Anglo-Somali artist and punk maverick Poly Styrene, of the band X Ray Spex, was one of the first women of colour to lead a successful rock band, and was a truly innovative figure both in music and for women generally. Chronicling her remarkable, and often troubled, life, Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché is directed by Paul Sng and Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, and includes never-seen-before footage of Poly throughout her life, as well as interviews with other people in the industry including Kathleen Hanna, Pauline Black and Thurston Moore, about the great influence she had on them.
Now, to help them finish the film and bring it to international audiences, Bell and Sng have launched a Patreon campaign. Of the film, Bell explains:
“I set out with a clear goal to share my mother’s story as widely as possible because her story needs to be heard. In making this film, I have uncovered aspects of my mother I hardly knew before and also discovered that she made a huge impact on culture that is still being felt today. The fact that her legacy has not been properly acknowledged is something we are seeking to redress with this film.”
Poly’s life was fraught with difficulties: poverty, racism, misogyny, and chronic mental health issues. After suffering a nervous breakdown at the height of her success, she left music to join the Hare Krishna movement. The film follows Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell as she examines her mother’s unopened artistic archive and uncovers the legacy of a woman whose lyrics were described by radical musician Billy Bragg as, “a slap in the face” to male artists and journalists.
Although rose-tinted spectacles are firmly off, the film looks to show Poly Styrene not only as the innovative figure for women in music that she remains to this day, but as a mother and a person.
The film follows Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story – a book released earlier this year by Celeste and author Zoë Howe.
Watch the trailer here:
And, make sure you tune in to our radio show tomorrow 5th December on Hoxton Radio 8-10pm, when we’ll have Celeste Bell in for a chat!