FULLY BOOKED Screening – Ken Loach Presents: Which Side Are You On?

Screening Wednesday 18th February, 2009

Esteemed film director, Ken Loach joins us for an evening to present and talk about two pieces from his archive, the remarkable Which Side Are You On? And 11’09"11 a short film made in response to 9/11.

Which Side Are You On? (1984)

An anthology of striking miners’ songs and poems inspired by the miners’ strike of 1984, particularly the role of the police and the media in the dispute.

Which Side Are You On? was commissioned for transmission as part of the South Bank Show (ITV, 1978-), but was not shown because of its "highly partial view on a controversial subject". London Weekend Television, the commissioning company, felt that it was more of a political film than an arts film. Loach’s brief was to make a programme that showed what the striking miners were writing and singing. He felt that this was what he delivered and was angered that the programme was banned on the basis that it overstepped official guidelines on political impartiality.

Loach has always felt that no documentary can ever be neutral or ‘balanced’ (and nor can the news) and he acknowledges that he made the film entirely from the miners’ point of view. Following the decision to pull the programme he said "It is clear that only approved people can make comments about a struggle as decisive as the miners."

The programme was made partly to counter what Loach saw as the anti-union position of the mainstream media and it shows the miners’ dismay at the way in which they are depicted. Loach felt himself a victim of media bias in the banning of the programme. He declared: "The way the news is covered is crucial to who wins this dispute and certainly some people are allowed to comment and others are not. People hold down their jobs by making the kind of programmes they know will win the approval of their masters."

However, the programme went on to win an award at an Italian film festival and the attitude of British broadcasters changed. After negotiations between LWT and Channel 4, it was shown on C4 on 9 January 1985. It was followed by a ‘balancing’ programme a few days later showing an alternative view of the miners’ strike.

60 mins

(BFI Screen Online website: www.screenonline.org.uk)