Social class is the great unavoidable fact of life in Britain; as Henry Higgins sings in My Fair Lady, “An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him. The moment he speaks he makes some other Englishman despise him”. From Made In Chelsea to Made In Dagenham, from The Riot Club to The Rotters’ Club, class is also at the heart of British entertainment, above all in British comedy.
There are jokes about social class in Shakespeare and Chaucer and in the novels of Fielding, Austen and Dickens. And many of them, in different guises, are the same jokes that we encounter in Alan Bennett, Alan Ayckbourn and Mike Leigh: the language and customs may change, but the potential for awkwardness doesn’t.
Class is also the defining theme in television comedy. It’s the thread that runs through Dad’s Army, To The Manor Born, Keeping Up Appearances and Not Going Out, and in a more abrasive, analytical way through The Royle Family, Nighty Night and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. But the most controversial look at class in recent years was Little Britain, particularly the character of Vicky Pollard: while co-writer David Walliams argued that “these characters are fun…you’re laughing with them, not at them,” many people felt that the programme contributed to a dangerous demonisation of working class people. Another danger in satirising social class and attitudes is “Alf Garnett syndrome”, when a comedy character becomes a source of celebration, admired for the attitudes it seeks to satirise. This is surely the case with the absurdly jingoistic, tweed-coated banker turned man-of-the-people character comedian “Nigel Farage”, a joke now surely past its sell-by date.
With social mobility declining, with the bottom 10% paying more of their income in tax than the top 10%, and with Britain’s richest 1% having as much wealth as the poorest 55%, it’s clear that Britain remains a divided kingdom, and that we’ll continue to need comedy to inform, provoke and entertain us. So join us, just three months before the election, for our season of social class comedy films and live events in partnership with 38 Degrees.
We’re delighted to be back at Picturehouse Cinemas and the Lexi Cinema with our Social Class season featuring classic and contemporary comedies that look at British social divides. This includes a selection of Ealing comedies, which are often thought of as cosy but have real satirical bite, as well as more recent films like Somers Town. We also have a unique social class comedy gameshow in the Hackney Attic, raising money for Arts Emergency’s mentoring programme for young arts students.
LOCO has always looked for comedy in unexpected places, so we’ve teamed up with Pulse Films to explore the comedy in music videos, which cover an extraordinary range of comedy styles, often in ways that contrast or even conflict with the songs they accompany. We’re also looking forward to the first British screening of Onur Tukel’s vampire comedy Summer of Blood (see p.22), complete with a live Q&A from New York.
We’re really pleased to be partnering with 38 Degrees – one of the UK’s biggest campaign communities – on the Social Class season, and together, we’ll be encouraging audiences to engage with the issues explored in the 2015 programme through a series of events, screenings and debates that look at class through a comedy lens. In January, LOCO and 38 Degrees will offer audiences a chance to stick together, enjoy each other’s company and make new friends because it’s important that we have fun whilst we try to change the world.
SOCIAL CLASS AND COMEDY ON FILM
LIFE IS SWEET
18:00 Thursday 21st Jan, Greenwich Picturehouse
UK / 1990 / 103 mins / Dir. Mike Leigh
25 years on, Life Is Sweet’s themes of family, feminism and food feel as fresh as ever, and Mike Leigh’s eye for British life never sharper. Timothy Spall’s Regrette Rien restaurant, serving “liver and lager” and “pork cyst” will no doubt be appearing as a Dalston pop-up soon.
20:30 Thursday 21st Jan, Stratford Picturehouse
UK / 2008 / 71 mins / Dir. Shane Meadows
Thomas Turgoose and Piotr Jagiello jointly shared the award for Best Actor at the TriBeCa Film Festival for their fresh and funny performances as Tomo and Marek, whose unlikely friendship is the heart of Shane Meadows’ Kings Cross comedy, which won the Michael Powell Award at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
HUE AND CRY
11:00 Saturday 24th Jan, Ritzy Brixton
UK / 1947 / 82 mins / Dir. Charles Crichton
This family-friendly Ealing caper is the story of East End kids who foil a gang of robbers who are using a children’s comic to communicate their plans. Shot on location, it’s also an unforgettable portrait of bombed-out postwar East London, with no flat whites or moustache wax in sight.
