Saturday, August 20, 2011

Concrete Circus

Too often lately, I’ve been reduced to banging my head on the coffee table as I’m forced to watch another episode of (insert one of the following here), Jeremy Kyle, Jersey Shore, X-Factor, Holyoaks, as I ‘catch up’ with friends. Just when I’m about to throw the remote across the living room in a rage about the feces on TV, I stumble onto a programme like this and my faith is instantly restored. 

Channel 4’s documentary ‘Concrete Circus’ aired last Monday and showcased some of the world’s best up and coming urban sport stars who have teamed up with four uber-talened film makers (Stu Thomson, Brett Novak, Claudiu Voicu, Kendy Ty). The result of this artistic combination? Jaw dropping, awe inspiring footage and editing which is both a thrill and joy to watch.

Recent news has been stuffed full of the sickening ignorance of those participating in the London riots. Commentators and young rioters themselves have been quick to jump on the band wagon by complaining that today’s ‘yoof’ are bored out their minds; trapped in an ugly urban landscape which has nothing to offer them. This documentary is living proof that you CAN make the most of whatever environment you are born and brought up in and not all hoody wearing adolescents are looting yobs.

While social commentators have attacked the internet and social networking sites as stoking the flames of the London riots, pro BMXer Keelan Phillips is one of the many urbanites from Leicester who is riding on the international success of his YouTube footage. Danny MacAskill, on the other hand, born and bred on the Isle of Skye (population 10,000), has gone from the un-concreted, picturesque jagged backdrop of the Inner Hebredes to one of the world’s top BMX riders.

If anyone else was shocked to hear about the BBC’s decision to broadcast a radio programme under the heading “Is there a problem with young black men?” following last week riots, then Paul Joseph, the professional Parkour or free-runner, would be the young black antithesis of this. Joseph’s performance (these are, after all, creative displays) are seemingly unreal, as he twists and turns through London’s concrete maze. If there was one critique to be made with director Voicu’s film in which Joseph appears, it would be that the dark and violent undertones of gang culture sit uncomfortably in the post-London Riot context it will now be watched in.

These young directors and sports stars have heaps of raw creative talent, and are articulate even whilst donning hoodies, god forbid. OK, so we can’t all become professional skaters or free runners, but this documentary definitely inspires to get out there and make the most of whatever you have got. Check out Stu Thomson’s earthy ‘Industrial Revolutions’ featuring Danny MacAskill below. (Beautiful music by Ben Howard, who, incidentally, rocked out this Saturday at the Boardmasters Festival in Newquay and made our weekend.)

Watch the whole documentary on 4OD:

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