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How Ireland Rocked The '80s airs on RTÉ One next Tuesday, December 27th at 18:30pm
20 Dec 2022 : News Desk
Bob Geldof on stage during 'Self Aid' (1986)
Last Christmas, the documentary How Ireland Rocked The ‘70s gave us a fascinating insight into a defining decade of rock music in Ireland. Now, the bands play on as this sequel takes us into the heart of rock and roll in Ireland throughout the 1980s.

"Last year I made a documentary for RTE about the rise of rock music and festivals in Ireland throughout the 1970s and it really hit a note (pun intended),” says director Brian Reddin, when speaking with IFTN. “There is a real appetite out there for music documentaries and combining that with social history, great archive, and excellent interviewees is a winning combination.”

“So, this year I was lucky enough to get the chance to do it all over again, but this time we are looking at the 80s, a period I am much more familiar with, having gone to many of the gigs featured in the doc.”

Although the ‘80s saw increases in unemployment, emigration, and political uncertainty, on the music front Ireland was soaring. With the global assault of U2 came a surge in Irish bands and music events unparalleled in the decades since.

This documentary looks at the evolution of the festival circuit in Ireland during that period, starting with The Occasion at The Castle in Castlebar and ending with the first Féile in Thurles a decade later. In the intervening years, the documentary explores Slane, Self Aid, Siamsa Cois Laoí, and the opening up of Croke Park to rock concerts.

The decade also marked a golden age for Irish music and the documentary explores the phenomenal rise of U2 and their contemporaries as well as the many bands who followed. This is the story of how Rock & Roll offered hope and inspiration to a despairing youth during a dark decade.

“It was an extraordinary time in Ireland. There was huge emigration and mass unemployment. The country was in a bad way, but musically we were thriving,” Reddin adds. “From U2 at the start of the decade to bands who came later like The Flowers and Something Happens, there really was something happening in Ireland and this doc was a chance to capture that.”

Featuring rare archive footage and stills, How Ireland Rocked The ‘80s includes exclusive interviews with the key figures who created, documented, promoted and rocked the sounds of Ireland throughout the 1980s.

The stellar cast of rock royalty includes: Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats), Mike Scott (The Waterboys), Paul Brady, Leslie Dowdall (In Tua Nua), Fiachna Ó Braonáin and Liam Ó Maonlaí (Hothouse Flowers), Billy McGuinness (Aslan), Flo McSweeney and Paul Cleary (The Blades), Cáit O’Riordan (The Pogues), Tom Dunne (Something Happens), Mickey Bradley (The Undertones), Mike Hanrahan (Stockton’s Wing), Lord Henry Mount Charles (Slane), Peter Aiken (Promoter), Dave Fanning (Broadcaster), and Eamonn McCann (Journalist).

“It was a joy working with commissioning editor Colm O'Callaghan, hanging out with rock stars and revisiting the music locations where I saw so many cool bands was an amazing experience,” says Reddin. “As well as the legends who took part, Bob Geldof, Mike Scott, Cáit O'Riordan, Tom Dunne, Leslie Dowdall - I mean, come on! Who wouldn't want to spend an hour hanging with the coolest people you'll ever meet.”

How Ireland Rocked The ‘80s is a Dearg Films production for RTÉ, produced and directed by Brian Reddin, produced by Rossa Ó Sioradáin, shot by Gerry MacArthur and Ronan Fox, with sound by Alan Poole, and editing by Dave Dillon in Gorilla Post Production.

“We have a great slot this year. A time when everyone will be stuffed and sick of Christmas movies and festive episodes of their favourite soaps. Time to grab a beer and a biscuit and remember the great music we produced and how we punched well above our weight throughout the 1980s," Reddin concludes.

How Ireland Rocked The ‘80s airs on RTÉ One this December 27th at 18:30pm.

IFTA Q&A Series: Joanne O’Brien on Costume Design
IFTA Q&A Series: Eleanor Bowman on Cinematography
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