White City stories

Friday 11 October 2013, 05:40

 Penny Penny Film Producer, LandSky

It was a dark, stormy, wet night – exactly the kind any film-maker dreads for a premier in London. A soaked red carpet, a damp fire-eater and lots of ruined hair-dos. The omens were not auspicious, particularly since one thing 6 months of working with the people on the White City Estate had taught me is that there’s a widespread allergy to venturing outside in the rain.

Is it the multi-cultural make-up of the community, where half the residents can trace their recent genes back to hotter, drier shores? Is it that the flats behind the solid red-brick exteriors are warm and cosy? Or is it the sudden attraction of BBC programmes on TV when it’s pouring outside? Whatever the reason, I was gearing myself up for an evening of poor attendance and a cooler than anticipated reception to our film Tales of the White City when it premiered at Phoenix High School on September 13th. Ah yes, of course, a Friday, we should have known better!

Fortunately, yet again, White City surprised me. Lots of people had made the effort to come, their curiosity outstripping their natural aversion to the wet weather. And it was very touching to see how many had come specially to say hello to Benjamin (the director) and me. We’d had lots of fun with lots of people making the film, and here they were all gathered to see it. For the first time I felt just a bit nervous. What if they didn’t like it?

Benjamin Benjamin Till, composer and director of Tales of the White City

Again, I needn’t have worried. As soon as the first song finished and people burst into spontaneous applause it was clear we were going to be okay. Each song received a similar welcome, and I can only hope the singers, who are all local people, felt as proud as I did when the audience was moved to laughter and tears and concluded with a standing ovation. What a wonderful reception – truly worthy of White City and its warm, friendly and inspiring community.

Performers on stage Performers from Tales of the White City on stage at the premiere

I was back in White City two days later, when the film was first shown publicly at the White City Festival. Again the weather gods were against us – not just wet this time but cold too. Still, when people are determined to have fun, this community from all over the world have absorbed enough of the British ‘show must go on’ spirit not to be deterred by a few drops of rain.

I’d like to say the film was the highlight of the festival, but that would be quite wrong. Again, it was the people of the place who were the stars, both on the stage and on the film. The natural talent, the hard work and the ambition of the people who live on White City shines out so brightly it put the weather in the shade.

My thanks to everyone who showed us such kindness and enthusiasm during our 6 months working in White City. I shall always remember it.

Fire Circus prop at premiere of Tales of the White City

*BBC Outreach links the BBC to communities where it has a large number of staff members - in London, that is the two boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster. BBC Staff members have been working alongside the people of the White City Estate for more than half a century and this film was an opportunity to learn more about our neighbours by asking them to tell us directly about the issues that matter to them. The film, which involves more than 400 people from the estate, is a moving and unique account of life in west London.

Tales of the White City John, a performer from Tales of the White City and a resident on the estate.


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