The director behind a movie charting the history of Denmark’s Street’s Tin Pan Alley has started a crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise the £28,000 needed to get the film made.
Tin Pan Alley Tales – The Documentary, produced and directed by Save Tin Pan Alley campaign founder and chairman Henry Scott-Irvine, is a modern-day Canterbury Tales that focuses on the street’s history, including its importance to music business. Ten people with 10 different jobs will tell 10 stories across 10 decades.
Over 17 hours of interview footage has already been shot with the likes of Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, writer Will Self, skiffle pioneer and music agent Chas McDevitt.
Dave Davies from the Kinks has shot a short sequence of himself in Tin Pan Alley, exclusively for the film and there is also interview footage with composer and musician Patrick Campbell-Lyons, whose UK band Nirvana was the first British group to release an album on Island Records in the summer of 1967. A regular at the Gioconda Café at No,9 Denmark Street, he reminisces about his friendship with David Bowie who used to park his touring vehicle – a World War Two US military ambulance – outside the café.
Scott-Irvine is already half way towards his £28,000 target but is hoping that more backers will come forward over the next few weeks to enable him to complete the film.
He says: “I’ve had support from many music industry people – both for the film and for the original campaign to save Tin Pan Alley. In the last few weeks alone we’ve been given rare and valuable original acetates that were donated by Suggs from Madness. Producer Clive Langer has also given us a 12” white label master of a limited edition vinyl pressing of David Bowie’s song Absolute Beginners, which topped the UK charts in 1986. These will be auctioned on Ebay to raise money for the film.”
The importance of making the documentary cannot be underestimated, he adds. “Denmark Street was the epicentre of London’s music scene for so long, but now, because of the development of the area, much of the history is being lost. We need to preserve and archive the story of Tin Pan Alley, as well as continue the fight for it to be protected with musical heritage zone status.”
Tin Pan Alley’s musical heritage dates to 1911 when it was the birthplace of sheet music publishing, and subsequently the birthplace of the music charts. The NME and The Melody Maker began life there, and for many years it was the place to have an office if you were a music publisher or an artist's manager.
The campaign to save Denmark Street from property developers has already had huge success, gaining Grade 2 listed status for various historically important buildings, including an 18th century Forge that was literally lifted by crane so that a pair of subterranean venues could be built beneath it. Eight music retail outlets and 11 music spaces above shops have also been protected and a Fair Rents scheme has been put in place to protect existing businesses.
PMC has made a significant contribution to the crowd funding campaign for the film because it is passionate about preserving Britain’s hugely important musical heritage. Peter Thomas, PMC’s founder, has long been a collector of music and important artefacts of the British music industry. His own personal collection, soon to be housed in a museum PMC is setting up at its headquarters in Hertfordshire, contains a history of British Loudspeakers, along with examples of pro audio technology through the years such as microphones, mixing consoles and tape machines.
Commenting on the Save Tin Pan Alley campaign, he says: "The sheer numbers of music publishers in Denmark Street gave huge opportunities for young songwriters to develop and make their way in the music industry. Without it, so much of the music we enjoy today would never have been composed or recorded. My record collection would certainly be significantly smaller, and the pleasure of listening to so many classic albums would have been lost.”
Picture: Henry Scott-Irvine and Suggs. Credit: Richard Piercy.