In our new series ‘The Films That Made Us’, we take a look back at the films that have shaped British music over the last three decades. In this first instalment, we speak to UK rap veteran Skinnyman about Alan Clarke’s 1982 film, ‘Made in Britain’, which starred a young Tim Roth and had a profound impact on a generation of musicians.
I first heard about Made in Britain through music.
It never made it to cinemas, aired instead on ITV in 1983, and nearly 40 years later, it’s not on Netflix or Prime or Apple TV. It’s rarely talked about as a touchstone of British film, but if you know your UK sounds, it is everywhere. You probably know it even if you don’t know you know it. Younger readers will have heard one of its most famous scenes on Potter Payper’s Training Day 2 mixtape, Tim Roth’s 16-year-old skinhead Trevor spitting “I hate you for putting me in here” from inside an assessment centre, as sampled on the track “Carpe Diem”. Dubstep fans in the habit of preening the internet for everything Burial samples will have heard Trevor barking, “Well, do it!” seven seconds into “Pirates” on Burial’s self-titled debut album. And if you’re a grime head (like, a proper grime head), you’ll also recognise the same scene—in which Trevor’s trip round the British young offenders’ system is spelled out by a superintendent—from “Trouble” by North London rapper Castro, or CASisDEAD as he’s now known.
As a child of the ‘90s, I learned of the film through listening to the legendary Skinnyman’s debut album, Council Estate Of Mind (2004). Like the film, the Leeds-born, London-raised rapper’s only ever LP is oddly hard to come by, not on streaming services and absent from most critical surveys of the era, but popular enough to break the UK albums chart when it was released and a work of truly phenomenal lyricism. It’s UK hip-hop in its finest form, teeming with social commentary and references to NHS-funded gold teeth, set to boom-bap beats and samples of Sly & The Family Stone. Snippets of dialogue from Made in Britain are sampled throughout Council Estate Of Mind and without even watching, you get a sense of the film—written by David Leland and directed by the great Alan Clarke—from listening to the LP, a true masterpiece.
Trevor is a delinquent, a sweary, glue-sniffing racist, with a swastika tattooed on his forehead, who finds himself in court after throwing a brick through the window of a Pakistani shopkeeper. He spent his school years bunking off, shoplifting and nicking cars—taking and driving away (or touching a dog’s arse, depending on how you interpret the letters TDA). He’s full of hatred and won’t listen to reason, frustrating the education welfare officers (EWOs) who are tasked with getting him back into polite society. It’s explicit, violent and, at times, a difficult watch.