So said Danny (played by Pete Posthlewaite) in Brassed Off, when his beloved brass band came to the end of what sounded like an amazing rehearsal session. Brassed Off taps into a grim old time set in a post miners’ strike world which focuses on the town of ‘Grimley’. Danny is the band conductor, passionate and proud, who faces up to the fact that his band members are simply running out of interest, indeed their lust for life has long been replaced by rust for strife. He has to face up to his son being in head over heels in debt causing his marriage to breakdown. Worse than this, the ex miners are all having to work in jobs which are at times just plain demeaning. His son becomes a childrens’ entertainer and has a breakdown. It is pathos enshrined and when he attempts suicide, the film hits its trough.
Ironically as the pit closes, so the brass band wins a national brass band competition, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Then one of the finest scenes I have ever seen plays out where Danny or rather Pete, rejects the trophy and embarks on a speech of epic proportions. What I did not realise until I saw the wonderful BBC tribute to Pete Posthlewaite last night, was that the scene was largely ad libbed and the extras in the audience knew nothing about it until Pete delivered it and they sat agasp, knocked over. I rewatched the programme on BBC iPlayer and I have to admit, I was in tears. Seeing Danny refuse the trophy stating that it’s only human beings that matter and not music or the trophy but “this bloody government has systematically destroyed an entire industry over the last 10 years. OUR industry. And not just our industry—our communities, our homes, our lives. All in the name of ‘progress’. And for a few lousy bob”. That line always resonated with me. Cash over community, wealth over well being .
I especially loved the fact that Pete got involved and made ‘The Age of Stupid’ a low budget, climate change documentary a hit in 2009. I also loved the fact that he made a pledge to return his OBE if the Labour Government, represented by Ed Miliband who was Climate Change Minister, did not change their policy which included building a new ‘dirty coal power station in King’s North’. Ed (now the leader of the Labour Party) invited himself to the film’s premier and Pete duly delivered this pledge antelling the minister that if the Government went ahead with their plan ‘then you are unfit to represent the people of Britain at the Copenhagen Climate Summit’. One month later, Miliband had changed the policy.
Posthlewaite was always a favourite of mine and he was one of a small band of actors who played heroes and villains, equally menacing and kind in every role. The best man and the worst man. I knew Pete was an emotional man, a committed actor and a man with a social conscience, in short a man that cared about his work and cared about his fellow man. People like this seem to be getting rarer, or maybe that is just my take on the situation, but when you come across one you tend to treasure them. As Miriam Margolyes said on the programme, ‘You don’t get that kind of rage and that gentleness in one person’.
As the documentary closes to the haunting sounds of a brass band playing ‘Danny Boy’ you realise what a man Pete Posthlewaite was. The actor who Steven Spielberg said was the ‘best there was’. The world is a lesser place without him.
If you get a moment and can access BBC iPlayer have a look. You won’t regret it. I promise. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00xxkz3/Pete_Postlethwaite_A_Tribute/