Madonna

Soo I don’t know what y’all were doing this Thursday night just gone but I was at the Jonathan Ross show…seeing MADONNA. No other guests, just Madonna – the absolute priMaDoNnA. And after taking a tumble at the Brits I bet there wasn’t single person on the planet who would have said no to watching a live interview with her the very next day. Esp by Jonathan Ross who can be an absolute meanie. He took it easy on her though. So much so that at one point he tried to play that already infamous clip of her falling on her fabulous ass but didn’t when she said NO PLEEEEEEASE DONT MAKE ME WATCH IT – what a babe.

I thought I’d write about it because I feel like I’ve been a Madonna fan from birth. Images of a 5 year old me prancing around in fingerless lace gloves saying ‘good going stranger’ and trying to dry my pits under a hand dryer (Desperately Seeking Susan) spring to mind.

Madonna has supplied this planet with a constant churning out of well made pop music…and because she’s doing what she always has done, only now she’s 56, she’s getting ridiculous JIB for it. Why? Racism is one thing, Homophobia another…but ageism is a concept that just completely baffles me. WE ARE ALL GOING TO BE 56 AT SOME POINT. You’re essentially telling an older version of yourself that you cannot do the things you love, cannot behave the way you always have done and cannot flash your ass because you’re ‘passed’ it. Not quite the same thing goes for men though ay? Enough of the bitching though lets talk about how great she was.

She sang her new single Living for Love, and the next release off of her album, Ghost Town. And she was great. Great production, great performance, great choreography, great great great. For anyone who’s seen her live before they’ll know that this is always the case. I was in the golden circle (check me out) for her 2012 MDNA tour; watching her Vogue in that Jean Paul Gaultier is one of those life moments that will forever sit in the hall of fame in my mind. Yes it was extravagant, yes it was sexy, yes it was CON-TRO-VER-SIAL (gun wielding, boobs out, monks everywhere) – I would expect no less.

Wossy (Jonathan Ross) really dug deep during their interview, asking questions that people had previously either wanted to ask and forgotten (her career does pan more then three decades) or wanted to and been too f***ing scared. There was talk of her relationship with Guy Ritchie and how and why it all fell apart. There was also drug chat, asking how she’d feel about her kids experimenting. For me the best was something like But when you can’t really do it all anymore (‘cus yeah ok physically in 14 years time when she’s 70 maybe she won’t wanna be tightroping and backflipping anymore) what will be your next move? To which she replied…comedy. LOL. Who knows what she’ll do but she’s an innovator in music and feminism and gay rights and equality and anything else you can think of. I think us youngens should not be so quick to brush her off simply for her age. Madonna paved the way for much of what we love today…show some respect PLZ

Cass Pennant

Been a while since I posted, been a busy bee this last week. Getting back on track, and in the spirit of my Beverley post – I wanted to blog an article that I wrote last year about the awesome, multitalented big man (as in super tall) CASS PENNANT! Cass’ production company Urban Edge Films is what got the Beverley ball rolling – he’s very inspirational and I thought I’d share this with you guys on here!

“Even when someone’s got nothing they can still teach you something.”

Former football hooligan turned author and film maker, Cass Pennant, talks gangs, prison and why it’s never too late to change your life around. Interview by Laya Lewis.

Pennant has just touched down in London after promoting his latest film project in Festival de Cannes. A man famous for knocking heads, literally, Cannes seems long way from Kent. So what’s the story?

When Pennant answers the phone for our interview I’m taken aback by the immensely friendly, deep cockney accent that greets me. A voice that immediately echoes pride, wisdom and years packed with life changing experiences. And why shouldn’t it, after being in and out of prison, shot 3 times in the chest and going on to have 9 books published…and that’s only the half of it.

Pennant rose to fame in the 1970’s for his antics as ring leader in West Ham United football gang, The Inner City Firm. The ICF were widely regarded as the first properly organised hooligan firm with Cass at the forefront. However Pennant grew up with white adoptive parents in a predominantly white neighbourhood so up until The ICF he felt the colour of his skin had made him an outcast. “With my background I’ve always had to fight to be equal. I was always the odd one out, always bullied, and the bullied becomes the bully,” says Pennant, who went from the fringes of the gang, to the inner circle, to a ring leader and eventually that lead to his going to prison.

Pennant was the first person to ever receive a long-term prison sentence for football hooliganism, 4 years in total. Was this because there had never been a gang as feared as the ICF or was he once again being singled out for the colour of his skin? “I’d been in the national headlines for the wrong reasons since my teens,” says Pennant, meaning that prison had always seemed inevitable to him.

It was in Prison that Cass first began writing. “I used to write prison letters for other prisoners who couldn’t write and that’s when I realised I could write. I kept trying to work my life out and couldn’t so I started writing chapters on my life instead,” says Pennant. Inspiring as he himself had never been one for reading books. “On holiday people would come up to the pool front and say, you still on the same page Cass, it’s been 4 days. I just can’t focus, I end up day dreaming.”

