'I may have made my last film' British icon Ken Loach tells Harrogate audience

Harrogate audiences were told at an exclusive Ken Loach event that the award-winning British filmmaker may have made his final movie.

By Graham Chalmers
Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 3:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 3:40 pm
Iconic British film director Ken Loach at the Wesley Centre during a Harrogate Film Festival event on Monday. (Picture by Gerard Binks)
Iconic British film director Ken Loach at the Wesley Centre during a Harrogate Film Festival event on Monday. (Picture by Gerard Binks)

The veteran director, famed for Kes and Cathy Come Home, among many other achievements, was speaking at the Wesley Centre in Harrogate after an exclusive screening of his latest film, Sorry We Missed You.

Loach was invited to Harrogate on Monday by ethical agency Cause UK, who used his appearance to help raise funds for the Harrogate Homeless Project during Harrogate Film Festival.

A packed crowd was allowed to ask the socially-conscious icon of political cinema anything they wanted as part of the sold-out event's Q&A.

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Asked what the subject of his next film would be, Loach, who is 83, said: “There does come a point where you realise that you can’t go on forever.

"I don’t know if there will be another one, if we can it will be nice.

"Paul Laverty is a lot younger than me so he’s full of beans, it would be nice as there are stories to tell, I don’t know, after a couple of expressos in the morning I think it’s possible."

Loach was met with rapturous applause when an audience member responded, ‘keep going."

Speaking on his career in film, he said films like his were no longer being made or supported in the UK, with most financing coming from abroad.

He said: “There’s never any shortage of talent, there’s never any shortage of good actors, of good writers, but they’re not being made.

"We were lucky, we got notoriety in the Sixties with the BBC and the Wednesday play and were able to get sufficient attention that it was a calling card for the rest of our lives, but people aren’t getting those commissions now.”

In the Sixties, Loach worked with TV producer Tony Garnett who introduced him to Barry Hines, author of Kestrel for a Knave which became Loach’s iconic film, Kes.

Loach said: “You can’t plan for things like that. I could have had the first stroke of luck and not the second. You can be brilliant and not have the break.”

He advised film students in the audience from the Northern Film School and the Leeds College of Art, to give film-making a go but "not to feel a failure" if it didn’t work out.

Much of the focus of the Q&A turned out to be on the subject of zero-hour contracts and the gig economy; the focus of his latest feature, Sorry We Missed You, a gut-wrenching tale of a delivery worker driven to the brink.

Loach said the subject came into focus when he and his long-standing writer, Paul Laverty, visited food banks while making their previous movie, I, Daniel Blake, and were struck by"‘the rise of the working poor" relying on food banks.

Ken Loach said: "Depending on charities and hand-outs even when you’re working seemed very significant.

“The economy is not providing that basic exchange where you give your labour and you get money in return.”

One audience member, Sarah Pyman asked Loach whether, as more and more jobs with zeros hour contracts became middle class jobs, whether he thought middle class parents would fight back against the idea.

In response, the Cannes Film Festival-winning director pointed out that many university lecturers were now self-employed or on zero hours contracts and working for more than one university with more and more students but earning as little as £10,000 a year.

The famous director also spoke about how the gig economy was affecting workers who were constantly emailed work queries "all hours, day and night" which impacted on family life.

Loach referenced examples during their research of a delivery worker with no job security or rights, having to work with a broken leg, and one who died in his early fifties, forced to work with diabetes.

He said: “The rich get richer and richer and the poor get more desperate.

"The course of history is conflict based on conflicting interests, and the conflicting interests now, and for the last 300 years, is between people who sell their labour and people who exploit it.”

He also criticised the privatisation of the NHS, “contracting to companies who underpay, who exploit workers with zero hours and no job security and are there for profit, that is their reason for being."