Poly Styrene Documentary Makers Need Help Finishing Their Film

“Oh bondage! Up yours!”

The film-makers creating a documentary celebrating the life of X-Ray Spex front woman Poly Styrene have started a crowdfunding campaign to help complete the project.

‘Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché’ chronicles the remarkable life of Anglo-Somali artist and punk maverick Poly Styrene, one of the first women of colour to lead a successful rock band.

She sang about identity, rallied against the patriarchy (see one of their best-known tracks ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours!’), and played at events like the infamous Rock Against Racism.

Filmmakers, Paul Sng (who’s directed other titles such as ‘Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle ‘) and Celeste Bell (Poly’s daughter) have launched a Patreon campaign to help them finish the film and bring it to international audiences.  

“I set out with a clear goal to share my mother’s story as widely as possible because her story needs to be heard,” said Bell. “In making this film, I have uncovered aspects of my mother I hardly knew before and also discovered that she made a huge impact on culture that is still being felt today. The fact that her legacy has not been properly acknowledged is something we are seeking to redress with this film.”  

Poly’s life was fraught with difficulties – poverty, racism, misogyny, and chronic mental health issues – and after suffering a nervous breakdown at the height of her success, she left music to join the Hare Krishna movement. The film follows Poly’s daughter as she delves into her mother's archive and uncovers the legacy of a woman whose lyrics were described by Billy Bragg as “a slap in the face” to male artists and journalists.

Despite a relatively short-lived career, Poly’s influence has reverberated throughout music, fashion, and feminism and is still felt now; from the Riot Grrrls of the 1990s to artists like FKA Twigs and the global Afropunk movement of today.

Comprising more than 30 interviews with people including Neneh Cherry, Kathleen Hanna, Vivienne Westwood and Thurston Moore, the film also brings Poly’s inner thoughts to life using diary entries, narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Ruth Negga.  

"Poly Styrene was one of the most original and dynamic voices in popular culture, yet her importance is known to a relatively small number of people,” said co-director Paul Sng. “To raise the funding required to finish the film and share Poly's legacy with the world, we’re offering patrons exclusive access to unseen content from the film, unique merchandise and invitations to special events."

Having shot 90% of the film, the team are now raising funds to finish that and to pay for the additional elements required: including artwork, design, animation, original archive footage, graphics, additional editing and post-production and music licensing. To donate to this effort visit here.

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