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Friday, 4th Jul 2014
Britain dominated the world of lawn tennis in the mid 1930s. For three years, Fred Perry was the undisputed world number one, winning a string of major titles and a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles through 1934-1936.
Today, Fred Perry holds an iconic status. With his victories embedded in history along with his incredibly successful sportswear brand, his legacy is immensely influential to this day.
Born Frederick John Perry on 18 May, 1909, in Stockport. His father Sam was a cotton spinner who worked for the local Co-operative Party, and was summoned to London to work full-time at the party HQ. Fred attended Ealing County School, London and it was there that he was introduced to the world of table tennis.
Fred practiced the game every night and in 1928, he had won the world championship. At which point, he retired from the sport to concentrate on his new obsession – lawn tennis.
He had discovered the game whilst on a family holiday in Eastbourne four years earlier. Stumbling upon a local tournament, he was curious to who the cars parked near the courts belonged to; the spectators or the players? When his father replied ‘the players’, Fred declared that he would become one himself. At the time, tennis belonged to the upper classes, and this was an audacious statement from a working class boy from Stockport.
Fred began training under one Pop Summers, who insisted that he master the art of returning the ball early. It was the only stroke Fred practiced for months. Finally, it integrated into his natural game play and began to devastate his opponents.
Fred Perry’s domination of British tennis began in 1933. He helped lead the Great Britain team to victory over France in the Davis Cup, the first victory in 21 years. The following year he won the Australian Open.
It was 1934 when Perry got his first Wimbledon title. Triumphing over Australian Jack Crawford in the men’s singles, he still faced many who saw him as “not one of us”. Journalists watching him defeat Crawford commented on the “strange lack of excitement” among spectators. Fred’s elation at taking the title turned to anger when he overheard a Wimbledon committee member talking to Crawford after the match, exclaiming, “This is one day when the best man didn’t win”.
Despite the social prejudice, Fred Perry went on to have his name inscribed on three consecutive Wimbledon titles, as well as major singles trophies in France, United States and Australia. Suffocated by the stifling class system and prejudice, within the English lawn tennis association, Fred left Britain to help form the professional tennis circuit in America. Leaving British tennis with a void it struggled to fill for many decades.
The 80 Year Signature Collection, was released on the 6th July, 80 years to the day that Fred Perry first triumphed at Wimbledon. See it online here.
Tuesday, 1st Apr 2014
A unique season of films opens at the BFI this Friday, celebrating the rise of DIY films that emerged as an aftershock of the punk movement. Focusing on work from the early 80s, This is Now includes a selection of rare Super8 and 16mm films, many of which have been out of circulation for 30 years. Fred Perry collaborator Don Letts will be showcasing some of his original Super8 footage of British punk bands, including The Slits and Public Image Limited on Saturday 12th April.
Other featured filmmakers include the artist Grayson Perry and pop video directors Sophie Muller and Tim Pope. By producing independent VHS tapes, the filmmakers managed to bypass censors and create a cheap yet impactive new medium. Many artists became friends, developing new techniques and styles whilst squatting in flats together and enjoying the post-punk club scene. The BFI will host a salon discussion on the 14th April, with many of the filmmakers in attendance to talk through their work.
Find out more on the BFI website.
This is Now - Film and Video After Punk will run from the 4th - 17th April.
Tuesday, 18th Mar 2014
Last week, we visited SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. What originally began as a $10 music showcase has grown to be one of the best-known festivals in the USA, drawing over 25,000 official registrants for a two week conference focusing on interactive technology, music and film. Every year, hundreds of artists travel from all over the globe to play to crowds at what's known by many as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. SXSW is just as well known for its official schedule as it is for off-calendar gigs, with musicians lining the city’s historic 6th Street and taking over barbeques, carparks and patios.
British acts have been flocking to SXSW for years and 2014 was no exception. From relative newcomers such as Thumpers, Temples and Wolf Alice to super-acts like Damon Albarn and Coldplay; SXSW offers the opportunity to see big names in small settings and a platform for some of the UK’s best new music. The BBC's Huw Stephens hosted his annual showcase at the intimate Latitude 30, presenting British artist Bipolar Sunshine to a packed-out crowd. Other stand-out performances came from Baltimore trio Future Islands and the hotly tipped Chlöe Howl.
British artists also featured in the SXSW Film schedule - former Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins premiered The Possibilities Are Endless, the story of his recovery after a stroke left him without memory and able to utter just two phrases: 'the possibilities are endless' and his wife's name, 'Grace Maxwell'. The poignant film, directed by James Hall and Edward Lovelace, received an incredible response from both critics and attendees at the festival.
Whilst SXSW continues to grow - pop behemoth Lady Gaga held a keynote speech - its charm still lies in the presentation of break-through acts from across the globe, many of whom may be headlining festivals this time next year.