Ken Ashton’s 1972 film We Was All One is a quiet classic of documentary-making.
As modernist blocks rise from the rubble of the slums, it captures the last days of the south London communities cramming the Old Kent Road up to Bermondsey: a group of women gather to sing and reminisce in the pub; rats scuttle from door to door; an old boxer – nose flattened, still a local hero – talks of pawning his trophies for food.
For the London-based band Lucky Elephant, who number among the gems on Rob da Bank’s Sunday Best label, the discovery of Ashton’s film touched a nerve – and provided the inspiration for their latest album, The Rainy Kingdom. “We came across it by chance,” says the band’s keyboardist Sam Johnson, “and we related to that idea of change in a community: we’d had a studio just round the corner for many years and been really happy, but we got priced out by the Olympics. It had a really destructive effect.”
Rather than a re-scoring of the film, The Rainy Kingdom is a collection of bittersweet, beautifully melodic songs that use the characters and themes of We Was All One as a jumping-off point. Enticingly, the two works meet next week in Battersea. “We’ll be playing the album live,” says Johnson, “alongside some scenes from the film. We also wanted to root the show in Battersea – so we’ve got some audio recordings from some people who’ve lived there all their lives: their stories could have come straight from the film.”
Lucky Elephant play Battersea Arts Centre, London (020 7223 2223) on 20 November; ‘The Rainy Kingdom’ is out now on Sunday BestReuse content