Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Shirt that got on I, Daniel Blake

I have been nominated for the Actor of the Year Award in this year's Zimbabwe Music & Arts Awards (Zimaa). This is because I have appeared-even for a few seconds-in so many British TV productions (Beowulf:Return To The Shieldlands, the biggest British TV production to date, Make! Craft Britain, an advert for the Co-op Bank, etc)this year alone. Not bad for a Zimbabwean immigrant to the UK, even one with a cinema background from back home.

On the 26th of October, 2015, I turned up at location in central Newcastle which had been converted into Job Centre. About a week before, I had had my picture taken by casting. Yet, it wasn't until Ken Loach came on set that I realised that I was actually involved in something major. When you are only an extra (supporting cast! we are called supporting cast now) you don't get told much; you are just asked to turn up on such a location on such a day and such a time. So it goes. I was asked if I wanted to play a smoker or non-smoker. Smokers were for the exterior scene. Us non-smokers got to be Job Seeker service users. (Ok, scroungers, layabouts, that sort of thing.) We were asked to wear the sort of clothes someone down on their luck would wear. Hence the shirt.

My wardrobe is not full of the sort of clothes someone down on their luck would wear. Since then, I have acquired a grey tracksuit with a hood and sneakers, but when I went through my stuff in October of 2015, I had very little to choose from that would have placed me as a member of the underclass. Except, the shirt.

The shirt might well be one of my oldest possessions in the UK. I got it from a plastic bag full of discarded clothing during one of my rounds as a recycling operative in the West London area some time in 2003. We were encouraged by the more seasoned operatives to stock up on discarded clothing; this was before the law required contractors to ensure that agency staff had protective gear and cast-offs ensured that we paid nothing on clothes that were exposed to dirt and wear.

When I left that life, as I moved up Britain's socio-economic foodchain, I threw away most of the clothes from that era. But, somehow, this top survived even though it never gets worn. The above picture dates from around 2007, and is probably the earliest capturing of it. I was going to keep it as a relic of those days, but now it has a greater historical significance: I wore this for my appearance in I, Daniel Blake. I wore it for my trip to Cineworld Middlesbrough on Monday past, where I went to see the movie. Who could have forseen, on that wintry day that I picked it out of a plastic bag, that it would end up in a movie?

I appear ff the 0:20 code in this clip.

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