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Pennyblackmusic - '20 Years of Pennyblackmusic' Documentary

  by Sarah Rowland

published: 13 / 10 / 2018

Pennyblackmusic - '20 Years of Pennyblackmusic' Documentary


Filmmaker and former Pennyblackmusic writer Sarah Rowland writes about her new film documentary about this site, '20 Years of Pennyblackmusic', which has been released to coincide with our recent twentieth anniversary.

'20 Years of Pennyblackmusic' celebrates everything that’s amazing about the website and the people behind it. The film came about as a secret project between the writers as we all decided it was about time editor, John Clarkson, and website manager, Richard Banks, were given a thank you for all the hours and dedication they’ve put into the site over the past two decades. As a past writer for Pennyblackmusic I’ve kept in touch with John and the writers as my career took a turn into video production. It was John who let me run around the PBM gigs with a camera back when I first started experimenting with film. I created my first ever mini-documentary 10 years ago, going behind the scenes at one such gig, capturing the stress of the soundcheck, late arrival of bands and ultimately everything coming together to create one of the most memorable PBM band nights with the Willard Grant Conspiracy headlining and the Monroe Transfer supporting. I had all of this footage sitting on several hard drives along with some random shots I took at a PBM drinks night when I had just got a new camera and was testing it out at the pub. A lot of the footage was grainy, dark, and very shaky as I had just started out learning how to film. However, I knew there was a story in there – a little piece of PBM history. Many of the other writers were keen to get involved and recorded their own messages to John and Richard. I asked them about their most memorable PBM moments and how they had gotten involved with the website. Everyone was creative in how they filmed their videos and what they spoke about. Most notably I was sent a very funny video from writer Dastardly where he’d hidden his face behind a cat picture and wrote out his message on cards. The sentiment however captured what all the writers were expressing about PBM being a place they could write and discover new music and I ended up using it as the closing message for the film. I was able to visit and film interviews first hand with some of the writers based in London. I travelled up to Stoke Newington to meet up with long standing writer and gig promoter Dominic Simpson. We shot the interview in a local park, narrowly missing the rain and contending with dogs, joggers and random passersby. I met Adrian Janes at his workplace. I had no idea he was in a band previous to writing for PBM so it was fascinating to hear all about his past life as an almost rock star! Writer Ben Howarth just happens to live around the corner from me so that was an easy one, he’d laid out loads of records he’s collected and discovered through PBM. The hardest part of editing was keeping the film to a reasonable length as I had so many interesting stories to choose from. The thing that most struck me about all the messages was how much PBM had impacted the lives of the writers. One writer said they used their writing from PBM to get them into university. Another talked about seeing her favourite band Madness for the first time through PBM and later experiencing a VIP backstage pass at another gig. Time and again the writers shared what amazing opportunities they’ve had through PBM. This is why we wanted to tell our version of PBM history. It’s told from the point of view of the writers. John has been a fantastic friend and supporter to us all over the years and this is our thank you to him and Richard for making all of these opportunities possible.

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