Good Vibrations - when Belfast was the heart of punk

Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations.

Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations.

IF IT was not for Terri Hooley there might never have been a punk scene in Ireland. Dublin was never convincing, Cork was virtually silent, and Tuam’s Blaze X ploughed a lone furrow west of the Shannon.

It was left to Ulster, and more specifically Belfast, to show the island had a music scene worthy of the moment. This was the late 1970s. Loyalist and republican violence, the British Army on the streets, polarised politicians, a police force detested by half the population, and a death toll entering thousands, was a reality for many who lived in the North.

In this political and sectarian cauldron, punk made sense. It was a musical, cultural, social, and personal means for a young generation to express their frustration and anger at the world their elders had bequeathed them, as well as a way of rejecting it in favour of a vision where orange/green and Catholic/Protestant labels should not matter.

The 1977 - 1981 era also produced a DIY aesthetic and cottage industry, where musicians and entrepreneurs took control of the means of production, and felt able to bypass the large record companies, in order to bring music to the people.

Terri Hooley, a Belfastman from a family with strong socialist leanings, embodied all this. His wide eyed enthusiasm; charming, if at times reckless, naivety and idealism; and a love of music that bypassed any concerns for making money from it - if the talent was there, it was there to be championed, not exploited - saw him create the Good Vibrations record label, named after the record store he also ran.

The label gave The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers their start and released works by Rudi, Rufrex, and The Outcasts - arguably the most essential punk to be produced anywhere in Ireland.

All of this, along with the energy, vibrancy, and creativity of the Northern Irish punk scene is captured to perfection in Good Vibrations, the brilliant biopic/comedy film by Glenn Lyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa, and co-written by the distinguished Irish novelist Glenn Patterson.

The film, which won Best Irish Feature Award at last summer’s Galway Film Fleadh, boasts outstanding performances by Richard Dormer (as Hooley ) and Jodie Whittaker (as his long-suffering wife Ruth ), alongside Liam Cunningham, Adrian Dunbar, and Dylan Moran.

A sometimes cautionary tale, Good Vibrations is ultimately an inspiring and joyous celebration of Hooley and Belfast punk. It shows the essential role he played in helping encourage a generation of Protestant and Roman Catholic youths to cross the sectarian divide, and join together under the banner of punk, to create their own ‘Alternative Ulster’.

The scenes of Hooley becoming emotional and captivated at his first experience of punk - seeing Rudi play one of the great ‘Norn Iron’ punk songs ‘Big Time’, to the moment where John Peel plays ‘Teenage Kicks’ twice on his radio show, are impossible not to smile and cheer at, and feel a little bit more optimistic after seeing. The film is also a tonic for these times of recession, seeing what can be done in a previous period that was not only engulfed in recession, but also by horrific violence.

Win tickets to Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations is releasing nationwide tomorrow and can be seen in The Eye Cinema, Wellpark. The Galway Advertiser, in association with Eclipse Pictures, is offering readers the chance to win five copies of Terri Hooley’s autobiography Hooleygan as well as tickets to see the film in The Eye.

To be in with a chance to win just answer the following question: What was the name of Terri Hooley’s record shop and record label?

Email your answers to [email protected] and write Good Vibrations Competition in the subject box. You must include your name, address, and a telephone number at which you can be contacted. The closing date for entries is Monday April 1 at 5pm.

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