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The black man's country club

MEN AT WORK: Faisal’s barbershop in Harlesden, north west London

THERE is a running joke in America that the barbershop is a black man’s country club. The one place he can relax, be himself and say anything.

And we have seen many television programmes or movies that have tried to capture the true essence of the male salon; the Channel 4 comedy Desmond’s and US film Barbershop spring to mind.

There is a new documentary that has taken on the task of encapsulating exactly what the barbershop means to the black community around the world. The Fade, directed by Andy Mundy-Castle, follows the lives of four exclusive barbers who style celebrities around the world.

From Accra, London, New Jersey and Kingston - the film explores the identity, business aspect and culture of the male hairdressers and their shops.

With over 10 years experience in the film and movie making industry producing award winning programmes for Channel 4, Mundy-Castle has taken time out from what he calls ‘the populist stuff’ in order to make this film.

“I wanted to do something that represented a story that I knew hadn’t been told,” said the director.

“I wanted to tell a story that was honest and revealing to the barber shop culture. If you’re from the community you know how important the barbers are. It is an exclusive space and one of the last places in which black men can be themselves, without having to worry about who is watching them or how they are being perceived.”


MAN BEHIND THE CAMERA: Andy Mundy-Castle

According to the producer the barbershop is a world of its own, a perfect example of an autonomous economy and a place where boys become men.

“I believe the barbershop has such a significant place in the community. It is the only business that is run, supported, managed and owned by men of the black community.

"A trim is important to us, but what we are actually doing is reinvesting in the community. These shops are one of the last hubs that men of the black community completely own,” said The Full Monty co-producer.

For Mundy-Castle, the barbershop is not only a place where a person can get a hair cut, or catch up on the latest gossip, it is also one of the earliest examples of an established organisation within the community.

“Historically, when black people were emancipating themselves from slavery, the barbershop would be the place where men could talk about where they will progress, in a business sense, or within the community.

"That also happened in the UK during the Windrush generation, of course barbershops had been going for a lot longer in more established places, but because black men couldn’t be more established they had to start somewhere and usually it was in their back room.”

“We need to realise that we have a voice and we are needed just as much by the businesses that we use. We do not look at who own things and who controls the message that we are giving out. We need to trust a lot more and I know that trust comes from a long line and building a relationship, but we need to trust in what we have.”

For more information on The Fade and Andy Mundy-Castle visit: http://vimeo.com/andymundycastle

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