Film showing in Leicester celebrates legendary music magazine

A documentary celebrating Melody Maker – the legendary music magazine founded by a Leicester composer – is coming to the city this weekend for a special showing with its director.

Melody Makers features interviews with the journalists, photographers and musicians who made the music news from 1965 to 1975, such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and John Lennon.

Melody Makers

It was made by Canadian documentary maker Leslie Ann Coles and is being shown at Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema in collaboration with film academics from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Leslie Ann will be at Saturday’s showing and will be taking part in a Q&A afterwards with Professor Steve Chibnall, director of DMU’s Cinema and Television History (CATH) Research Centre.

Melody Maker magazine was created in 1926 by Leicester music composer and publisher Lawrence Wright, who ran first a stall at Leicester Market selling music and then a music shop in Conduit Street.

Melody Maker started life as a serious magazine for musicians, and its reputation as the ‘musicians’ paper’ helped ensure a unique readership of fans and musicians themselves. At its height it was selling more than 200,000 copies a week.

Leslie Ann decided to make the film when she met photographer Barrie Wentzell in Canada, and he started telling her his anecdotes of life as a snapper with rock royalty. “It started off as an artist portrait, a film about Barry’s pictures, and then I started researching Melody Maker and it became a completely different story,” she said. “I spent days in the British Library which has the Melody Maker archive. It had this news edge, and great access to musicians because they were reading it – John Lennon would write in, and Pete Townshend wrote a column. Anyone who loves pop culture and music will love this film.”

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The film was shown to a packed house at London’s Regent Street Cinema this week, where DMU is running a series of films about 1960s London, The View from Underground.

Prof Chibnall said: “One of the audience members afterwards said that it takes someone from outside Britain to make this film because we are too close to it, and I think that Leslie Ann has that fresh perspective. It is a fascinating subject. If you carried Melody Maker under your arm you were serious about music.

“The film captures this very specific period in time when Melody Maker was at the height of its popularity and music was undergoing a huge change from the summer of love to the Beatles splitting up and progressive rock.”

The film was premiered in the UK at the Raindance Film Festival. It won best documentary feature at the Whistler Film Festival, nominated as best documentary by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and won best film at the Documentary Film Awards.

•         See Melody Makers at the Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, on Saturday at 6pm. Q&A after the film.

Posted on Friday 13th April 2018

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