law-breaking, then High On Hope might surprise you.
Was it a revolution or was it just a party? Tommy and Tony’s ideas differed on that one. But this insight into the risks and the planning involved, and seeing the party payoffs and the police and papers’ reactions, will alternately make you laugh out loud and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, even 20 years later.
Things came to head when, eventually driven out of Lancashire, one of the pair’s parties in Leeds saw the biggest peacetime arrest in British history, with 836 people carted off in one night from a gymkhana stadium. Seriously.
What happened next? Well, if you were there, you were most likely mashed out of your face, so you’ll still have to see the film to find out.
High On Hope yesterday won the Audience Award at the Leeds International Film Festival – which was a shock, being a documentary – as well as a Best Film awards at the Barcelona Film Festival.
Now High On Hope needs to prove its audience is out there before distributors will stump up the cash to license the music and allow the film to be released. Trailer views on the website count, so please link around if you want to see this important bit of our cultural history.