It's 1979 and, in Birkenhead, smack and Maggie Thatcher
are still less of an issue than Lois jeans and Adidas
Forest Hills trainers. For Paul Carty, 19, life revolves
around The Pack, a violent mob which follows Tranmere
Rovers around the northern wasteland - but is he getting
bored with it all?
Awaydays the novel is arguably the best thing written on
the casual scene, told in it's own acurate and witty style,
it's paints a perfect picture of a time and scene many can
seldom tell or understand, ever since I first read this tale
of mindless violence, drugs, sex and music I always
thought it would make a perfect film or TV show, after
years of rumours, it's finally being transferred to celluloid
and that news is very exciting indeed, this could be what
a lot of us have been waiting for, as if the book is
anything to go by, we may have the perfect film that tells
the story of a very underground, yet very important
British youth movement.
So then, the film. I think I'm right in saying it was November 2007 when this page was put into production from the pictures we took at
Birkenhead North, time really does fly, it seemed a long time waiting for this film to finally be released, and true to his word we were off to the
world premiere at Livepool's Philharmonic Hall - courtesy of Mr Sampson himself.
Thursday the 21st of May, 7:30pm. Finally, the film a lot of us had been talking about was shown, a grand old venue, with an old guy kilted
an'all, playing the organ pre film, I wondered where the screen was, and then up it came from the floor - curtains closed ready to open.
Kevin Sampson and Director Pat Holden came on stage for a brief introduction, there was a packed, large tier above us and as we glanced
about I saw the odd familiar face in the stalls, notably, Shaun Ryder sitting a few rows behind us amongst a handful of the Hollyoaks fraternity.
Novels converted to the screen shouldn't really be compared, but compare we do, it's difficult not to, but anyone who's read A Clockwork Orange
will see a notable difference, if you think they talk funny in the film try reading the book. The Football Factory novel even, was miles better than the
film. Then there's the 'unfilmable ones' like Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Don Quixote too.
So typically, I sat through this noting to myself scene by scene what was and was not in the book whilst trying to view with a fresh perspective
and being my own critic too, as I'd seen mixed reviews of Awaydays thus far.
The biggest issue of this film would be it's homoerotic subplot, which I do not remember as clearly in the novel - there we go again!
Anyway, to be honest it adds to the story really, and it's a familar story retold in an unfamiliar setting. Just like the other handful of it's genre the
story is simple, outsider wants in, intrigued by the glory and glamour of football thuggery, but once he realises it's not all it's cracked up to be
and thus, eventually wants out. Despite the great days, bravado, gusto, bruises and comradeship there's a darker side to this thing, and anyone
who's been even slightly involved in one way or another can relate to that straight away.
What sets Awaydays apart from the rest is it's period setting, the late post punk Thatcher's 70's is captured really rather well, the look and feel
of this film is great, the soundtrack is decent too, bearing in mind the small budget of this production, the details and grim Birkenhead backdrop
is especially convincing. Old cars whizz past, and old posters adorn the nightclub walls. The Pack travel on old British Rail trains, I'm sure that
task wasn't particularly easy to pull off in this day and age, there was a very authentic look about the whole thing, which they pulled off.
The Pack are cutting edge, they are the new taking on the old, it's an age old debate but the bovver boys and shaggy haired thugs with scarves
around their wrists were soon to be replaced nationwide by the casual, and this was The Pack. The trainers, tight jeans, Peter Storm cagoules,
polos and v-necks and wedge haircuts are evident, as are the stanleys, anyone around in those days will tell you that's how it was.
The cast was largely made up of new found talent, some with fairly small screen experience, the most notable name and face was
Stephen Graham (John Godden) he's soon to play Al Capone directed by Scorsese a far cry from The Blood Tub in Birkenhead.
The main cast were reletive unknowns, Liam Boyle as the bored of it all, philosphical some time smack addict Elvis, Nicky Bell as the former art
student come office worker who just wants a piece of the action Carty, the two central characters - actually Mancunian in real life, were
comfortable and convincing in their roles.
Through a whirlwind of fists, kicks, fall outs and slashings it's only until the very end that Carty realises Elvis' true feelings, and by that point it's
too late, this plot will no doubt get people talking and on first viewing it was a little strange, but I guess this is what makes the story stand out
from the others in what is already becoming a tired genre, will this film hold up? I think so, will people look back on this in twenty years time as
they do with the likes of Quadrophenia and Scum? who knows, the media are already casting their critical eye over the use of stanley knives, but
you cannot take away fact from fiction.
Overall though in our opinion, it's a success. They've pulled it off, it's a good story. And good to see this tale told from a Northern perspective too.
I recommend a viewing.
|Cast: Nicky Bell, Liam Boyle, Stephen Graham, Oliver Lee, Lee Battle, Sean Ward, Michael Ryan,
Holly Grainger, Ian Puleston-Davies, Sacha Parkinson.
Directed By : Pat Holden, Screenplay : Kevin Sampson.
Awaydays, released on dvd late last year. At the time it was released at the cinema it was fairly limited and not as nationwide as the other football
hooligan/football culture film - Nick Love's The Firm released not long after. Awaydays is a more Northern story. Whilst The Firm was a familiar story,
a more Southern story. An old tale, re-told, it also featured the more familiar 1980's sportswear boom, a heavy emphasis on label clad young men in
their Fila, Tacchini and Ellesse tracksuits, adidas trainers and tennis wear. Awaydays was set several years earlier - pre sportswear, whilst trainers
were making their way onto the feet of the select footballing fraternity, it wasn't until a few years later the huge sportswear boom surfaced, and unlike
it's southern counterpart, Awaydays was set in Merseyside where the seeds of this oft ignored youth phenomenon were sewn.
I'd debate that the masses took to Nick Love's film moreso than they did to Awaydays, but The Firm was a larger production, with bigger budgets and
huge marketing campaigns, and of course all that lairy sportswear which many wore originally and many have cottoned on to since.
I would however, argue that in years to come Awaydays will edge the Firm in the cult following stakes though. Living up to it's true, casual ethos, less
people got it, the mainstream wanted to dress up to Carty 'n Elvis' dress down. The style of The Firm will date quickly, Awaydays is timeless.