The Wigan Casino was not a gambling den near Manchester, anymore than The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell is about a funfair by the seaside, although curiously the two are inextricably related. The Wigan Casino was a dance hall and home to Northern Soul' at the height of its fashion in the mid- to late 70s in the centre of a once prosperous manufacturing town, once bursting with cotton mills, now brought low by economic hard times. It remains the most famous club in Northern England. From Friday night, non-stop until early Sunday morning, it was packed with kids from all over Britain who had come together to enjoy their music in their environment without interference (or so they hoped) from either parents or the police. The police were convinced it was a druggies paradise, and although they never found a shred of evidence, used this blind suspicion (and the excuse of a minor fire) to eventually close it down in 1981. What they could never close, however, was the sound and even more importantly an incredible style of dancing invented there which became known worldwide as breakdancing'. Again a grim background of industrial slums, unemployment and social deprivation, this dancing expressed inner joy and fulfilment, and this film, made in 1977 for the now defunct Granada Television, is a celebration of that joy. TONY PALMER
About the Director
TONY PALMER's vast filmography of over one hundred films ranges from early works with The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa (200 Motels), to the famous portraits with and about Walton, Britten, Stravinsky, Maria Callas, John Osborne, Margot Fonteyn and Menuhin. His 7 hour 45 minutes film on Wagner, starring Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier and Vanessa Redgrave, was described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the most beautiful films ever made". Among over 40 international prizes for his work are 12 Gold Medals at the New York Film & Television Festival, as well as numerous BAFTA (British Academy of Film & Television) and EMMY nominations and awards. He is the only person to have won the Prix Italia twice. In addition, Mr Palmer has won various platinum and gold albums for the best-selling CDs of the soundtracks of his films. He was a music critic for The Observer for seven years, and has written for numerous international magazines and newspapers, including The Times, The New York Times, Punch, The Spectator, & Life.