How to survive as a political pop star, keep your friends, self-respect and sense of humour when everyone hates you
The Brit Pop 90’s: Cool Britannia was in full swing, the Oasis vs. Blur rivalry was simmering, people were using Friends Reunited to connect and the Nokia 3210 was the must-have tech gadget. And there was that song; ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again‘: either the ultimate anthem of working-class perseverance or a deeply annoying novelty song, brought to you by a group of anarcho-punks living in a squat in Leeds.
Chumbawamba, the anarchists-turned international pop stars, will be reunited in a feature length documentary revealing for the first time the hilarious and surprising story behind their meteoric rise to fame, their infamous John Prescott moment at the Brits in ’98 and a legacy reduced to a dancing gorilla sold by Walmart.
This film – a modern day cautionary tale – is Chumbawamba vocalist Dunstan Bruce’s account of the rollercoaster ride that took them from DIY squat gigs to Madison Square Gardens and back again. A personal exploration of what happens when a political pop band accidentally have a worldwide smash hit and given their “15 minutes of fame” what they attempted to achieve.
Chumbawamba’s unconventional route to stardom started with 15 years of squat gigs, transit van tours, sleeping on people’s floors, bad haircuts, communal living and communal underpants whilst arguing the toss about syndicalism and class war. 15 years of fiercely preserving their independence, relying heavily on their fanbase that they spent years nurturing.
Then, in 1997, they controversially signed to EMI: a compromise they hoped would help them change the world for the better. Their single Tubthumping, instantly became a worldwide hit. Not quite what a bunch of self proclaimed anarchists from the north of England were expecting.
Instead of spending the money they made on fast cars or country piles, they started to funnel it from major licensing deals into causes they supported: striking dockers, anarchist radio stations, European community centres…whilst hoping they’d find a bit of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll along the way.
Despite this they were deafened by shouts of “Sell out!’ from their previously loyal fans who deserted them in their droves until in 1999 when the release of ‘What You See is What You Get’ hastened their return to obscurity, emptied their wallets and left them with virtually nothing.
(Maybe that’s what you get for trying to crack America with an anti-American album.)
As Dunstan revisits the 90s, some familiar Brit Pop era stars and all eight band members, he’ll capture their often conflicting accounts of one of pop’s most astonishing untold stories.
And it’s your story too!
We would love you to be a part of the story.
If you were there, at their gigs, in the squat, in the pub, we need your photos, home movie footage or flyers.
Whether you loved them or hated them, however that band or THAT song affected you, we want hear your stories. Surely someone can help Dunstan fill in the gaps?
Get in touch with us at [email protected] if you have anything to send us and we’ll let you know how even if your material is on VHS’s, old film tape etc. let us know and we can get it converted. You never know – you might just see your material in the finished film!
We swear to guard anything that enters our possession with our lives and it return it quickly, unharmed.
This is a film that demands a collaborative approach. A film for the people funded by the people!
Kickstarter is clearly the way to make a film about a time in history which was all about the power of the people. Apart from signing to EMI/Universal, Chumbawamba always maintained a fierce independence and control over what they did. Dunstan cares too much about this project to lose control of it to anyone who cares less about it than him.
Kickstarter is the only way to make this film in the true spirit of the band and their philosophy; by engaging the people who were there and who felt a part of what Chumbawamba were trying to achieve.
Where your money goes
£40,000 sounds like a lot of money but if we reached 40,000 people who just gave a £1 each we could do it!
It will pay for the rest of the filming and the editing time that we need while we search for the best possible distributor to help us get the film out there.
How can you help?
If Chumbawamba, THAT song or even the Walmart dancing gorilla have ever meant anything to you, please pledge your money to this project now. Just have a look at the rewards in the green panel on the right.
But there are other ways to help, too. The more you can share this project, the more people will see it, share it in turn and the more people will support us either through donations or with that all-important footage.
Join us on the journey through:
Thank you so much for reading. With your help, we’ll be singing (when we’re winning).
Our Promise to You
…is to get this film made. Since leaving Chumbawamba Dunstan has been directing films, receiving a nomination at IDFA for his film This Band is So Gorgeous, creating the very popular Levellers film ‘A Curious Life‘ and executive producing Toby Amies’s film ‘The Man Who’s Mind Exploded‘.
It is being produced by award winning Sophie Robinson, director of My Beautiful Broken Brain which was funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and we also have the watchful eye of Jim Scott, winner of The Special Jury Award for Editing at the Sundance Film Festival 2015 for the film ‘How To Change The World‘ to ensure this film is of the highest editorial quality! The team around it are dedicated to making a film for you that you will love and enjoy as we do!
Aren’t you stinking rich from that hit single? Why don’t you fund this film yourself?
Nope; Chumbawamba gave most of the money away to the causes they believed in and then after their One Hit Wonder never really made any money again!
When will the film be finished?
If we reach our target through Kickstarter it means we are looking at spring 2016 for the full finished film.
What are your hopes for release of the film?
Once we have a rough cut we’ll be approaching distributors and broadcasters alike hoping to bring it to you through the the magic of cinema and television. And we’ll of course be taking it on a film festival tour where we hope to make a LOT of noise!
I’ve never heard of Chumbawamba – why would I want to watch this film or help fund it?
It doesn’t matter! This is a film about friendship, hopes and dreams, (achieved and broken), success and failure and fighting for what you believe in. And it will be funny, very funny!
Having been part of a Kickstarter campaign before we’ve learned a few things – we’ve listened, we’ve learnt and we’ve taken on board a lot of advice. These are just a few of the lessons:
FINISHING THE FILM – half the battle is done. The story is there, the interviews are lined up, the team is on board. Now we just need your help to cross the finish line.
SPREADING THE WORD – with our new Kickstarter team behind us we can give Dunstan a voice again. Not just to raise money but to get people talking. And when people talk, people help.
IMPACT – by talking to people about this film we have discovered that it’s just the film we need to inspire, motivate and entertain todays audience. Not only will we share some of the absurd footage and hilarious anecdotes from that era but we will also explore, dissect and reveal what happens when your ultimate dream turns into your worst nightmare.
We’ve already faced challenges, we’ve already faced risks and each one has been overcome thanks to the belief we all have in this film. We promise never to give up until we get this film made and shared with all of you – that’s not going to change.