Saturday 21 September 2019

Unseen footage of a U2 concert on Sheriff Street in 1982 revealed to public

U2 in 'Looking On' film by Se Merry Doyle for Loopline, 1982
U2 in 'Looking On' film by Se Merry Doyle for Loopline, 1982
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Previously unreleased footage of a surprise concert performed by U2 on Dublin's Sheriff Street in 1982 is finally being shared with the public.

Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton were on the cusp of international stardom when they took to the street for a 45 minute performance that summer.

Their set, which was part of an inner city festival spearheaded by Mick Rafferty and the late politician Tony Gregory, was not publicised and the 300 people in attendance were mostly locals.

The footage includes U2 playing An Cat Dubh, 11 O’Clock Tick Tock and Let’s Twist Again, the latter prompted by the arrival of a man on stage who wanted to sing the Chubby Checker hit himself.

Children can also be seen standing around the stage and even joining in with singing with Bono at the microphone.

Filmmaker Sé Merry Doyle filmed the concert as part of his 1982 'Looking On' documentary which charted the festival and the significant changes taking place in the inner city at the time. 

Bono in 'Looking On' film by Se Merry Doyle for Loopline
Bono in 'Looking On' film by Se Merry Doyle for Loopline

"Dublin Corporation decided to demolish the tenements in Gardiner Street and Summerhill and the locals decided to have a festival called 'Looking On' so I documented that over the whole summer," reveals Sé.

"There were lots of artists and, without much notice, U2 did a secret gig on Sheriff Street.  They had to climb up a rope to get up on stage.  It was an extraordinary performance," he tells Independent.ie.

16/04/2019. Irish Film Institute (IFI) Director Ross Keane, Sé Merry Doyle, filmmaker and founder of Loopline Film, and Michael O’Keefe, CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, at the launch of the first volume of the Loopline Collection. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
16/04/2019. Irish Film Institute (IFI) Director Ross Keane, Sé Merry Doyle, filmmaker and founder of Loopline Film, and Michael O’Keefe, CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, at the launch of the first volume of the Loopline Collection. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
16/04/2019. Michael O’Keefe, CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Irish Film Institute (IFI) Director Ross Keane, Sé Merry Doyle, filmmaker and founder of Loopline Film, Claire McHugh, CEO Axonista, and Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive, at the launch of the first volume of the Loopline Collection Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

"There really is no other footage of U2 at that stage, before they broke onto the world stage.  Bono was just extraordinary, the band and the sound were wonderful with The Edge’s guitar soaring and yet you hear a dog barking in the background. 

"That's when they were really born as a live band."

16/04/2019. Irish Film Institute (IFI) Director Ross Keane, Claire McHugh, CEO Axonista, Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive, Sé Merry Doyle, filmmaker and founder of Loopline Film, Michael O’Keefe, CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, at the launch of the first volume of the Loopline Collection. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
16/04/2019. Irish Film Institute (IFI) Director Ross Keane, Claire McHugh, CEO Axonista, Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive, Sé Merry Doyle, filmmaker and founder of Loopline Film, Michael O’Keefe, CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, at the launch of the first volume of the Loopline Collection. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Sé used a small amount of the footage of the concert in 'Looking On' but now both Looking On and an extended version of the footage, which has never been seen before, are available to view for free on the IFI Player.

The material is part of the Loopline Collection Volume 1 collection on the IFI Player, which showcases materials from Sé's company Loopline Films, which he founded in 1992.

Loopline specialised in documentary and TV series, producing films including portraits of prominent cultural figures and work highlighting social issues.

There is a large volume of material chronicling the changing landscape of Dublin and the changes in the way of life of the people of Dublin as well as portraits of artists, architects, writers and poets including Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, Hugh Leonard, Jennifer Johnston and more.

The collection is the result of funding received by the IFI in partnership with Sé in 2015 to archive these hugely important materials.

Over a period of 12 months Sé worked with archivist Eugene Finn to fully catalogue 16mm and 35mm film, a variety of tape formats, and also audio materials which were then preserved and digitised by the staff of the Irish Film Archive.

Sé was particularly excited about revisiting the outtakes from his work because he had forgotten about them, but he also enjoyed reliving moments with figures like Tony Gregory, Patrick Kavanagh, John Montague, and Macdara Woods.

"It was a very wide canvas we were ploughing through, literally every day looking at tapes, asking 'who is this person?', and finding out who the person is by sending clips off to other people because we couldn't remember names," says Sé of the process.

In recent years he had been wondering what to do with his huge volume of material and some of it came close to being lost forever.

"I was trying to slim down my operations, and I was trying to close the office, and I had all this material going back, some of it film, some of it tape, and also digital and I was really quite seriously thinking some of this is going to have to go in the skip," he reveals.

"It was a burden carrying it around for so long."

Thankfully, a wealth of material now lives in the IFI archive.  As well as 'Looking On', the first volume of the collection also features Liam McGrath’s 'Essie’s Last Stand', which looks at an elderly woman’s fight to stay in her home as developers seek to redevelop her apartment block.

Also, 'Alive Alive O: A Requiem for Dublin' features original poetry from Paula Meehan, and looks at the threat against the livelihoods of Dublin’s street traders as well as the scourge of the emerging drug epidemic.

Other more recent titles to feature as part of the collection include the portrait Patrick Scott: Golden Boy, produced by Andrea Pitt and Maria Doyle Kennedy of Mermaid Films as part of RTÉ Arts Lives.

The film gives an insight into the work of one of Ireland’s foremost abstract painters and includes footage shot by Seámus McGarvey, the Oscar-nominated cinematographer of Atonement and Anna Karenina.

James Gandon: A Life looks at the career of the renowned 18th century architect who designed some of Dublin’s most iconic buildings including the Customs House and the Four Courts which features an interview with former Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey at his Gandon-designed home in Abbeyville, North Dublin.

Patrick Kavanagh: No Man’s Fool is a focus on the life of the renowned poet, with contributions from poets John Montague and Macdara Woods, writer Dermot Healy, and singer Jimmy Kelly.

The Imprint series, hosted by Theo Dorgan and first broadcast on RTÉ between 1999 and 2001, features in-depth interviews with some of the literary world’s most notable figures such as Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Gore Vidal, Eavan Boland and Colm Tóibín.

Also, the six-part series The Good Age, originally broadcast in 1997, charts the issues facing older people, with candid personal testimonies about intimacy, self-care and ageism.

Finally, Martina Durac’s documentary Mairéad Farrell: Comhrá nár Chríochnaigh (An Unfinished Conversation) about the Republican activist who was shot by the British Army in Gibraltar in 1988 also features in this collection as does John Henry Foley: Sculptor of the Empire, a look at the 19th century sculptor whose most famous statues include those of Daniel O’Connell on O’Connell Street and Henry Grattan on College Green.

"There is 900 hours of footage so it's an extraordinary amount to wade through," says Se, who hopes more material will be archived by the IFI in future. 

The Loopline Collection can be viewed free of charge worldwide on the IFI’s online platform, the IFI Player, at www.ifiplayer.ie/loopline, and via the free IFI Player iOS app.

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