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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, September 16, 2005
    Getting the Boot
     
    Flo Clucas, city councillor (straight-faced, to camera): "What we're doing here is not just building houses; we're rebuilding and sustaining a community."
    Audience: (shocked gasps, ironic laughter).

    This evening, an hour at St Christopher's watching the first public performance of Jane's film, Getting the Boot. It's a Mersey Film and Video production about life on our troubled estate, in which Jane, the Bard of the Boot, with a cast of local residents, youths in the park, line dancers, a mongrel dog, a policeman and various community leaders, tell it like it is.

    Jane's poems aren't going to win her any literary awards but they might just gain something far more valuable - the attention of the planning power-brokers who have tended to neglect the hard realities of outer-estate life, especially the hard realities imposed on people in an area marked for clearance and regeneration:

    "Five years and not a brick's been laid!
    Many tenants haven't stayed
    To see the demise of the Boot
    And the social problems taking root.
    The community's been rent asunder
    By official blunder after blunder."

    Two teenage girls on a motorbike tell their story: "They left us in a disgrace really ... they did! ... we had like, no houses round us, we were the only house in the street." A group of women confirm to camera that they, who have stayed in depopulating roads outside of Phase One of the new plans, are guaranteed nothing in the way of new properties. Three young boys in Norris Green Park simply ask for a marked-out football pitch. A group of young men make an impassioned plea to "Just build the community back up here, it's not a community is it, it's just a place for drug addicts to go, in empty houses."

    This 22-minute film also features Jane's battles against locals behaving antisocially, together with her struggles to get the support she (rightly) expects from police and council agencies; her stance means a life of constant surveillance, sleeping on the settee in the daylight hours, watching for night-time attacks. Her increasingly public persona (a regular on local radio and in the free press) belies the reality of her being a woman under siege, demonstrably let-down by those who could protect her.

    Because of this, this is a very brave film. It played to a modest audience this evening, projected onto a makeshift cotton screen in a vast church hall. She hopes to get it on TV and I hope she succeeds because it's a story worth telling; and best of all, it's truthful - the people telling it are the people who live in the reality day by day:

    "We're the experts we all know;
    But they're the ones that run the show."

    [If you'd like a DVD of this film, drop me a line]