Monday 23rd November

| BY Paul Toner

British Culture Archive’s Top 10 Documentaries to Watch Before Lockdown’s Over

You’ve flown through The Crown, polished off The Queen’s Gambit and if you watch another episode of Couple’s Come Dine With Me, your brain’s going to turn to tiramisu (topped with a raspberry jus). ‘What’s next?’ you ask yourself as your lockdown telly addiction craves its next fix. Luckily, the folks at British Culture Archive have got you covered.

Founded in 2017, the British Culture Archive was set up to highlight the changing face of both British society and culture through photography. The online, not-for-profit organisation has put on a range of community workshops, physical exhibitions and online resources to engage young people from all backgrounds with documentary photography and British subculture through the ages.

As we approach the final week of lockdown, founder Paul Wright and BCA assistant Pippa Rankin have kindly put together a list of 10, decade-spanning documentaries from all walks of life – whether it be the rise of the acid house movement in 1988, to America’s war on drugs throughout the late 20th century. How many do you reckon you can cram in before its time to drag yourself back to the office next Thursday?

1. Ten Years In An Open Necked Shirt (1984)

“A great documentary featuring the legendary bard of Salford John Cooper Clarke. Featuring live performances and interviews, the film ends with a tour through run-down parts of Manchester and Salford to the soundtrack of ‘Beasley Street’.” Paul Wright. 

2. Reggae Britannia (2011)

“An essential documentary about reggae’s influence on British music and society. A classic that needs to be revisited every now and again.” Pippa Rankin.

3. The Up Series (1964-2012)

“A series of groundbreaking social documentaries by Michael Apted for Granada Television. It follows the lives of fourteen British children from different backgrounds from the age of seven (1964). It was filmed every seven years until they were 56. It’s got everything, and also highlights how divisive British society is. It should be on the curriculum.” PW.

4. The Drug Years (2006)

“Produced by Sundance and VH1. It’s a great documentary about illicit drug use in the US during the late 20th Century, showing rave culture, the hippie movement, 1980s rehabilitation centres and the war on drugs.” PR. 

5. The Changin’ Times of Ike White (2019)

“This is all about Ike White who recorded the first-ever commercial album whilst an inmate of an American prison. He was jailed for life aged 19 for murder, though his music became his escape route and he was heralded by many as a musical prodigy. However as he was just on the cusp of stardom, he disappeared. If you’ve not seen it, watch it!” PW.

6. McCullin (2012)

“Don McCullin is without a doubt one of the greatest documentary photographers of our time. In this film, he delves into his life and work, from his early years living in North London, to his work as an overseas correspondent for The Sunday Times. His photographs of conflict and war are gut-wrenching and haunting, to say the least.” PR.

7. Everybody In The Place – An Incomplete History of Britain 1984 – 1992 (2018)

“A great documentary on the rise of the acid house and rave scenes of the late 1980s/early ’90s. Highlights an important cultural shift in society and also takes me back to my early days going to clubs and raves in the early 1990s! It highlights the freedom we had without the restraints of social media/technology.” PW.

8. Fantastic Man (2014)

“A documentary about mythical Nigerian musician William Onyeabor, featuring interviews with Damon Albarn, Femi Kuti, Martyn Ware and Caribou.” PR.

9. White Riot (2019) 

“A brilliant film by Rubika Shah. It documents the rise of the Rock Against Racism movement that emerged as a reaction to the rise of the far-right and racist attacks in the UK. An important film that seems as relevant as ever in 2020.” PW.

10. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013)

“A great documentary about the life and career of talent manager Shep Gordon. Who worked with musicians such as Alice Cooper, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, and Pink Floyd.” PR.

Top image taken from ‘Everybody In The Place – An Incomplete History of Britain 1984 – 1992 (2018)’ by Jeremy Deller.

Next year, British Culture Archive is gearing up to create a permanent gallery and exhibition space in the North West to showcase the work of the organisation’s featured photographers. You can find out more information and donate here.