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THIS IS ENGLAND
Writer & Director Shane Meadows
Reviewed by Cardinal Cox

DVD of this film available from Amazon.co.uk

This Is England DVD
This Is England


Write Dope on Pnuk part 43

Summer 1983 and 12-year-old Sean is not coming to terms with the death of his father in the Falklands War. He is then taken under the wing of kindly skinhead Woody who gives him some much needed male-bonding and structure in his summer holiday. Then much older Combo comes out of prison. He too takes to Sean, but the gang is split by Combo's espousal of right-wing politics (presumably learned in prison). Although Woody owes Combo, he'll have nothing to do with the politics, and so Sean is exposed to Combo's influence alone. Tensions mount and explode as Combo rages, not so much about race as his own social inadequacy.

Apparently largely autobiographical it is interesting that the film shows a balanced view of skinheads and the banality of the National Front ideologues of the time. They were little Englander managers who were never going to make millions under Thatcher and wanted someone to blame. Skinheads and others were going to be their brownshirts.

Skinheads though came from multi-cultural roots, West Indian Rudeboys mixing with Mods in the 'sixties. Aggression against the Asians was initially more of a misplaced class hatred (the Asians seen becoming shopkeepers or doctors were middle class, while West Indians slotted into the working class) rather than purely racially inspired. Then in the 'seventies the skins and the casuals chummied up into terrace based gangs. I wonder how the books of Richard Allen may have influenced any of this. By the late 'seventies the right-wing skins were mirrored across the divide by SWP skins, shortly to be listening to The Redskins. In the middle were the apolitical skins. It was no wonder that the Southall riot of 1981 happened. Skinheads turn up for a gig in a predominantly Asian community, scores to be settled even if there were no right wingers present. And Gary Bushell's 'Strength through Oi' compilation could never help matters.

Yes, my elder brother was once beaten up by skinheads (he had just sprayed a silver Bowie streak in his hair), but the film reminded me of a skin that I'd known. Lanky, and by the nickname of Chewy, he kept me out of trouble a couple of times when I was naught but a nobby-rocker.

Shane Meadows film evokes an era of the past and has something to say about today. Set in an anytown (but, according to the notes, north east Lincolnshire, near the coast, and not too far from Grimsby) it could easily be about any lad following the wrong path.

© All work copyright of Cardinal Cox.

 


CARDINAL COX is from Peterborough, Cambs, and has been having his writings published in the small press for over twenty years. The Cardinal was Poet Laureate of Peterborough in 2003, and he has been Poet in Residence for the Friends of Broadway Cemetery in Peterborough. He was also a member of the Warriors Gate team which won the BBC quiz programme 'Telly Addicts' in 1994, and was a member of Peterborough band Sonic Energy Authority.

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