Songs From Hattersley

Songs From Hattersley

Songs From Hattersley was commissioned by BBC Manchester and screened for the first time in March 2012. 

The film was shot entirely on location in the Hattersley housing estate in Greater Manchester and is performed by genuine estate residents who sing about the importance of their community centre: a community centre which is being knocked down...

This marks a complete change in the direction of Benjamin's work. It explores darker themes, and the music has a more wistful, impressionist quality. More importantly, those performing in the film are actually singing their own words. Benjamin interviewed all the contributors at length and simply lifted chunks, verbatim from the transcripts, to set as lyrics. The film starts with an older woman, Jean, singing about arriving in Hattersley in the early-60s. She moved there to get away from the grimy slums of inner city Manchester. The houses seemed enormous by comparison. All had central heating, gardens and hot and cold running water, "I'd go into the kitchen just to turn on taps..." She sings... Sadly, the dream, for some, turned into a nightmare. Manchester Council used Hattersley as a dumping ground for anti-social people, and it will be forever associated with the Moors Murderers and Dr Harold Shipman. And yet, it remains a cohesive and safe community, run by matriarchs who aren't afraid to give a young lad a clip around his ear if he misbehaves. 

Many of those featured in the film were incredibly brave to tell their stories. None more so than June, who sings an account of losing her father. The almost inane little details that she remembers are brutally poignant: "Me Dad died when I were ten, sat watching telly with me Mam: Arthur Negus, Going for a Song. He said he wasn't feeling well. Started unbuttoning his shirt and I were sent to Lily's house to play with her daughter's Avon case."

To date, the film remains one of Benjamin's proudest achievements.