Rebel Dykes

UK 2021, 89 mins
Directors: Sîan A. Williams, Harri Shanahan

Rebel Dykes is a rabble-rousing documentary set in 1980s post-punk London. The unheard story of a community of dykes who met doing art, music, politics and sex, and how they went on to change their world.

Rebel Dykes arrives in all its ass-kicking, leather-wearing glory. The film follows a tight-knit group of friends who met at Greenham Common peace camp and went on to become artists, performers, musicians and activists in London.

A heady mash-up of animation, archive footage and interviews tells the story of a radical scene: squatters, BDSM nightclubs, anti-Thatcher rallies, protests demanding action around AIDS and the fierce ties of chosen family. This is an extraordinarily privileged glimpse into a bygone world by those who not only lived out their politics with heartfelt conviction but lived to tell the tale.

Meet the Directors

Harri Shanahan
I’m an artist, filmmaker and animator from Manchester. I studied filmmaking at university but before Rebel Dykes, I mostly made post punk/experimental music videos and artist moving images. I began teaching myself to animate because of the narrative needs of Rebel Dykes and fell in love with the art form. In 2019 I gained a Master’s degree in animation and now create animation for the education sector. I wanted to tell the story of the Rebel Dykes because I felt a kinship with their punk rebelliousness and their DIY approach to art and culture (having fronted my own feminist queer post-punk group ILL for some years). It has been an amazing experience to meet these amazing, trailblazing, kickass people and to have the opportunity to be part of telling their story.

Siân A. Williams
I’m a filmmaker and professional archivist based in Manchester. For this project we used creative recreation sequences, animation and unseen personal archive to bring the ephemeral queer histories of 1980s dyke subcultures to life. I trained in photography and artist moving image at University of Wales and have also gained masters in critical theory and digital heritage, informing both my practice and archives career. I have over a decade of experience working in audio visual preservation and archive post-production, working at the BFI National Archive and Archives+ Manchester. I wanted to make the film because I’ve always felt a connection to the ethos of the Rebel Dykes. Their art and music was a formative influence when I was playing in DIY post-punk bands, and I was especially excited by the Rebel Dyke photographers that play with gender and identity and documented queer communities, all of which inspired my own visual art practice at the time. I devoured books like Del LaGrace Volcano’s Love Bites, Nothing But the Girl: the Blatant Lesbian Image by Susie Bright and Jill Posener, and Tessa Boffin’s Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs. Sex, desire and politics are all really important in the film, and especially the creative worlds and family that they build around them.

Siobhan Fahey
I was a Rebel Dyke in the 1980s, living in Berlin, NY, SF and London as a punk, lesbian and sex worker. It was my idea to start collecting the archive belonging to this subculture, and I brought the director’s into the project, thus becoming the film’s Producer.

As the 80s finished I became a volunteer in an AIDS project, which inspired me to train to be a nurse. By the time I qualified, the health crisis affecting my community was Hepatitis C, and my specialism in that led me to lead the biggest Hepatitis public health strategy in the UK. I was also a queer activist, and a queer club promoter in Manchester. By the time I was hitting my 50s I needed a change, so retrained as a filmmaker. My first short film garnered a BAFTA, I have completed an excellent MA in Filmmaking at the University of West of Scotland, and I now run a production company, Riot Productions, that specialises in provocative, activist, commercial content. Rebel Dykes was my first feature film, and although it took 6 long hard years to produce, it has also been wonderful. I have particularly loved the work of the Rebel Dykes History Project, building and re-building the Rebel Dyke community with gatherings, a film club and community Facebook pages.

I have loved reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Working on this film has been a great privilege.

Rebel Dykes History Project is an archive + art + film project.

We preserve, explore and share the archive of a bunch of kick ass post punk dykes who shook up London, UK in the 1980s.

We use the Rebel Dykes archive to: stimulate intergenerational debate and community; inspire lesbian and bisexual women (cis/trans/nb); work with academics to ensure the Rebel Dykes are included in history; work with artists, musicians, filmmakers and performers to create artworks; reignite and reinvent Rebel Dykes community in order to fight isolation amongst younger and older dykes and allies.

‘Life in the 1980s? Well… it was exciting, it was scary, it was fun, it was poor, it was a great time and a terrible time to be young and queer in London.’ (Debbie Smith)

Rebel Dykes History Project focuses on the heritage of a group of young lesbians who lived in London in the 1980s. This loose grouping was made up of young punk women on the edge of society. The areas of London that the heritage focuses on is Brixton, Vauxhall, Peckham, Soho, Forest Gate and Hackney. The young women were involved in political movements of the period 1983-1991, including Greenham Common, South London Women’s Hospital Occupation, anti-censorship, sex-positive feminism, sex workers rights, anti-Section 28, ACT-UP and the Poll Tax Riots. As a movement they were heavily involved in art and culture, creating bands, art, club nights, zines and festivals.

Our project has inspired a host of art activities from sound to textiles to drag performance. We have worked with a number of academics to ensure these stories get into the history book. We are working with filmmakers to create a Feature Length Documentary. We run occasional events, including Gatherings and Online Film Club. We work with numerous partners, including Bishopsgate Institute and On The Record. We inspire, we develop community, we have fun. We are The Rebel Dykes, and we believe anything is possible!

Directed by: Sîan A. Williams, Harri Shanahan
Recreation: Sîan A. Williams
©: Riot Productions
Executive Producers: Charlotte Knowles, Michelle Mangan, Melanie Iredale, Phil Hunt
Producer: Siobhan Fahey
Archive Producer: Siobhan Fahey
Production Co-ordinators: Harri Shanahan, Sîan A. Williams
Post-production Managers: Harri Shanahan, Sîan A. Williams
Production Secretary: Siobhan Fahey
Archive Consultant: Jo Stones
Archive Research Consultant: Stephanie Ashcroft
Camera: Harri Shanahan, Sîan A. Williams
Animation/Animation & Compositing: Harri Shanahan
Editors: Harri Shanahan, Sîan A. Williams
Graphic Design: Hannah McLennan-Jones
Colourist: Sîan A. Williams
Original Music/Original Composition: Ellyott
Sound Design: Alexia Charoud
Sound Recording: Whitney Bluzma, Harri Shanahan, Michael-Jon Mizra, Nat Sutcliffe, Matty Simpson
Audio Post-production Manager: Harri Shanahan
Impact Producer: Siobhan Fahey

Indigo Azidahaka (BBC invader actor)
Cat, Hebe, Vanessa, Yenni (recreation actors)

UK 2021
89 mins

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