November 24, 2020
Steve McQueen’s film captures the underground spaces that my mum’s generation carved out for themselves in the 1970s
Lovers Rock gives life to the joyful Black history of blues parties | Micha Frazer-Carroll
At the halfway mark of Lovers Rock, the new Steve McQueen film set at a blues party in 1980, at least a hundred partygoers calmly sing an a capella song for five minutes straight. It is hypnotising and, like other moments in McQueen’s Small Axe film series, which centres around British Caribbean communities in the 1960s to the 1980s, time feels momentarily like it has been stretched. Every person in that jam-packed room patiently sings the slow song from start to finish, and everyone knows the words: “But I’ve got no time to live this lie / No, I’ve got no time to play your silly games / Silly games!”
When the film aired on Sunday night on the BBC, watching the characters sing the 1979 hit Silly Games felt very close to home, in part because Janet Kay, who sings the song, happens to be my “auntie” – a lifelong friend of my mum’s, rather than a blood relative. Silly Games was therefore a staple of my childhood; when I was growing up, Auntie Kay could always be persuaded to sing her former chart success at any birthday, christening or holy communion.
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