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Behind the Rent Strike (1979)

Set in Liverpool in 1979, this documentary follows the tenants of a housing estate as they go about their everyday lives, leading up to going on rent. We get a glimpse of the human struggle behind a national scandal.

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Set in Liverpool in 1979, this documentary follows the tenants of a housing estate as they go about their everyday lives, leading up to going on rent. We get a glimpse of the human struggle behind a national scandal.

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5 December 2015 (Poland)  »

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A Documentary of one community standing up to injustice
19 February 2016 | by (London,United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This 50 minute documentary was made in 1979 when Britain was going through a never ending malaise. Thatcher was about to take over after 'the winter of discontent' had brought down the Callaghan led labour Government. Liverpool was a hot bed of left wing support and in Kirby they were about to make a stand against the City Council over unfair rent rises.

The cost of living had been going up but the money in people's pockets had stagnated as had the community of Kirby. This was a project that had been built to take the urban overspill from the city but by now it was a dumping ground where if you had a job you were considered an anomaly.

This film interviews those involved in what are very frank pieces to camera. The passion, desperation and misery come though in technicolour and this is in black and white. There is even open criticism of the 'posh' southern film maker coming up to do a 'tug at the heart strings' piece and assuage his over privileged background guilt.

This is powerful stuff and is as uplifting as it is depressing. This sort of unified rent strike could never happen now and as such it is a window onto a past that we will never see again – and that may be a good thing. But it is also sad that continual championing of the 'individual' through 'greed is good' promoting politicians has caused social engineering on a scale that real communities are now extinct. There is strength in unity and collective action. What we have today is disparate lone voices who are rarely going to be a match for the odds stacked against them. Absolutely recommended viewing for anyone interested in social history or who likes a good underdog tale.


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