His first time in prison he was thrown in a cell with what he describes as a ‘hardcase.’ Pennant claims, ‘This was the kinda guy who’d spent more years in prison then out.’ In the end though the two of them became friends and it was his cellmate who inspired him to write books. “He said to me, ‘You’ll do prison the hard way.’ He asked me ‘Where am I?’ I said prison. Why? Where do you think you are? And he said ‘I’m not here, I’m on the moon.’”

“I thought he was mad until one day I figured it out. Every time he was reading a book he was out of those four walls.” It turned out that all the cellmates were reading books, something Pennant had initially thought was for “wusses”. “I said I’d like to read a book and he chucked ‘A Stone for Danny Fisher by Howard Robbins at me. That’s the first book I properly read and it inspired me. Even when someone’s got nothing they can still teach you something.” And that’s when he started English rehabilitation lessons in Prison and his journey as an author first began.

When pennant first left prison the memoirs that he’d laboured over for years were confiscated by the guards as they were written on ‘prison property’. Pennant couldn’t believe it, “When I came out I realised society says one thing but practices another”. He eventually managed to have his work smuggled out but after a year of trying to stay out of trouble he was back in the same prison. “They said I’d be back and I thought to myself, no, something’s wrong here. I took on everyone as gang leader so I thought I can take on society and change things.”

It was after his second run in prison that he eventually managed to get his book published. It took a while as the book was constantly knocked back from publishers for being hand written. “It took 20 years to get it published but I never gave up,” says Pennant. His book secured his status as an ICF legend and landed him a cameo role on hooligan based film Green Street. This was where he met producer Jon S. Baird. Baird had an acute interest in Pennant’s story and began reading his book telling him “This has got to be a film.” “I kept my cool and just said tell me when you’ve read the whole book. Two days later he rang and said ‘I told you, this is a film.’”

That’s where the transition from books to film began for Pennant. With his latest project being short film Beverly. The film is set in the 80’s, about a young mix raced girl struggling to find her identity amidst different subcultures. This was a time when racism was still very prominent and Two Tone was at the forefront of radical music. “What fascinates me are subcultures, I always wanted to make a film with a Two Tone background as I think it’s been underrated. It was the thing that brought black and white together…not governments,” say Pennant.

Two Tone is a music genre created in England in the late 1970s that fused together elements of skapunk rock, rock steadyreggae and new wave. It allowed different people from different racial backgrounds to come together. The story of Beverly is the true story of Beverly Thompson, an amazing woman in her own right. According to Pennant, “I especially recognised the power in a female account of that era, and I knew the story was special as I had my own story made into a film. Bev has a lot to say for herself and for culture. If we make it a powerful short and who knows, for us it could be the start of an amazing journey.’”

Now back from Cannes and looking to continue his mission to take on the film industry I can’t see things slowing down for Cass Pennant anytime soon. To young people who feel they’re also lost in society’s judgements and preconceptions Cass says ‘You need to do things for you, not what others want. Not society, your peers, your parents. You do what you wanna [sic] do.’ Great advice because according to Pennant, ‘Sooner or later I’ll be doing my first feature film, trust me.’ Watch out for this one, he’s on a mission.

Trailer for Cass – his biopic

Beverley

As I’ve mentioned i’m a student but also an actor (when I get work ha). A project I am massively proud of has recently been completed and is about to begin it’s film festival touring journey – which I hope will be a long and fruitful one. I just wanted to say a few words about it as it recently screened at BFI Southbank and I was blown away by the final edit.

Beverley is the story of a mixed-race teenage girl growing up in Leicester in the 80’s, dealing with her own identity issues and the discriminate attitudes of those around her. With a white mum and a black dad, the family (which also includes her sister and brother) stick out like a sore thumb. The film is set to a 2-Tone musical backdrop that helps carry you through this young girls journey as she tries to find her own self and where that self fits in the world. Being mixed race I was obviously onboard with the Short Film from the off. I definitely remember the odd name call in school, like umm, you’re ‘washout’; apparently because I was well spoken and my friendship group was made up of a mix of black and white it meant my black and been ‘washed’ out of me. CLASSIC!

So on Friday night I went to a screening event, Celebrate:Connect, held by a group called S.O.U.L. who aim to support creative, black and ethnic British rising stars. The group is supported by the BFI (British Film Institute) so they hold screenings and events at the BFI Southbank Centre. The evening was amazing, the room was a bustling hub of creativity! Anyone interested should check out their website SoulFilm. Their next event takes place on the 22nd of May so if you’re a young film maker/actor/producer or you’ve generally got ideas coming out of your eyeballs hit them up!

The Beverley Trailer ^^