Most of us have had that “I remember where I was” moment, when we hear of something that is so dreadful, the memory imprints itself forever. It’s like we’re outside ground zero but caught in the aftershock. That’s the way I remember Hillsborough. It was a sunny afternoon twenty seven years ago; I was in the garden with the kids. They were digging in a flower bed and I was promising them a sandpit. The phone rang. I went indoors to answer it. It was my sister-in-law – her son had gone to a football match and something terrible had happened and she couldn’t get hold of him. She didn’t know if he was dead or alive. I switched on the television. Outside my children were playing in the sun. Inside on the TV screen, other people’s children were dying on a football pitch.
It was a terrible day, waiting, listening, not telling the children what was happening, until the news came – my nephew finally arrived home safe but the shock and the horror of those scenes of what started as an ordinary Saturday didn’t go away.
A week later I took my children into Liverpool to buy them that sand pit. I can remember there being few people about and there was a strange atmosphere. Half way across Clayton Square in the city centre, suddenly everyone stood still. I can’t remember if there was a signal, a church bell or a ship’s horn but suddenly there was silence and nobody moved. It was the exact time that the football match at Hillsborough had been halted seven days before.
I stood, holding one end of this large plastic sandpit with my son holding the other end while my daughter, unnerved by the silence, moved closer and grasped my hand. Then through the stillness came footsteps and a man hurried past, staring straight ahead. He didn’t look to left or right. It was almost as though he was alone in that whole city, as though we were all of us invisible to him. In a way it was symbolic of how the next 27 years would be as the families of the men, women and children who died at Hillsborough fought for truth and justice.
In 2005, I started a short film festival to showcase the work of new film makers and amongst the entries was a film, Bar to Bar from Mike Forshaw, a local emerging Director. I saw a lot of films over the next few years but the ones that stand out are those that strike a chord. I remember the images on the screen and connect to the characters and their emotions. I remembered the clarity of the images and the honesty of the characters’ portrayal in Bar to Bar. A few years’ later, we showed another of Mike’s films, Slippin’, which had been shown at the London Film Festival the previous year. Again I found this same connection to the characters in the clear story telling.
Next month in London, Mike Forshaw’s most recent film, Saturday, will be given its UK premiere at the London Sundance Film Festival. Saturday is a powerful retelling of that day in 1989 through the eyes of a young boy who stays home in Liverpool, whilst his brother goes to the match. It has already been shown at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in the US but could not be screened in the UK, until the enquiry into Hillsborough had reached its verdict on the deaths of those 96 Liverpool fans. Finally their families had truth and justice after 27 years.
The day after the verdicts, 30,000 people stood on Lime Street, not silent this time, nor invisible to the passer-by but singing the Liverpool FC anthem, ‘You’ll never walk alone.’ A scene that is beyond description but burned into the being of everyone who saw it.
I understand that the filmmakers of Saturday will be bringing this powerful retelling home to Liverpool after its UK premiere. I understand this because for in that strange way that Fate links and connects people and events, my daughter, Jennifer Monks, the little girl who held my hand nervously in that silent city, 27 years ago, became the Line Producer on Saturday.