Friday 1 June 2012

What a Hooley in the Ulster Hall

A group of film Hooley-gans gathers around Terri on the Good Vibrations film set
At the world premiere of Good Vibrations in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, last night, the closing scenes of a fast and furious rock concert in the same venue 30 years ago was an exuberant triumph of local film-making.
The movie (directed by Lisa Barros d’Sa and Glenn Leyburn) topped the bill for last night's opening of the Belfast Film Festival and goes on general release by summer’s end. Make sure you see it.
It is a bio-pic of the legendary Terri Hooley, music shop owner, record label founder and concert impresario, but mostly rock and roll rebel of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Hooley, who was still loitering in the vicinity last night, channelled the mayhem of 1970s Belfast into an improvised, explosive mixture of punk rock, detonated it at the very heart of a divided society and left thousands alive for the very first time in their young lives.
Few of his bands – apart from those ‘Legenderry’ teenage kickers, The Undertones – made any impression outside their hometown, but as the Terri Hooley character observed, that wasn’t really the point. 
His character (played by local actor Richard Dormer) told the heaving audience why punk/new wave music was particularly suited their city: ‘New York has the haircuts; London has the trousers; but Belfast has the reason.’
The bearded Richard Dormer, as Terri Hooley, discovers punk in The Pound.
So more than 20 years after The Commitments revealed that Dubliners are the ‘blacks of Europe’ when it comes to Soul, Good Vibrations underscores the even more relevant truth that Belfast was the spiritual home of Punk – a raucous roar of defiance against the ghastly reality of life in a society being torn apart. 
In the Ulster Hall last night, we watched the mayhem unfold with the music and rejoiced in the knowledge that the appropriately named Victims, along with Rudi, The Outcasts and all the others thundered onto the stage and never sold out anything apart from grubby venues such as The Pound, The Harp and even the venerable Ulster Hall itself.
In the Good Vibrations screenplay by Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry, we could even see in retrospect how fitting it was that the rage and pace of punk rock was snuffed out in Belfast by the dawn of the Eighties.
Last night’s film premiere ended to a standing ovation, cheers and loud guffaws from many who probably recognised their young selves in the heaving mass of youth on screen. Then we poured out through the foyer of the refurbished 150-year-old Ulster Hall realising that it is such a long, long way from there to here.
Grim reality of 'night' life after The Pound in 1970s Belfast
I was back with myself in 1970s Belfast during one of many working/social visits to the city. We were spilling out of The Pound, ears ringing, hearts pounding from several hours of exhilarating and thunderous music that included one of the regular tribute anthem-like covers of Van Morrison's Gloria
The contrast outside is eerie, the dark, damp silent world of Belfast at the height of the Troubles – streets deserted, distant sounds of buses finishing final runs, security gates clamped shut, streetscapes of dereliction and desertion.
We scamper along seeking a safe haven as the shutters come down on Belfast and only the strict Sabbatarian silence of Sunday beckons.
Yet it is still only 6pm on Saturday with the day done and almost dusted in a city of fear where even young renegades and urban outcasts know they have to be back on home ground by teatime. 
No wonder the music was fucking angry!

No comments:

Post a Comment