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Sight and Sound

Essential viewing in the age of austerity

Sean McAllister’s deceptively casual documentary about a warehouse worker bringing hip-hop to kids in Hull reveals uncomfortable truths about inequality in the UK.

The hard facts of social mobility in today’s Britain come into sharp focus in this unassumingly scaled yet hugely encompassing piece of documentary portraiture. Filmmaker Sean McAllister, recently acclaimed for the affecting A Syrian Love Story, returns to home ground for A Northern Soul, having been appointed creative director of the opening ceremony marking his native Hull’s term as 2017 City of Culture. After years of austerity and a divisive Brexit vote, he ponders in an introductory voiceover, might this be the moment to turn the place around after decades of neglect. If so, what are the chances for someone trying to follow in his own footsteps? McAllister left school at 16 and worked in a factory for nine years before taking up a video camera and changing his life. In warehouse worker Steve Arnott, he finds a kindred soul: here’s someone who wants to transform his fortunes – and help others do the same – through the liberating power of hip-hop, but is faced with the suffocating pressures of exactly what it means to be among the UK’s many working poor.


See the full review by Trevor Johnston on the BFI Sight & Sound website


Why A Northern Soul challenges TV’s ‘war on the poor’

The story of one man’s uphill struggle to pursue his creative dreams, A Northern Soul also gives the city of Hull a rare moment in the cinematic spotlight. Director Sean McAllister tells Brogan Morris why the system is stacked against modern Britain’s strivers.

When BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Sean McAllister was invited back to his native Hull to be one of the creative directors for the 2017 City of Culture programme, he seized the opportunity to examine, expose and champion this long-neglected city on film.


See the full article by Brogan Morris on the BFI website


This Film Shows the Reality of Life in Austerity Britain

Hull might be the UK’s City of Culture, but that doesn’t change the day-to-day lives of many of its residents.

A Northern Soul, the new documentary film directed by Sean McAllister, is about the year Hull became the City of Culture.

It’s about the political and economic policy of austerity and the hardship it has visited on working class communities in the northern city – but most of all, it’s a story about Steve Arnott, who we find living back home with his mother after the end of his second marriage. It’s also about the Beats Bus, a bus turned mobile recording studio and classroom that Steve drives around Hull, running music workshops with the city’s children (and sometimes adults).

Steve is 43 years old and has a tattoo on his neck that reads “Tear it down”, the title of his first single, under the name Redeye Feenix. He’s big and friendly and open. Over the phone, he tells me he left school aged 16 and went to work with his dad as a labourer. A professional rugby league career looked like it might be on the cards, but then Steve was run over. It took him a year-and-a-half to recover, and doctors told him he shouldn’t risk playing again.

Depressed from the fallout of the accident, Steve became the manager of an arcade, where punters could gamble. “It was awful,” he says. “Watching people losing money is not nice.” But he needed the job. At the same time, he was doing gigs and making music, trying to make things happen as an MC and a producer. Eventually, he left the arcade and got a job working in a warehouse….


Read the full article on the VICE website

The Big Issue

Sean McAllister fears that kids won’t be able to watch his portrayal of poverty in Hull’s poorest areas “because the f-word’s used” and has appealed to the BBFC to re-rate it as a 12A

Director Sean McAllister has slammed the decision to give his documentary depicting poverty in Hull a 15-rating as “insulting and devastating”. A Northern Soul follows warehouse worker Steve Arnott as he brings his hip hop bus venture to disadvantaged children in Hull’s poorest areas while navigating poverty himself.

Sean, whose 2015 documentary A Syrian Love Story earned him a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director or Producer, intends to appeal the board’s decision, and has requested a formal list of all the required cuts that would identify which four uses of strong language would be suitable for a 12A rating. He said: “I’d hate to recut it and use the wrong fucks.”


Read the full article on the Big Issue website

A Northern Soul – Trailer

All cinema screening details at anorthernsoulfilm.com/screenings

“Sean McAllister returns to his hometown, Hull, as curator of its’ UK City of Culture opening. Back living with his 90-year-old parents and reflecting on changes to a city hit by cuts in public spending and divided by Brexit, Sean is drawn to the fringes of town where he encounters Steve – a struggling warehouse worker with a dream.”

Behind the scenes with A Northern Soul

A Northern Soul launches in Hull

A behind the scenes look as Sean McAllister’s latest doc A Northern Soul has its premier in his hometown of Hull. The opening night at the Middleton Hall (Hull University) launched a week of 7:30pm screenings, beginning at Middleton Hall and then moving to the Vue cinema.

Please note: Tickets are not available via the Vue Box Office online or in person, and is not included in Vue’s £4.99 ticket deal. Tickets available via Hull Box Office online or over the phone, or on the night from the Hull Independent Cinema sales table.

Hull Independent Cinema

For more details about screenings please visit the the Hull Independent Cinema website

A Northern Soul in Hull

Sean McAllister’s A Northern Soul showing a working-class look at Hull 2017 is being screened this month

A new film by the man who was the creative director behind 2017’s spectacular opening show (Made in Hull) is being screened in Hull later this month. Documentary film maker Sean McAllister’s A Northern Soul examines Hull’s year in the spotlight as the UK City of Culture and, in particular, warehouse worker Steve Arnott’s Beats Bus project. The film follows Steve as he turns his idea of touring a musical bus around Hull’s estates into reality.

The film will be shown at Middleton Hall on the University of Hull’s Cottingham Road campus from Thursday, July 19, to Sunday, July 22. Tickets can be booked via Hull Box Office at www.hullboxoffice.com or by calling 01482 221113.

See the original article on the Hull Daily Mail website.

A Northern Soul in Hull

4 screenings + live appearances

‘A Northern Soul’ is coming home to Hull! The documentary will screen at Middleton Hall from 19-22 July and Vue Hull from 23-26 July.

“A Northern Soul is a great work of radical empathy, in which the economic difficulties of the city and the contradictions of regeneration through culture are visible alongside a testament to the charm and strength of personality of the city’s residents.” – Charlie Phillips, The Guardian

Hull Independent Cinema

‘A Northern Soul’ is being presented in partnership with Hull Independent Cinema. Hull Independent Cinema (HIC) is a charity, run by a small team of volunteers, screening the best in art house, world, independent and short film.

Get your tickets

Filmmaker turns his lens on home city

Hull-born film maker Sean McAllister opens next month’s Sheffield Doc/Fest with a documentary inspired by his home city.

Daniel Dylan Wray talked to him. From Iraq to Japan to Syria, Sean McAllister’s documentaries have taken him all over the world. His BAFTA-nominated 2015 film, A Syrian Love Story, even landed him temporarily in jail after his cameras and anti-government subjects gained the attention of the police. However, despite exploring various subjects across the globe, there is one place that McAllister has returned to time and time again: Hull.

Read the full article on the Yorkshire Post website.