Press Release

“Every aspect of our life is collapsing, with the added danger from climate disaster. So, where you find hope in all that is the big question.” Ken Loach exclusively interviewed by The Big Issue

Ken Loach, the acclaimed film director, has been interviewed exclusively by The Big Issue for a special edition of The Big Issue magazine to mark the imminent release of Loach’s latest film, The Old Oak.

Loach’s new film, The Old Oak, explores what divides and unites refugees who have come to the UK and the communities they are housed in. The film is released in cinemas from 29th September

Ken Loach, the acclaimed film director, has been interviewed exclusively by The Big Issue for a special edition of The Big Issue magazine to mark the imminent release of Loach’s latest film, The Old Oak.

The Old Oak is a story of two traumatised communities thrown together when a group of Syrian refugees are housed in a neglected former mining village in the North East of England. What emerges is a complex story that reflects one of the biggest contemporary issues of the day. However, it is a story infused with hope, as common ground is found between a community of refugees fleeing war and a local area decimated by decades of government neglect.

“It’s about the struggle of hope to emerge, isn’t it?” Loach said. “And the struggle of people to see hope. We couldn’t be in a more disastrous situation with civil society collapsing around us – health, education, homelessness, housing, student debt, poverty and hunger used as a weapon, transport collapsing.

“Every aspect of our life is collapsing, with the added danger from climate disaster. So, where you find hope in all that is the big question. But the hope has to be in people’s determination to resist and our instinct – and I think it is an instinct – for solidarity.”

The Old Oak completes a trilogy of films set in the North East, tackling the biggest issues in society, each written by regular collaborator Paul Laverty. In 2016, the pair shone a spotlight on the brutality of benefits sanctions and the desperation fuelling the rapid expansion of food banks in I, Daniel Blake.

Two years later, with Loach now into his 80s, Sorry We Missed You highlighted the devastating impact of the gig economy and its erosion of workers’ rights. Again it highlighted and humanised a hot-button political issue. Both films were powerful, critically acclaimed, and shaped the debate on these urgent concerns.

Now, The Old Oak completes a trilogy of films linked by austerity, each dealing with a different aspect of the hostile environment and cruelty aimed at people living in poverty, facing hardship, insecure employment or arriving in the UK.

“We had done two films in the North East,” Loach said. “One about the cruelty of the Social Security system where people are knowingly condemned to hunger and poverty. And one about the gig economy, the absence of basic rights at work, job insecurity.

“We felt we needed to tell a third story – centred in the old mining communities. Because the whole area was coal mining, shipbuilding and steel, and all the old industry is gone. So what are the consequences for ordinary people?”

He continued: “The consequences are that the old mining communities are left abandoned with nothing. So how do we reveal that in a way that also sheds light on the dangerous swing to the right?

“What happened was that groups of refugees from the Syrian war were placed in these old mining areas by the government without much preparation. Now it is much better and there are very good people that help look after refugees from Syria. But refugees from a war zone are placed in these desolate communities that were abandoned with little hope – how can they coexist? Where can we find hope in all that?

“That was the key question. When people who have been through the trauma of war are placed in a community of people who have nothing, where do we find hope?”

The Old Oak is in cinemas from 29th September.

To buy a copy of the magazine, find your local vendor, or subscribe online by visiting www.bigissue.com/vendors/

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