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Spike Island

Nice one! Top one! Sorted! Mat Whitecross recreates the baggy period with great wit and affection.

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.

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  • Director Mat Whitecross
  • Producers Fiona Neilson, Esther Douglas
  • Screenwriter Chris Coghill
  • With Elliott Tittensor, Emilia Clarke, Nico Mirallegro
  • UK 2012
  • 96 mins
  • UK distribution Revolver Entertainment

It’s the start of summer 1990, and The Stone Roses have taken the year from the release of their landmark debut album to change British rock irrevocably. They are the biggest band in the country, certainly the biggest deal in Manchester, where they have inspired new bands to emerge from every corner of the city. In a working class suburb, schoolboy scallies Tits, Dodge, Zippy and Little Gaz have formed Shadow Caster, dreaming they might emulate their heroes. Accompanied by cheerleader Penfold, they rehearse tirelessly, but, as personal issues around school, girls and families are confronted, their biggest distraction becomes trying to score tickets for the Roses’ upcoming gig in the Mersey Estuary at Spike Island; they can’t miss an event that promises to define a generation. Developed from Chris Coghill’s smart script, the latest film from Mat Whitecross (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) recreates the baggy period with great wit and affection, with some of the greatest music ever made employed to soundtrack a funny and moving coming-of-age story of considerable class.
Michael Hayden

Related events: British Films in Focus with Time Out, Ian Neil (Music Supervisor)

Director Q&A

How did you become involved in the project?

Spike Island had been on my radar for quite a while – Fiona, Chris and I all worked on Michael Winterbottom’s film 24 Hour Party People back in 2001, and even then, Fiona had been talking about wanting to do a TV series based around Afflecks and the Manchester music scene – but following the fans rather than the bands. And over the years, she and Chris had been brewing up ideas, and gradually the story took shape and began centring itself around the Roses’ gig at Spike Island. Chris had been a Stone Roses obsessive all his life, but ended up missing out on the concert. The script was his way of reliving that moment, of rewriting history. It probably saved him some therapy.

What elements of the script/story appealed to you?

Spike Island is really a coming-of-age story, about five kids from Manchester with a dream. And that dream could have been football, or film, or space exploration – it just happened to be music. I think everyone, whatever their background, has grown up with dreams of doing something with their life, and usually that ‘something’ seems hopelessly out of reach. Wanting to be a film director from an early age, and being told continually at school how ludicrous and impossible that was, the script definitely spoke to me. The kids want to break into Spike Island and meet their heroes, and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal. So in reality, the film has more in common with a heist film like Ocean’s 11 or an adventure like Stand By Me than it does with a film like Sex & Drugs. The fact that we’d also have the greatest album of all time as our soundtrack was just the icing on the cake. And in the end, it’s all about the boys’ journey and their relationships – the gig is just a symbol of their hopes. I love Chris’s writing – it has a lot of heart, and he has an uncanny ability to capture the boys’ personalities and banter succinctly, so you get who each of them are from Scene One. And it was lovely to do something funny (albeit bitter-sweet) after a film as heavy as my last film, Ashes.
Mat Whitecross

Director biography

A former editor for Michael Winterbottom on 9 Songs and Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, he then co-directed The Road to Guantanamo, sharing the Silver Bear at Berlin for Best Director in 2006, and The Shock Doctrine, a 2009 documentary adaptation of Naomi Klein’s controversial book. That same year he travelled to Thailand to film Moving to Mars, a documentary about Karen refugees fleeing from Burma to the UK, which won the Grierson Award for Best Documentary in 2010. He also diversified into music videos for such artists as Coldplay, The Rolling Stones and Jay-Z. His first solo fiction feature, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, told the surreal story of punk legend Ian Dury. Hard on the heels of Spike Island is due the release of his road-movie thriller Ashes, starring Ray Winstone, Jim Sturgess and Lesley Manville; while upcoming projects include GB84, an adaptation of the novel by David Peace and Going Mad in Hollywood, about David Sherwin, Lindsay Anderson and Malcolm McDowell and the making of the British classic If… He also has in development another collaboration with writer Chris Coghill, on the original screenplay I Swear I Love You.


2005 Job Street [s]
2006 The Road to Guantanamo [doc; co-d]
2009 The Shock Doctrine [doc; co-d]; Moving to Mars [doc]
2010 Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
2012 Spike Island; Ashes

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