Ken Loach and The Spirit of ’45

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Ken Loach

Ken Loach

Acclaimed director Ken Loach visited Liverpool for a special screening of his latest documentary, The Spirit of ’45, and talked to JMU Journalism about the inspiration behind the project.

Loach visited FACT – where his documentary will be screened – and spoke about his passion for social issues and how, at a time when the Welfare State is challenged in the UK, he returns with a documentary about the spirit of a year which saw huge changes in the British social and political landscape.

It’s a documentary intended to remind the public of the social advances Britons fought for together almost 70 years ago, from a man who turned down an OBE because: “It’s not a club you want to join when you look at the villains who’ve got it”.

He told JMU Journalism: “It just seemed a good moment, politically. It’s important because it was a time when people worked together. That mood of cooperation has been killed by successive Governments.

“We now have a model of society where everybody fights for their own selves; it doesn’t work. We’ve got mass unemployment and economies in collapse across Europe.”

Returning to documentary-making for the first time in eight years – his last being McLibel, in which worked with Franny Armstrong – after films including The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Looking for Eric, Loach used film footage from Britain’s regional and national archives, complemented with sound recordings and contemporary interviews; intending to leave no room for accusations of bending the truth.

He explained: “If you show the actual footage and people’s real memories, it’s like evidence. This is the way they remember it, that is what they experienced, so in a sense it’s like a resource; people can refer back to it and say with authority, yes that did happen. People did feel that.”

The film remains in black and white – even for contemporary footage – and to do so was an obvious decision, according to Loach: “It was a conscious choice; it’s very irritating when you’re forever cutting between colour and black and white. And I think black and white can be very handsome, so it’s to give it a unity.”

The Bedroom Tax and the NHS privatisation are two major issues currently shaking Liverpool and beyond. Loach argues: “The Government’s intention is to turn it into the American style health system where you end up getting private insurance because what is left of the health service is so poor and so inefficient.

“The Tax is simply making poorer people have no stability in their home. In no way will it deal with the problem of homelessness, and the terrible housing situation.”

Loach is unfazed by the new Labour government’s policies, a Labour Party which he says is “beyond rescue”, adding: “The way it was going was quite obvious, everything Mandelson and Brown said, they told you they were going to adopt the business agenda, so there was no disappointment because there was no expectation.”

Loach then elaborates on the state of the left wing: “We need a new movement on the left; we’ve got to have a broad based democratic organisation which every left group feels has a stake.

“I hope that people come out of it with a sense of anger at what we let slip. The people who made the advances in ‘45 thought that they were changing things for good and, in fact, within 30-40 years, this all started to go. That’s the sadness, it should make us angry.

“Another aim is to ask questions about politics now, where are we going, what can we learn from ‘45? And also, remember there was a time when the Socialist program actually won.”

The Spirit of ’45 is showing at FACT from March 15 (Friday). The screening will be followed by a live Q&A with Loach and guests.

About Paul Collins, JMU Journalism