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‘We seem to have lost that loving feeling’

INTIMATE: Lovers Rock dances saw couples getting up close and personal on the dance floor

FOLLOWING A 15-year break, Menelik Shabazz returns to the world of film with his highly anticipated project, The Story of Lovers Rock.

The much-loved filmmaker, often dubbed the ‘godfather of black British film’ is celebrated for his 1981 film, Burning An Illusion; a tale of a black British couple living in London under Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Celebrated for his explorations of the black British experience, Shabazz returns to form with The Story of Lovers Rock. The feature length documentary contains interviews, comedy sketches, dance, live performances and archive footage, which are used to shed light on the music and the generation that embraced it.

Interestingly, the inspiration for the project came from this very publication.

“I saw an advert in The Voice about the Kings and Queens Lovers Rock Gala Award, which featured 24 artists from the Lovers Rock era,” Shabazz explains. “I realised that this was a historical moment as this number of Lovers Rock artists had never been gathered before.

CREATOR: Menelik Shabazz

“At this point I did not conceive this event as a film but an important documentation project. But working with the event organisers to film the event, I began to do additional interviews, which then developed into the concept for a full-blown film project.”

Spearheaded by singers including Janet Kay, Carroll Thompson and the late Jean Adebambo, Lovers Rock – reggae songs that told stories of love and relationships – enjoyed its heyday in Britain in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Equally important to the genre was the dances and parties it spawned, which saw men and women coming together to tear off the wallpaper as they ‘scrubbed’ (i.e. danced intimately) against the venue’s walls.
Though the genre tends to be celebrated today in a more nostalgic fashion, Shabazz believes that it’s still relevant in modern day Britain.

“Lovers Rock is about the expression of love between a man and a woman. This is fundamental, yet we as black people seem to have lost that loving feeling towards each other. Lovers Rock serves to remind us, and our young people, that there is another way to express our intimate feelings.

COMEDY DUO: Robbie Gee (left) and Eddie Nestor star in the film

“Nowadays, there is too much ‘what can I get from you?’ type of love. So I think Lovers Rock has a role to play in allowing us to express our emotions without fear, which will enable our hearts to heal and expand. The dance, known as ‘scrubbing’, was also a very important part of the scene. I see the Lovers Rock dance becoming popular again just like salsa, because it is a dance that allows couples to experience intimacy with each other.”

The film, which Shabazz began making in 2008, features comedic moments courtesy of British comics Robbie Gee, Eddie Nestor and Angie Le Mar, as well as classic songs performed by the greats of the genre including Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, Carroll Thompson and Louisa Marks.

But while Shabazz is immensely proud of his film, he admits bringing the mostly self-funded project to life was challenging.

“This is the first project where I had to dip into my own pocket to fund it. There were times when I did wonder what I was doing, but I have an inner belief that as long as I am positive, a door will open.

“Along the way, friends and supporters made financial contributions towards the film. That really strengthened my determination. Many other people have given me assistance; the crew, the performers and others who may not have given me money but have helped in other ways. Through them and some creative thinking I have managed to ride the tide.”

He considers who the film will appeal to: “The film will firstly have a nostalgic appeal to its core audience, black and white, who experienced those times in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was a time of first love, self-discovery, and finding an identity through music.

“This music allowed us to experience our romantic feelings, which I think many people today are looking for. For this reason, I think the film will have a broad appeal across the generations.”

The Story of Lovers Rock is at the following venues: Sep 29: Cinema City, Norwich – visit September 30-October 6: Odeon Streatham, London – visit September 30-October 6: Peckhamplex Peckham, London – visit September 30-October 6: Vue Shepherds Bush – visit For full screening dates, visit

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