A1: The Road Musical

(2008) Endomol/Channel 4

A1: The Road Musical was first broadcast on Channel 4 on August 29th 2008. A half-hour, through-composed documentary, it tells the story (through song) of some of the wonderful people who live and work along the length of Britain's longest road.

All of the lyrics for the songs were based on lengthy interviews with the participants and the music was written especially to suit their talents.

Along the way we meet an ensemble of disgruntled drivers in North London, a Polish immigrant who is wondering ifhe should return to his homeland, a woman who was involved in a terrible accident on the road near Grantham and was aided by the kindness of a passing stranger, a choir of former Yorkshire miners, a pair of angry bikers, a young man grieving for his brother and a man who wants Berwick Upon Tweed to be handed back to the Scots.


All the stories are linked by Dave the lorry driver, who drives on the road at least three times a week.


See below for information about parts of the film.


Wetherby


This music was used in A1: The Road Musical to accompany the sequence where Wayne Lawrence talks about the death of his brother, Danny. Wayne contacted Benjamin after reading about the project in the Yorkshire Evening Press.

Benjamin shot the interview - in an all night café close to Scotch Corner - before writing the music, which was composed in three hours, in a Travelodge on the A1 near Grantham!

The choir at the start of the recording is The Choir Invisible, a Grantham-based choir who are never seen in the film, but are heard between each of the sections counting down the number of miles from London to Edinburgh.
The strings were recorded at DIN Studios in East London, and the choir was recorded in a Stately Home just off the A1 in Lincolnshire.

Violins: Kufu Habitat and Deb White
Viola: Jake Walker
Cello: Chris Worsely
Music produced by Julian Simmons



Biker Cafe


This sequence of A1: The Road Musical was performed at Squires Café, a biker cafe in Sherbourne in Elmet in North Yorkshire.
The two main singers are, Dave Brown - who runs the motorbike shop at Squires and sings in the biker band Gunlaw, and a photographer-cum-biker called Gaby Motola.

Their song expresses the views of many of the bikers that Benjamin interviewed. Biking is an expression of freedom - and many bikers have been appalled by the huge amount of legislation that New Labour has pushed through since 1997: more laws in ten years than in the entire century before!

We filmed in a hurricane, and Squires, which is usually teaming with bikers, was terrifyingly empty. Nevertheless, the bikers who were there all took part in the film with gusto and provided a wonderfully energetic backdrop for Gaby's and Dave's extraordinarily charismatic performances.
The music was recorded at DIN Studios and Dave recorded his vocals at Purple Pro in Leeds.



Miners' Spiritual


This sequence became a duet between the Rossington Male Voice Choir, a choir of former Yorkshire miners and the University of York Chamber Orchestra. A remarkable combination of old and young - with nothing in between!

The miners were filmed at Harworth Mine in North Nottinghamshire, the scene of violent picketing so much anger during the strikes in the 1980s - its chute and slagheap are very visible from the A1.

Benjamin found soloist, Derek Burton, in a village called Micklefield in West Yorkshire. He lives at Ferrybridge and worked as a miner for most of his adult life.

Benjamin studied music at the University of York and played in the Chamber Orchestra, which was why he was so keen to feature them in the film. We were very fortunate to be able to film them playing on the coal reserves at Ferrybridge Power Station - another landmark on the A1 - and even more fortunate that the weather held out.
The miners were recorded at Purple Pro in Leeds and the orchestra were recorded in the Jack Lyons Concert Hall in York. Derek recorded his solo on location by the side of the road in Doncaster.

Click here to visit the A1;The Road Musical microsite, and watch the film in full.