Interviewed by Greg Wilson 30.08.08
Image by www.anti-limited.com
GW: We are very fortunate in this city to have such a strong B Boy culture. This film came about very much from sadness in a sense because one of our number from Broken Glass; Swanny died a couple of years ago which was a real shock to us all because he just looked so fantastic, and he was Tim’s best friend. I’m going to introduce him now…. Tim Forde, come and talk to us.
GW: So we’re just gonna have a quick chat, we want to move on and show the film upstairs. What we’ve decide to do, we were originally going to show the film one time but there’s more people here at this point in the night than we thought there would be, so we are going to leave it on a loop for the next 3 or 4 hours, so that everyone gets the chance to see it.
But firstly, Tim, I just kind of touched on what it was that influenced you to do this in the first place if you could embellish on that a bit.
TF: Initially, I was living in the, immigrated to the West Indies, Barbados actually, whoop, whoop! …OK, just me then. [Laughter] And I came back on holiday visiting family, we went to Liverpool to see Swanny ‘cos obviously we were best friends, and sometimes you don’t see each other for years… but as soon as we’d hook up we just carried on from where we left off, you know what I mean? OK, just two of yous [laughter] but you know what I mean. He reintroduced me to the Hip Hop and Breakdance scene because as far as I was concerned, I often say this in the documentary, so I feel like I’m repeating myself, I thought that the Breakdance scene got killed off in the 80s when the media sort of said it was out of fashion, so the only thing that I thought would survive the 21st century was our own memories of it from back then, so he sat me down and said you’ve got to check this video out. He didn’t tell me anything about it… It was a 2002 Breakdance championship, and the moment it came on I just saw that the moves they were doing, here in the 21st Century; hand wiggles and… It just rekindled that 80s vibe again. I remember in the 80s people going “How did you learn to do that without actually breaking a bone? “ “No big deal” (shrugs shoulders). And I found myself going “Jesus! How did they do that without actually killing themselves?” I was just hooked! I think that inspired me to make a documentary. I was thinking if it’s evolved to this level, and even though it’s been kept underground and the media pushed it aside, even though it was part of the Hip Hop art form, like graffiti and stuff, obviously you couldn’t make money out of it because you couldn’t take a B Boy home and sell him, you know, well maybe [laughter] But you know what I mean. I just felt like this story needed to be told; of how it evolved from how we started to where it is, to see that juxtaposed.
TF: For me Hip Hop was always about expression, that’s how it came to me in the early 80s with Afrika Bambaataa and all that peace, unity, love and having fun. It was a way of taking (yourself) away from what we’ve got today with gun crime and stuff, because it was an outlet for that pent-up teenage energy. So I felt it was relevant to today. So it started out as an idea, something we tried to do mainly for this reunion that we were having back in 2004. Like Greg said, when I started it, the first shot I did was of Swanny, because it was his, well my…
GW: Swanny was a dance teacher, he was still very much involved in dance.
TF: Yeah he was teaching dance and stuff like that, so he was the first person I interviewed back in 2004. So in 2005 I couldn’t really do anything because I was unemployed and couldn’t afford the camcorder and editing and all that sort of stuff, so I was pretty much stuck. Then in 2006 Swanny passed away. I was going through some turmoil of my own at the time so I was totally oblivious and I didn’t actually find out that he’d passed away until the day after his funeral, I didn’t even know he was ill or anything. So it was like “bang!… What!?… Yew!” It was hard to come from! I spoke to his girlfriend and people that knew him and it was pretty much a big shock to everybody, because he had such a vitality and energy. When we got together we were always 18 (years old) there was always that thing, so it was a real shock to have him pass like that. …The stories and adventures we had! We used to play off each other “Do you remember that time we was in that club and we…” “Yeah, yeah, what was her name?” I could always remember the names of his girls, but couldn’t remember the names of mine! But there you go, such is life! So it’s really weird! “Yea, yeah, remember that…” but he’s no longer there to relate to. Anyway, I’m waffling now. Anyway with that, it made it imperative that the story had to be told, because it will be forgotten, or remembered as something different. Like for example the Michael Jackson Moonwalk, I was doing the moonwalk 2 years before I saw Michael, or heard of him doing it, but we called it The Backslide, I saw it in ’82 when Jeffrey Daniels did it, then it was one of those things: “Oh they’ve moved the floor, that’s how it is, it was a special effect or something like that”.
TF: So I felt the documentary had to be made to tell that story because that period of time in the 80s seems to have been blocked out. You see documentaries that talk about the 80s; nothing is mentioned about B Boys or Hip Hop culture, it’s “All about American Hip Hop. Meanwhile in England… the Rave scene” I was like woah! I felt it was important that that story be told because it’s Hip Hop, it’s a voice for the voiceless, that’s how it came about; for people in the ghettos who didn’t have a voice or a say in society, that was their expression. It’s always been that way, even if we went back to say Ragtime, and that sort of stuff, it’s always been there, it just wasn’t called Hip Hop then, but it’s there. So I thought it was imperative. I did a course with Benji Reid, Breaking cycles. The information and sheer artistry and creativity that was there gave me that confidence and motivation to say maybe I could actually go out and make a documentary… it had to be done! I felt it was my way of paying tribute to Swanny, I felt like I owed him that at least as a friend.
GW: I think that’s what you’ve achieved in it, is that it’s raw, technically…
TF: Technically (Sighs)
GW: The heart that you’ve put into it is there, and I think anyone who watched this will… That’s what they’ll go away with… There’s heart within this. I think what it does is it captures what was going on at that period of time, not just in this city, but right across the UK. It’s a story that reverberates right around… and obviously as a tribute to your friend, and our friend, it’s a wonderful tribute!
So will you go upstairs and show the people? We’ll be showing it on a loop, as there’s only a certain amount of space up there, so if it’s too full, don’t worry about that, we’ll show it again straight afterwards. It’s a 40 minute documentary so it will work around that way.
TF: Thanks, I hope you enjoy it.
‘Birth of the British B-Boy’ by Tim Forde:
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© Greg Wilson, 2012