How troubled city was united by the love of Good Vibrations

Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley (L) and Kerr Logan as Fergal Sharkey (R) in 'Good Vibrations''.
Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley (L) and Kerr Logan as Fergal Sharkey (R) in 'Good Vibrations''.
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Everyone has heard of Teenage Kicks, the favourite record of the late John Peel, and how by playing it incessantly the revered DJ thrust The Undertones into the limelight in the Seventies.

Fewer have heard of the man who really discovered the punk rock/ New Wave band from Northern Ireland – Terri Hooley, owner of the Belfast record shop and label, Good Vibrations.

And that’s the title of a new film which tells the story of how at the height of the Troubles that plagued Northern Ireland in the Seventies, Hooley looked past the religious and political affiliations that split his city and instead devoted his life to promoting harmony, good times and high-quality music.

“Ín Belfast he’s a local legend,” says Lisa Barros D’Sa, co-director of Good Vibrations with husband Glenn Leyburn. “Every taxi driver has a story to tell about him.”

“About 10 years ago there was a campaign for Terri to be Lord Mayor,” says Leyburn. “Terri’s well known and well loved in Belfast not just by music fans but across the board.”

For beyond his successes, and failures, in the music industry, Hooley was instrumental in establishing an underground scene in Belfast creating an outlet for kids to direct their energies away from the Troubles, earning him the title of Belfast’s Godfather of Punk.

But it made him enemies on all sides too. The police were convinced Good Vibrations was a front for drug dealing, and there was the constant threat from the paramilitaries, not to mention Hooley’s socialist father who staged an anti-capitalist protest outside the shop.

The fact that it came to an end, however, was more to do with his own inbuilt urge to self-destruct and , after the success of The Undertones, by the lure of the Big Time.

Hooley, played by little-known Irish actor Richard Dormer, was involved with the film from the start. As an inveterate storyteller his conversations with writers Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson was the basis for Good Vibrations which does not disguise his flaws, especially his treatment of his now ex-wife, Ruth, played by Jodie Whitaker in the film.

Although not directly involved, The Undertones were kept informed about the film, says Leyburn. “They were supportive. They are keen their legacy is looked after, and they are respected within the film so they were happy enough with everything we did.”

Getting the rights to play Teenage Kicks in the film was vital. “I couldn’t tell you the exact amount but I do know we did not have a large music budget at all. We paid them something but it wasn’t a lot of money.”

Support also came from contemporary Scottish/Northern Irish band Snow Patrol with Gary Lightbody, Nathan Connolly and Jonny Quinn taking executive producer credits.

Quinn played in a band with Hooley before Snow Patrol formed and says he owes him a lot.

Snow Patrol proved particularly invaluable when it came to filming a concert scene at the Ulster Hall. “On a budget like ours it’s hard to get 2,000 extras to fill a space like that,” says Barros D’Sa.

But when Snow Patrol announced on their website that they would play an acoustic gig that night for fans if they turned up dressed as punks from the 1980s it did the trick.