Stone Roses' film has world premiere at London Film Festival

Oliver Heald, Jordan Murphy, Elliott Tittensor, Nico Mirallegro, and Adam Long in the film Spike Island Spike Island follows the exploits of five Stone Roses' fans and budding musicians

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A film based around The Stone Roses' legendary Spike Island concert, which has been dubbed a "love letter to Manchester and the band", had its world premiere at a rain-soaked BFI London Film Festival on Thursday.

The movie tells the story of five teenage friends who try to get tickets to the band's gig on the island, which is in the middle of the River Mersey near Widnes.

It makes extensive use of the group's music and period locations around Manchester and Widnes to recreate the height of the "Madchester" scene.

'Baggy Woodstock'

The Stone Roses' Spike Island concert on 27 May 1990 was seen by many as the high point of the seminal rock band's career.

It has subsequently been called the "Baggy Woodstock" and was the second-to-last gig before they split to feature the band's classic line-up of Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary "Mani" Mounfield and Alan "Reni" Wren.

Start Quote

Spike Island was the pinnacle really of the whole Madchester explosion”

End Quote Chris Coghill

Writer and actor Chris Coghill started working on a script with producer Fiona Neilson in 2009, basing events around Manchester's alternative shopping emporium Afflecks Palace, where both of them had worked in their teens.

They soon realised the Spike Island concert was of one of the defining moments of the Madchester era and decided to make a coming-of-age film centred on that.

Speaking before the world premiere in Leicester Square on Thursday night, Coghill said: "Spike Island itself, the gig, was the pinnacle really of the whole Madchester explosion and it's also special in that it was almost the beginning of the end of the Roses first time round.

The Stone Roses on Top of the Pops In 1989 The Stone Roses appeared on the same Top of the Pops as fellow "Madchester" band Happy Mondays

"They only played one gig after that as the original line up before this summer."

Coghill admitted that "a lot of people that were there don't remember it," and that others said "musically, there were problems with the sound," but that doesn't diminish its impact.

"It wasn't the best gig ever but it was just the atmosphere and what it meant," he said.

The main challenge for director Mat Whitecross was recreating that feeling on film.

"What I loved about it was that it's almost described as a Woodstock for the Baggy generation. If you grew up in 1990 it was your Shangri-La," he said.

"We've tried to be as true as we can to the time. Everyone who's involved in it has really taken it to their heart.

The Stone Roses factfile

  • May 1989: The band releases its self-titled debut album, which is now considered an era-defining classic.
  • November 1989: The quartet performs on the same episode of Top of the Pops as fellow Madchester band Happy Mondays.
  • May 1990: More than 27,000 fans attend the "Baggy Woodstock" at Spike Island near Widnes, Cheshire.
  • June 1990: The classic line-up of Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary Mounfield and Alan Wren take the stage for that last time in Glasgow.
  • December 1994: The band's final album Second Coming is released.
  • March 1995: Drummer Reni leaves the band.
  • October 2011: The Stone Roses reform and announce homecoming gigs at Heaton Park, Manchester, which sell-out in 68 minutes.

"Ultimately it is a lover letter to Manchester and The Stone Roses."

And, for the young actors who played the main characters, filming was quite an education - not least because of the pudding-bowl haircuts that were popular at the time.

Nico Mirallegro said: "I personally had some sort of mushroom, alien nation haircut. I got ripped for it. My nickname for the whole seven weeks we were doing it was mushroom head."

Adam Long added: "To everyone who talks about it back then it wasn't just a gig, it was an event. It changed the lives of the people that went.

"The passion that people talk about it now you don't find that. It's very rare."

"We went to Heaton Park and I think what we witnessed there was maybe on that sort of level. What we witnessed at Heaton Park was just absolutely incredible, absolutely incredible," said Oliver Heald.

Start Quote

It's like a love letter to The Stone Roses”

End Quote John Simm

The film, dedicated to Ian, John, Mani and Reni, was given a rapturous reception by the audience which was filled with music fans, celebrities, film-goers and according to the director "half of Manchester".

One of the biggest laughs of the evening, almost certainly from the Mancunian contingent, came during a scene where the main characters described a very strong Liverpudlian accent as being "white noise" to their ears.

And that football terrace-like sense of self-confidence and rude humour permeates the whole film.

'Loads of love'

After the screening, actor and Stone Roses fan John Simm said: "I loved it, I thought it was great.

"It's like a love letter to The Stone Roses. It's a beautiful film and I'm really proud of Chris [Coghill] who is a really good friend of mine."

Happy Mondays singer Rowetta Satchell also said she "fell in love with the film" and agreed that it was a "love story to the music, to the band, to those days".

When asked about her memories of the Spike Island concert, she laughed: "I was with the Mondays so we got a bus as a band, and I don't remember much of it.

"I just remember the adoration for the Roses and for the Mondays and for all that scene. Everyone was off their faces in the crowd and it was just a load of love."

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