Ill Manors – “There’s no such thing as broken Britain, we’re just bloody broke in Britain”

Ill Manors is a British crime drama film written, co-scored and directed by Plan B. Ill Manors is a multi-character story, set over the course of seven days. The film focuses on eight core characters, and their circles of violence, as they struggle to survive on the streets. Each story weaves into one another, presenting a realistic gritty picture of Forest Gate, (East) London.  Each story is narrated by a song performed by Plan B, all of which feature on the soundtrack album that is also titled Ill Manors.

Official film trailer for the film

“The first half-hour of this movie is great: chaotic, inventive, energetic. But after this, the dynamism worryingly leaks out of the film; it turns out to be disappointingly and determinedly apolitical, while the lairy characters and situations look increasingly forced, derivative and unconvincing…With Britain currently euphoric about the Jubilee and the Olympics, and indulging in an orgy of red-white-and-blue, this would certainly be the moment for Drew to puncture the complacency, and talk again about something that the officialdom is so strenuously trying to forget: the riots. His original track was praised for saying something powerful and committed about the disorder. Frankly the film doesn’t; or at least only very cautiously and indirectly, in the sense that it shows the poverty, alienation and despair that arguably created the conditions for violence.” (Bradshaw, P, 2012)

Official music video for the song

Described as “the first great mainstream protest song in years” (Lynskey, D, 2012), Ill Manors was written in response to the riots across England in August 2011, mainly concentrating on society’s attitude towards the disadvantaged youth population of the United Kingdom. Drawing upon Plan B’s own experiences of growing up in Forest Gate, the song sarcastically attacks the media view of working class children. For example “keep on believing what you read in the papers, council estate kids – scum of the earth”. Drew’s approach seem to attack the political system as well as commenting on a clear division between the rich and the poor. For example “if we see any rich kids on the way we’ll make ’em wish they stayed inside, there’s a charge for congestion, everybody’s gotta pay, do what Boris does… rob them blind” and “we’ve had it with you politicians!”. His dislike towards David Cameron in particular is noticeable in the official music video where an image of David Cameron appears at the same time he says the lyric “stupid c**t”. Despite the weaving sarcastic lyrics like “think you know how life on a council estate is from everything you’ve ever read about it or heard, well it’s all true, so stay where you’re safest there’s no need to step foot out the ‘burbs” that appear in the song that may be hard to read, Drew does add honesty within the perception of his hometown, in which doing so reinforces the stereotypes of East Londoner’s as oppose to challenging and breaking down these stereotypes. For example “Let’s all go on an urban safari we might see some illegal migrants, oi look there’s a chav – that means council housed and violent”. He describes the area as a “concrete jungle”. The use of concrete and the line “new builds keep springing up outta nowhere” describes how built up the area is. However, the word ‘jungle’ has many connotations to it, but the line “take the wrong turn down a one way junction, find yourself in the hood nobody goes there” implies that the area is dangerous, full of action and even animalistic in terms of crime. Despite the gritty and violent image that he is portraying, he comments on the fact that the people are suffering for example the adverse impact of the Olympics on London’s poor. He doesn’t justify their behaviour and actions but he does seem to imply that the situation that these people are in are brought on by other factors as well and not just the individual themselves. This is visible in the lyric “there’s no such thing as broken Britain, we’re just bloody broke in Britain, what needs fixing is the system”. Lynskey (2012) stated “The inhabitants of Ill Manors are in a lose-lose scenario. They riot: they’re trapped. They don’t riot: they’re trapped. At least one way they get to feel for a moment the illusion of empowerment. Drew doesn’t celebrate or even forgive that response but he attempts to explain it.”

Reference List
Bradshaw, P. (2012) ‘Ill Manors’. Review of Ill Manors, directed by Ben Drew. The Guardian. Available at: (Accessed: 03 March 2015).

Drew, B (2012). Ill Manors. London, England: 679 Recordings.

Lynskey, D. (2012) Why Plan B’s Ill Manors is the greatest British protest song in years. Available at: (Accessed: 03 March 2015).

Post by: Georgina Miles

Ill Manors – “There’s no such thing as broken Britain, we’re just bloody broke in Britain”

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