Punk Film Festival promises to be a Damned fine thing

A bloke who once cleaned the toilets at the Fairfield Halls is among the many star attractions at the first Croydon Punk Film Festival at the David Lean Cinema, which at the end of October and into November will be screening six absorbing and often brilliant films from the late 1970s, or movies that reflect on that brief moment in musical history that shook the world… and then spat it out.

Happy talk: Captain Sensible will be at the David Lean Cinema for the Punk Film Festival

Captain Sensible, the co-founder of The Damned, is among an array of performers and characters from the Croydon Punk scene who will attend the screenings, all of which have a Q&A session or talk with the film-makers or those featured in the films.

The Captain will be making a long-overdue return to his home town on November 4, when the final screening of the festival will be The Damned: A Night Of A Thousand Vampires, Martin Gooch’s 2022 film of an atmospheric live show at The Palladium, all topped off with a version of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” like you’ve never heard before. Unless you were there on the night, obviously…

The programme has been painstakingly compiled by Adrian Winchester, the founding chair of the Save The David Lean Cinema, who had his own part in the Croydon Punk scene, both as a band member and song-writer. The festival has been generously sponsored by Damaged Goods Records, whose releases include acts featured in the festival: the Johnny Moped catalogue and the soundtrack album of Are They Hostile?.

And the opening film of the 2023 festival is something of a validation for Winchester and the David Lean, the intimate, art-house venue in the Croydon Clocktower. Basically Johnny Moped premiered at the David Lean nearly 10 years ago, the first screening when the cinema re-opened following a hard-fought campaign by Winchester and his committee of volunteers, backed from the start by Inside Croydon, against its needless closure by a Philistine Tory-run council.

Sensible was there that night, too. Well, he sort of hadda… as well as featuring in the slightly surreal documentary, he was supporting his son, Fred Burns, the director.

The ultimate subversion: Johnny Moped meeting Yvette Hopley at the re-opening of the David Lean Cinema in March 2014. Photo by Diana Vlase

Croydon has been referred to as the birthplace of punk, a claim that’s given some credibility by The Damned’s “New Rose” being unleashed on October 22, 1976, making it the first single released by a British punk band. Sensible and the band’s original drummer, Rat Scabies, both worked as cleaners at the Fairfield Halls.

The Johnny Moped band was entirely formed by Croydon school friends, and existed before the punk “new wave” began.

And of course, Malcolm McLaren – the creator of the Sex Pistols – had been a Croydon Art School student in the 1960s and said, “Croydon will always be remembered as a rite of passage of my life.”

Winchester was a member of the Johnny Moped band, and the 2022 documentary Are They Hostile?, featuring Croydon groups from 1977 to 1985 (being shown at the David Lean on November 3), took its name from a song he wrote for one of the featured acts, The Bad Actors.

“Punk gave bands the freedom to do things differently and it’s easy to forget how diverse some of the music was,” Winchester told Inside Croydon.

All our yesterdays: The Bad Actors in around 1979, with Adrian Winchester (right) and Griff Griffiths second from right

“In that spirit, the festival doesn’t adopt a rigid definition, and includes a wide range of films from 1977 right up to the present day. Although ‘music and musicians’ is bound to be the main focus, there’s also a fascinating programme of Captain Zip’s films showing fashions and youth cultures.”

A Night Of A Thousand Vampires has only once before been shown in a cinema.

Director Martin Gooch and Captain Sensible will take part in a David Lean Q&A.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a quirky fantasy based on Neil Gaiman’s short story that was set in Croydon in 1977, features the David Lean’s patron, Joanna Scanlan, who will introduce the screening (Scanlan herself has a role in the film).

Another notable guest is German director Wolfgang Büld, who will discuss Punk In London, his 1977 film that offers context and shows the huge impact that punk was making.

Several of the acts featured in the films are still performing live or recording. The Damned’s USA Halloween Tour concludes in New York only four days before Captain Sensible is due to appear at the David Lean. The fifth Johnny Moped album is nearly finished, and the band will celebrate Johnny’s 70th birthday at a special gig on November 17.

Screen role: David Lean Cinema patron Joanna Scanlan will be taking part in the festival

Moped drummer Marty Love will appear with Johnny in the Basically, Johnny Moped Q&A. “I’m very proud to have been asked to be part of this festival of film,” he said.

“It will remind us that Croydon has produced some amazing bands and musicians – well-known and not so well-known – that deserve to be remembered. To say it will be informative to many is an understatement.”

Former Bad Actors drummer Griff Griffiths, who produced and presented Are They Hostile? will appear in a Q&A with director Mark Williams and DJ Peter Fox, who presents a show on Deal Radio. Griff hosts the Radio 365 Kings of the Road show, and this will be broadcast live from Croydon Clocktower from 5pm to 7pm on October 30, immediately before Basically, Johnny Moped.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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