Following 2015’s Doc/Fest Grand Jury Winner A Syrian Love Story, Sean McAllister returned to his hometown, Hull, as curator of its’ UK City of Culture opening ceremony and made A Northern Soul during his year there.
Exploring his own relationship with home, family, and work, McAllister has created a documentary that sensitively exposes the challenges faced by working class people in the north that is rarely seen on film.
For the duration of 2017 McAllister moved back in with his elderly parents, who provide some touching asides, and a link to a time when Hull was thriving and not in desperate need of renewal and regeneration.
The documentary is chiefly about Steve Arnott, a cash strapped factory worker and father, that dreams of creating music workshops for disadvantaged children. Hoping that the City Of Culture might provide such an opportunity, McAllister follows Arnott as he attempts to make his ‘Beats Bus’ a success story.
The children that are selected for the ‘Beats Bus’ mentoring sessions really shine and provide some of the most touching moments of the film. They alone highlight the potentially transformative power of art, as they gain confidence, a sense of achievement, and are introduced to a whole new world of possibilities, outside of their everyday lives.
McAllister’s style is casual and he seems to just follow Steve around, but this enables us, the viewer to become intimately immersed in his life. The conversations between the two prompt Steve to talk openly and often movingly about striving to be a good parent, his desire to do a more fulfilling job, and his fears for the future.
Steve’s working life, financial position, personal circumstances and debts all speak of a working-class Britain blighted by insecurity and suffering the long-term impact of austerity cuts and industrial decline.
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