Totally brassed off

There was an offer at my local independent video and music retailer that I just couldn’t resist – three for £10 on a wide range of DVDs. One of my choices was the 1996 film Brassed Off; I know that it has been aired on TV many times since it was first broadcast, but I thought that I would indulge myself rather than wait for the next showing on TV.

For those, presumably small band of souls, who have not seen the film, I should explain that the story concerns the proposed closure of a coalmine in Yorkshire and the impact that the threatened loss of the pit has on the local community, seen through the eyes of members of the colliery brass band.

It is a very hard-hitting film that doesn’t disguise its politics, but the plight of the miners is depicted with considerable warmth and compassion, and a great deal of humour, and draws you sympathetically into the world of the bandsmen. The film also benefits from the bonus of some great brass band music, dubbed by the celebrated Grimethorpe Colliery Band, whose members suffered a similar fate to the fictional heroes of the film – much of the film was shot in the village of Grimethorpe.

I know that brass band music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I defy anyone not to be moved by the performance of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez – or “concerto d’orange juice” as the conductor calls it in the film – which features Paul Hughes of the Grimethorpe band as the flugelhorn soloist, but is depicted in the film as the audition piece for female lead Tara Fitzgerald, playing Gloria Mullins.

As you would expect from a British film of the time, all of the cast provide superb performances, but special mention must be given to the late-lamented Pete Postlethwaite playing Danny, the band’s director, with great sensitivity, and a totally knock-out depiction of his son by Stephen Tompkinson.

In one of the film’s sub-plots Gloria Mullins, who was brought up in Grimley but left for London, returns in the role of an expert brought in by the colliery management to produce a report on the future viability of the pit. In a scene towards the end of the film, which follows the result of a ballot of the minors in which they vote, by a margin of four to one, to take enhanced redundancy payments rather than refer the pit closure to review, Gloria butts into a meeting in the Colliery Manager’s office; the manager, McKenzie, is played by Stephen Moore. There is the following short, but telling, exchange:

GLORIA

I just thought that I’d bring you the viability study.

MCKENZIE

Ah, right. Yes, put it there (nods to indicate table on other side of his office). Thank you.

(McKenzie continues his conversation with his colleagues)

GLORIA

Will you be reading it?

MCKENZIE

Gloria it would have been very valuable if the Grimley miners had decided to go to a review, but as you know sadly …

GLORIA

You made them an offer that they couldn’t refuse.

MCKENZIE

None of this is simple, Gloria.

GLORIA

Alright, I’ll make it simple. I’ll tell you some facts the way I see them and you tell me if I’ve got it wrong.

MCKENZIE

Miss Mullins …

GLORIA

One, I write reports that no one will ever read. They have to be seen to be written, but they are not written to be seen. Two, Grimley is, was, a profitable pit, it says so in here (taps her report). Three, the decision to close it wasn’t made today, it was made weeks ago.

MCKENZIE

Wrong, two years ago. Coal is history Miss Mullins.

(Gloria throws the report on to McKenzie’s lap and storms out of his office).

It would appear that, just like the fictional Grimley Colliery management, the Government made up its mind about HS2 without being too distracted by the facts. It would also appear that the HS2 counterparts of Gloria Mullins’ report, which include documents generated by the National Audit Office and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, are being left on the table at the far side of the office when they should be taken as a clear indication by the Government that the whole HS2 project is crying out for a rigorous review, before much more taxpayers money is squandered on it.

I must confess that I have a great deal of empathy with Gloria, even if she is only a fictional character. I feel a bit of a “Gloria” myself; I have written and submitted more pages to HS2 Ltd than I care to count, including proposals and consultation submissions. I feel that all of my efforts are sitting on the table on the far side of the office, just like Gloria’s report.

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One response to this post.

  1. Always good to read your articles Peter. I provide a similar service, at HS2 Buzz ( http://south-heath.co.uk/newspeak/ ) with just a little more chilli pepper added!

    For those who like articles to be a little less satirical, there is always “Something Wicked this way comes ( http://south-heath.co.uk ).

    Best wishes,
    Stephen

    Reply

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