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Celebration of rock's golden age curated by DMU academics for Royal Albert Hall audience

Concert footage from one of pop music’s most exciting eras was screened to a sell-out crowd at the Royal Albert Hall this weekend, thanks to academics from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

DMU’s Cinema and Television History research centre (CATH) presented Icons at the Hall, showcasing the work of counterculture director Peter Whitehead. 

ALBERT HALL (1)

Picture: David Wilson Clarke

Whitehead’s vivid, visceral style of film-making got up close and personal with the bands he was recording, giving fans a completely different view of life on stage than that depicted by other, more traditional directors.

Mr Whitehead, who in his career has been a film-maker, artist, novelist, potter, photographer, sculptor and latterly a falconer, donated his archive to CATH last year. The team then developed the Royal Albert Hall’s Summer of Love: Revisited season in partnership with the venue.

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Picture: David Wilson Clarke

Rare footage of The Rolling Stones being attacked by raving fans, early Led Zeppelin’s mind-blowing performance and a never-before-shown recording of folk hero Julie Felix was shown during the event, which also gave a glimpse into Whitehead’s artistic process, his inspirations and his ambitions for his work.

Dr Alissa Clarke, co-curator of the Whitehead Archive, and Professor Steve Chibnall, CATH director and Whitehead expert, hosted the event. They gave readings from the archive documents and took part in a Q&A with the hall’s history expert Richard Dacre and Julie Felix – who also performed her music live.

Prof Chibnall said that the screening of Whitehead’s film about Felix – then a national TV star with her own BBC series Once More With Felix and the first solo folk singer to sell out the Royal Albert Hall – was a world premiere.

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Picture: David Wilson Clarke

Dr Clarke added: “Peter Whitehead described his film Julie Felix at the Albert Hall as  a ‘very pure, delicate film – much like its subject.’

“Whitehead was so struck by Julie’s concert that two days afterwards he proposed making a documentary, ‘A Study of Miss Julie Felix’. Sadly, this project was never completed. This screening gives us a taste of what might have been.”

Saturday’s event was the last of four to celebrate the work of Whitehead, who said the Royal Albert Hall was his favourite venue. It follows a screening of the seminal Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London, Pink Floyd: London ’66 –’67 and Beat Poetry Revisited, which featured his film Wholly Communion. However there will be some more Whitehead footage in an event celebrating the hip sixties boutique Granny Takes a Trip on 26 June. The CATH team has been asked to co-produce this tribute.

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Picture: David Wilson Clarke

For musician Julie Felix, who had her own TV series in the 1960s, it was the first time she had watched the finished film.

She said: “I’d heard of him [Whitehead] before, I knew he filmed rock n roll stars so I felt honoured he wanted to film little folk singer me. He was always a very fun person.

“It was the first solo concert I’d ever given. I’d supported Donovan but it was the first one on my own. And I just wanted to run away. When I look back, it’s like another lifetime ago really, but I was just so honoured to have my first concert at the Albert Hall and I’m very grateful that Peter documented it.”

Members of last Saturday’s sell-out audience included Led Zeppelin fans, folk fans and Sixties aficionados.

Gary Hill, of London, has been to all the Peter Whitehead events. He said: “I came to the Royal Albert Hall first in 67. It was an amazing time. I remember Julie Felix, she had her own TV series, she was the first person to get Leonard Cohen on the TV in this country.

“I’m here because I like seeing Whitehead’s films, I think he was in the right place at the right time, his work captures people right at the point they become huge.”

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Picture: David Wilson Clarke

Sarah Whittaker, of Dorset, was there with her nephew. She said: “I remember my parents taking me to marches and I think it’s important the next generation are exposed to different kinds of music.”

Lily Elliott added: “I grew up in Reading, but I went to university in London and loved it. It was such a time to be a young person there was exciting music, such a spirit and feeling that something different was happening.”

Posted on Thursday 1st June 2017

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