The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Prospect held the 5th Annual Poverty lecture featuring an exclusive screening of A Northern Soul, by award-winning Sean McAllister.
“Class and chance collide in Sean McAllister’s brilliant Sheffield Doc/Fest opening film, as young performers are guided through their home’s transformational year as the UK City of culture” – The Guardian
Having acted as Creative Director for the Hull City of Culture opening ceremony, McAllister’s film is a great work of radical empathy, in which the economic difficulties of the city and the contradictions of regeneration through culture are visible alongside a testament to the charm and strength of personality of the city’s residents. Steve, the main focus of the film, is employed as a low-wage warehouse operative, stuck in a job that he feels imprisoned by and doesn’t pay enough forcing him to service his spiraling debts through pay day loans.
This is a documentary in which the mechanics of poverty in modern Britain are clear to see – even on a regular wage and displaying some entrepreneurial skill, it’s impossible for Steve to care for his daughter without calling on credit and loans.
The panel discussion addressed some of the questions raised by the film:
- What happens to areas where there is a shortage of investment – both economically and politically?
- Where previous generations had stronger unions, more secure jobs for life and a cheaper cost of living – what is the impact of the loss of this social contract on Steve’s generation?
- What can be done to change the situation for people like Steve? In particular, how can we build wider public and political support for action?
Following the screening, there was a panel discussion with a Q&A including audience participation.
Chair: Samira Ahmed, Journalist and Broadcaster, Presenter Radio 4's Front Row and Newswatch on BBC1
- Charlotte Alldritt, Director, The Centre for Progressive Policy
- Steve Arnott, Film's Protagonist
- Tom Clark, Editor, Prospect
- Sharon Darley, Artist / Community Development Practitioner
- Diana Johnson MP
- Sean McAllister, Director, A Northern Soul
- Campbell Robb, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
A drinks reception took place following the discussion.
A Northern Soul is Directed by Sean McAllister. Produced by Elhum Shakerfar and Sean McAllister 10Ft Films Ltd Production for BBC, with support from the BFI using funds from the National Lottery, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and in Association with Sharp House.