Scottish rave scene film set to get red carpet treatment at Glasgow premiere

Rising Scots stars Christian Ortega and Lorn MacDonald play Johnno and Spanner in the new feature film Beats, which is executive produced by Steven Soderbergh. Picture: PA
Rising Scots stars Christian Ortega and Lorn MacDonald play Johnno and Spanner in the new feature film Beats, which is executive produced by Steven Soderbergh. Picture: PA
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A major new feature film depicting Scotland’s underground rave scene more than 20 years ago is to be launched at the Glasgow Film Festival.

Beats, which will get its UK premiere when it closes the event on 1 March, has been adapted from his own play by theatremaker Kieran Hurley and director Brian Welsh.

It was a big task to turn what was essentially a piece of performed poetry into a narrative feature film with multiple characters

BRIAN WELSH

Billed as a universal story of friendship, rebellion and the irresistible power of gathered youth, Beats is set in 1994, the year a controversial new law was introduced by the Conservative Government to curb unofficial outdoor parties.

Soundtracked by Glasgow DJ JD Twitch, the film revolves around two childhood friends on the cusp of adulthood who decide to head to an illegal rave in a remote location.

Hurley started his career hanging up coats and tearing tickets at The Arches in Glasgow, where his one-man play was staged before a hit run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The former Arches venue, controversially closed down in 2015 following a police clampdown after the death of a teenager who had been at a club night, has been lined up to host the film’s launch party.

Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh helped get the film, shot in Glasgow and Cumbernauld, made after becoming executive producer.

Rising Scots stars Christian Ortega and Lorn MacDonald play Johnno and Spanner, pals from a fictional town whose “journey into an underworld of anarchy and freedom ends with a full-on collision with the forces of law and order.”
Falkirk-born Welsh, 37, was urged to see the play in London by a friend he had “bored to death with my stories of raving in 1990s Scotland.”

Welsh, who would go on to write the screenplay with Hurley, said: “It’s a very personal film for me. I was very much coming of age in the period it is set and can really remember the sense of optimism of that time. All the young people in the film are very idealistic and are reaching for an idea of togetherness and connection.

“The two main characters in the film are best pals but as they’re approaching adulthood their lives are destined to take them in very different directions. Johnno’s family are moving to a new, more -affluent town, leaving Spanner behind to face a more precarious future. They head off on one last night.

“The play didn’t immediately lend itself to a film adaptation because of its form. It was a big task to turn what was essentially a piece of performed poetry into a narrative feature film with multiple characters.

“It took five years from when we first met and started sharing stories and ideas to completing it. It’s very much a Scottish film with a Scottish cast, made in Glasgow, with a Glasgow crew. It feels very connected to the city, despite being set in the central belt. It feels as if we’re bringing it home.”

Glasgow-based Hurley, 32, said: “I was only nine in 1994. But the interest in the music and culture of that scene, as well as the politics of it, have been very much part of my life.

“The play was quite descriptive – there was probably enough story for a 20-minute short film. The whole thing had to be grown into something much bigger. It was a real collaborative effort between me and Brian.

“Sharing something that had been my baby was a big leap, but it paid off. The storyline and the principal characters are the same. The film is different and its own thing, but still retains the original’s spirit.”