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Filmlovers pack Royal Albert Hall for DMU-backed Summer of Love festival

The summer of love season at London’s Royal Albert Hall has got off to a swinging start with help from experts at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU). 

Professor Steve Chibnall, director of the acclaimed Cinema and Television History Research Centre (CATH) and Dr Alissa Clarke, senior lecturer in Drama, are part of a special focus on subversive filmmaker Peter Whitehead, a radical figure in 1960s London.

Royal Albert Hall (1)

Their work on Whitehead’s counterculture output inspired the Royal Albert Hall’s Summer of Love: Revisited which celebrates the Sixties with talks, screenings and performances, showcasing people such as Whitehead, who pushed pop culture to its limits.

Peter Whitehead’s archive was donated to DMU last year and now forms part of a growing collection of archive material being housed and studied at the university.

Royal Albert Hall (2)

The season kicked off on Monday with a screening of Whitehead’s famous Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London which features interviews with the likes of Michael Caine, David Hockney and Mick Jagger as well as a raucous performance from the Stones.

It was a huge success with audiences packing in to see the newly-restored film, which was introduced by Prof Chibnall. Comments from fans included: “Brilliant to see this footage – thank you so much for filming such an important part of music history so sympathetically.”  

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On Tuesday, a screening of Pink Floyd: London ’66-’67 was another sell-our success. This time, a post-film discussion hosted by music writer Jon Savage included a panel of Prof Chiball, early Floyd producer, podcaster and writer Joe Boyd, Syd Barrett’s girlfriend and counterculture It-girl Jenny Spires and the Royal Albert Hall’s Richard Dacre.

Still to come in the amazing line-up:

  • Beat Poetry: Revisited - A Screening of Wholly Communion (1965), the documentary of the first mass beat poetry event in the UK (the International Poetry Incarnation), interwoven with live poetry from Michael Horovitz, who organised the legendary 'happening', Steve Larkin (Hammer and Tongue), Lydia Towsey and Angry Sam Berkson. There will also be immersive performance interventions (including readings from Whitehead's LSD diary!) from Drama postgraduate and undergraduate students – May 7, 1.30pm to 3.45pm.
  • Peter Whitehead's Icons of the Hall, featuring footage of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Vanessa Redgrave, and a live performance by Julie Felix – May 27, 1.30pm to 4.30pm   
  • Granny Takes a Trip and Revisiting the Fashion of 60s Counterculture– in conversation with the co-founders of the legendary boutique Nigel Waymouth and John Pearse with never-before-seen footage from the archive. June 26 from 8pm to 10.30pm   

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Sara Jane Power, who has curated the season and created a Spotify playlist to celebrate it, said: “Our events will celebrate the work of Peter Whitehead, who made some of the most vivid, intoxicating and important music documentaries of the period.

“He said it was an honour to receive this major retrospective at the Hall, having worked at a factory as a teenager in order to afford tickets to the venue, and later made so many memorable documentaries there. 'My attachment to this magnificent temple of music, dance and theatre is far deeper than anyone could know,' he said.”

Prof Steve Chibnall, a Whitehead expert, added: “It is great to be celebrating the 50th of the famed Summer of Love at a cathedral of culture where so many of that era's ground-breaking acts performed, and where Peter Whitehead did some of his most historic filming.”

Dr Alissa Clarke, who is co-curator of the Whitehead Archive, said: “It has been such a thrill to view and discuss Whitehead's extraordinary work in an equally extraordinary setting.  Audiences have been absolutely mesmerised by these films. It has highlighted the continuing power and resonance of Whitehead's body of work and how resoundingly it still speaks to contemporary culture and concerns.”

Posted on Thursday 4th May 2017

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