A FISH CALLED WANDA
12:45 Saturday 24th Jan, Ritzy Brixton
USA – UK / 1988 / 108 mins / Dir. Charles Crichton
40 years after Hue And Cry, Charles Crichton was an inspired choice to direct John Cleese’s contemporary classic: part crime caper, part middle class satire. Wickedly funny, truly romantic, it’s the film that won Kevin Kline a rare comedy acting Oscar, and that made a Russian accent sexy.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL
16:00 Saturday 24th Jan, Hackney Picturehouse
UK / 1994 / 117 mins / Dir. Mike Newell
Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed. I was too busy enjoying the crackling dialogue, lovely performances (what a sparkling talent Charlotte Coleman was) and sheer good heart of this film. True, no one in their right mind could choose Andie Macdowall over Kristin Scott Thomas, but (to quote another great romantic comedy) nobody’s perfect.
SOCIAL CLASS GAMESHOW
18:30 (doors) 19:30 (start) Saturday 24th Jan, Hackney Attic
Three teams of our favourite writers and comedians test their knowledge of British manners, scandals and social divides in our satirical game-show, with rounds including Mock The Weak, Dole In The Wall and Come Die With Me. Join the debate and win prizes in the audience rounds. In partnership with Arts Emergency.
We are thrilled to be welcoming an esteemed panel of participants for the gameshow. Read on for a little information on our confirmed guests.
Host – Neil Denny
Neil Denny is the producer and presenter of Little Atoms radio show and podcast, which has been broadcasting interviews with leading writers from the worlds of science and the arts on London’s Resonance 104.4FM for over 8 years and recently celebrated it’s 300th show. Twitter: @littleatoms
Viv Groskop is a writer, critic, stand-up comedian, MC, literary events host and broadcaster. She is the author of the critically acclaimed “Stand-Up Meets Mid-Life Crisis Memoir” and is the Artistic Director of the Independent Bath Literature Festival. @VivGroskop
Al Kennedy is a writer and comic. Her work includes novels, short stories, drama, non-fiction and journalism for a variety of UK and overseas publications.@writerer
Suzanne Moore is an award-winning columnist for the Guardian. In the 2010 UK Election she stood as an independent candidate for the constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington. @suzanne_moore
Chris Coltrane is a comedian, activist, writer, disco dancer and sweet romancer. Chris has been doing stand-up for five years. He started off weird and surreal; nowadays he’s weird and political. He tells tales of protests and mischief, and trying to smash the Tories with punchlines. @chris_coltrane
Shaun Keaveny is a broadcaster who presents the breakfast show on digital radio station BBC Radio 6 Music.
+ Drinks and Nibbles
14:00 (doors open from 13:00 for drinks party) Sunday 25th Jan, Lexi Cinema
UK / 1977 / 102 mins / Dir. Robert Altman
Before Downton there was Gosford. Julian Fellowes won a Best Screenplay Oscar for Robert Altman’s vintage champagne of a movie, part social satire, part murder mystery, full of great British actors having the time of their lives. Set in 1932, it also looks at the First World War’s impact on the class system, while foreshadowing the war still to come.
Join us for a special Gosford Park drinks party before the film. Dress: upstairs or downstairs. And come prepared to do a bit of sleuthing, to identify the murderer among you…
TICKETS AVAILABLE SOON
THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT
11:00 Sunday 25th Jan, Clapham Picturehouse
UK / 1951 / 85 mins / Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick (The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Success) was the sharpest of all Ealing directors, and The Man In The White Suit glitters with his trademark black humour. This story of a young scientist who invents a stain-proof fabric is a witty, thoroughly topical satire of consumerist corporate greed.
PASSPORT TO PIMLICO
12:45 Sunday 25th Jan, Clapham Picturehouse
UK / 1949 / 84 mins / Dir. Henry Cornelius
When an unexploded bomb goes off in war-ravaged Pimlico it reveals a document apparently proving that the area belongs to the Duke of Burgundy. But can Pimlico survive independent of England? In the wake of the Scottish referendum, it’s the perfect time to revisit this witty, still provocative classic.
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS
11:00 Sunday 25th Jan, Hackney Picturehouse
UK / 1949 / 106 mins / Dir. Robert Hamer
Anyone who thinks of Ealing comedies as cosy hasn’t been paying attention; these smiles have sharpened teeth. This satirical classic is the story of Louis Mazzini, the spurned heir of the D’Ascoyne family, who takes revenge by murdering everyone standing between him and a dukedom, all played by Alec Guinness.
THE LAVENDER HILL MOB
13:00 Sunday 25th Jan, Hackney Picturehouse
UK / 1951 / 81 mins / Charles Crichton
Alec Guinness shimmers with perfectly pressed class envy as Henry Holland, the seemingly mild-mannered middle-class bank clerk who has in fact been plotting the perfect robbery. All he needs now is a gang, and who better than Sid James and Stanley Holloway, British cinema’s most sparkling rough diamonds?
This programme was made possible with the support of the BFI Film Festival Fund, awarding funds from The National Lottery.