Don't Mention the 47

Static Gallery
1st April 2012

Reviewed by Darren Guy
Photograph by Dave Sinclair

Don’t Mention the 47 is a political documentary that re-opens a crucial chapter in Liverpool’s history. In the years between 1983 and 1987 a group of 47 elected Labour councillors refused to transfer the cuts implemented by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government onto the local community they represented.

Instead they built 5000 houses, created thousands of jobs and set up many vital public services. The film does deal with an important side of Liverpool history but, as explained shortly before the screening by filmmaker Arti Dillon, it is a ‘work in progress’.

The film includes the views of ex-councillors and activists, who are still, 25 years later, committed to change and justice for the working class. Plus those still involved in the struggle today had a chance to give their side of the story.

Furthermore it does this in a very inspirational way, with some former councillors linking the struggle in the 1980s to present times. There are also excellent photographs supplied by Dave Sinclair.

The forty minute film did keep my attention because I am interested in the subject. But where I think part of it doesn’t work are in its use of images - appearing in between or at the side of interviews - for example, councllors talking about conditions in the 1980s, and then shots of the present day Pathways-led derelict streets.

I understand what the filmmakers are trying to do - link the 1980s with now - but for me that didn’t work. It distracted away from the main subject.

I also thought that the filmmakers could have used better quality 1980s film footage, for example, speeches by Thatcher and Neil Kinnock It looked as if it had just been taken straight from YouTube. This left me with the impression, as did the lack of relevant photographs, that the filmmakers had not done enough research to track down high quality material.

The use of artwork did not work for me either. I saw what the film was trying to do but feel it would have been better to have stayed focused on the subject.

The 1980s was a unique decade and is completely relevant to the conditions we live under today. It was an all out class war and a highly charged time: the riots of 1981 and 1985, the major strikes by the miners and the printers, as well as Liverpool being a hotbed for left wing militancy.

It was because the Tories had managed to divide the working class in the 1980s that David Cameron and his friends are able to ride a train through public services today. But that point I believe is not made strongly enough in this film. It could have contextualized this at the beginning, and rounded it up at the end.

Having said all this, I still believe this is an important film, and many of those who attended stayed behind for the subsequent discussion would have disagreed with my analysis. As Arti said, it is ‘a work in progress’, and I look forward to seeing the finished piece.

Developed by Arti Dillon and Lisa Lonsdale, this updated edit Lianne Unassa.
It includes photos by Dave Sinclair and artwork by Suzanne Muna.

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