Keeping The Faith In Northern Soul
by By Laura Storey. Photos by Craig & Gisela Szlatoszlavek
Blackpool lass Faye Butler introduces Northern Soul to a new generation with her film Keep the Faith.
If you were a teenager in the north in the 1960s and 70s, you might well have donned your flares and a funky vest and danced to the signature fast and heavy beat of Northern Soul tunes. Northern Soul fans sought out rare and obscure records, importing them from the United States, and danced to them in clubs and at all-nighters. With kicks, twists and unified claps, the music swept across the dance halls of working-class towns like Burnley and Blackpool, with youngsters seizing the opportunity to let loose.
Film-maker 26-year-old Faye Butler is keen to capture the spirit of the music and introduce the genre to a new generation.
“I quickly realised that no one my age knew anything about Northern Soul”
“I quickly realised that no one my age knew anything about Northern Soul,” Faye explains. “So that spurred me on to make it an integral part of my film – Keep the Faith. Northern Soul was phased out when disco music came in and nowadays it’s not very well known.”
Despite the Northern Soul scene being much smaller now, Faye grew up emersed in the music. “My mum and aunties love it and were always dancing to it! One of my first jobs, when I was younger, was at a Northern Soul pub in Blackpool called Soul Suite. It’s just always been something that I’ve been very aware of – it’s part of the Blackpool culture.”
It was growing up in Blackpool that inspired the film. “The story originated from real-life experiences,” Faye explains. “I began writing the script in 2021 when I was living in Tokyo – I started looking at Blackpool from a different perspective, probably with quite rose-tinted glasses. Blackpool gets quite a lot of stick, so I wanted to celebrate my home town. The first iteration of the script was taken from my own life experience but eventually, it became fictionalised.”
Keep the Faith is Faye’s debut short film as a producer and scriptwriter; however, she’s worked as an actor since graduating from the Arts University Bournemouth. “I grew up always wanting to perform,” Faye smiles. “I dipped my toe in a few different creative bits and bobs, but I always come back to acting. I’m an actor first and foremost but I’m too ambitious and impatient to sit around waiting for work to come to me, so in this case it felt really good to be the driving force behind the project. Charlene Jones is the director and we worked together on the script. She’s a force of nature. I’ve done writing before, but this is my first time producing a short film.”
Faye’s debut short film promises to fuse beauty and grit to showcase resilience in the face of struggle using the iconic backdrop of Blackpool.
“I’m from a working-class family and I think the thing that I was most keen to showcase was the resilience of working-class people. I feel like we grow up and the odds are already stacked against us – often it feels twice as hard to get anywhere, particularly in the creative industries as there’s no avenue that is already opened and waiting for us, we have to force our way up.
“I do think it is absolutely possible to achieve what you want to achieve; you just have to have extra drive and extra passion – but that’s the sort of journey I’m on.”
Funded through Kickstarter, Faye and her team achieved £1,320 more than their initial £3,000 target, with the film even being labelled by Kickstarter as a Project We Love. Fans of Northern Soul from across the world have pitched in to make the film a reality.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked!” Faye beams. “The Rotary Club in Blackpool donated to the film too, which was really kind of them and we’re being supported on the edit by Marshall Street Editors..”
With the funds, Faye was able to licence a beloved Northern Soul tune for the film called ‘Turning My Heart Beat Up’ by the MVPs as well as pay the performers involved.
“I was really keen that when we were casting the roles the actors were all northern and working class. It felt really good for me to pay working-class people to do creative work, that was one of my favourite parts of it.”
It was important to Faye to find actors that could capture both the bleakness and hopeful nature of the situations the characters find themselves in. “I found Ali Shaw who plays the protagonist Steve through Instagram. His day job is a painter and decorator, but I saw on Instagram that he had videos of himself doing spoken word and I just knew straight away that this might be our guy.
It’s a really tricky role to cast because Steve is at rock bottom at the start of the film, but he had to be loveable – you needed to really feel for him but you didn’t want to pity him – when we found Ali we knew he was the one.”
“Keep the Faith is a love letter to Northern Soul and the spirit of working-class communities”
Keep the Faith is a love letter to Northern Soul and the spirit of working-class communities.
“I wanted the film to showcase resilience and hope and moving forward, doing that as a working-class person supported by a working-class community,” Faye explains. “And, spoiler – the film has a happy ending, it’s full of hope and lovely energy.”
Currently in post-production, the film is due to be released later this year, to discover more and keep up to date, head to @keepthefaithshortfilm on Instagram.
NorthernLife May/June 2023