I first heard about "donk" music through a friend in London. His cousin worked with underprivileged kids in the northwest city of Manchester. He said that this aggressively euphoric form of hardcore dance music was all they listened to. After watching the video for Blackout Crew's "Put A Donk On It!" on YouTube I knew we had to make a documentary about it.
And so we contacted the maker of the video, Andy Soup, who got us an audience with Blackout Crew in Bolton. Once an industrial heartland, the collapse of industry in Britain has reduced it to a suburban town centered around a massive shopping center and tons of thrift stores occupying empty buildings. For a week we drove around Bolton and neighboring Burnley, Wigan, and across the country to Scarborough. We went to donk raves, visited the homes of donk MCs, went to their studios to see how they recorded their music and ate delicious heart-attack food like fish, chips, and mushy peas with them.
We had a blast, even during the six hours at Wigan Pier nightclub's donk night where I was the only sober person out of 3,000 lunatics. The music sounded like being trapped in a factory that makes nails while all the world's slot machines went off at once, all announcing the fact that you'd lost all your money.
Here's some of the things we saw on our journey...
This is Blackout Crew performing to an audience of screaming teenage boys and girls in the Northeastern seaside town of Scarborough. I took it from the side of stage, struggling to get a clear shot among the hundreds of kids jostling to get nearer their idols. Outside in the car park the kids were drinking and telling us that they thought Blackout Crew were "decent" and that Madonna was "an absolute weirdo".
This is Burnley, a few miles from Bolton. Whole square miles of houses were boarded up and earmarked for demolition. We saw toddlers covered in dirt, walking down the road in their stocking feet while it rained. Like Bolton, Burnley also fell victim to the decline British industry which hit its peak during Thatcher's 80s. We came here because of the town's strong links to the donk scene, including being the birth place to people like MC G, whose explicit, controversial lyrics have his fans touting him as the "Eminem of Donk".
This guy looks like every other guy in Wigan Pier. He is a poster boy of donk. They all have fake tans and must work out four times a day. Even though these guys are tougher than most people we know they spend a lot of their time in beauty salons, on sunbeds and having their eyebrows manicured. In fact, one of the most thriving businesses in high unemployment areas like Bolton, Burnley and Wigan are the beauty parlours. I guess if you're sitting around at home all day claiming dole, smoking cigarettes, and listening to donk you might as well look beautiful while you're doing it.