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Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits


Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits’ documentary about the pioneers of punk is a credit to the band which is very well deserved. The documentary is a fascinating view into the lives of Ari, Tessa, Palmolive and Viv during their time in one of UK’s most influential punk bands. Most people will be aware of the Slits and their major influence on the revolution of punk. Whether you are a super fan or even if you have never heard of the Slits before, the documentary is a great film to watch to get a really interesting, in-depth insight into the mind’s of the four pinnacle trail blazers of punk. The band’s wild antics and head-strong attitude seriously challenged society as they rejected conservative Britain and strived to do as they pleased by belligerently shunning gender stereotypes to be completely themselves in their most powerful, unapologetic form.nAs the first ever all female punk band, The Slits were mere teenagers when they allied together as musical artists and rose to fame for their hard as nails behaviour and their creatively chaotic, complex music.  One of the key elements of ‘Here to be Heard’ is the footage which has never been used before, from the late 70s of the Slits tearing up the stage in what can only be described as a totally charged performance, fuelled with vigour.

After the Slits lead vocalist Ari Up’s devastatingly untimely death broke hearts across the globe in 2010, the documentary takes a personal turn and looks back introspectively on the inception of The Slits. Ari was only fourteen years old when she joined original members Palmolive, Tessa and Viv. Their music was incredibly innovative, and were one of the first Punk bands too incorporate reggae inspired sounds within their music. Listening back now, the use of reggae was undeniably core to the Slits style and rhythm. Another of The Slits famed talents included the cleverly constructed lyric-writing skills in their work, and the various sounds that built an intense imagery in your mind, articulating their intent, feelings and stories in the music. One of our favourites for example is ‘Newtown’, a track from their critically acclaimed album Cut, is about the drug abuse of heroin. During the late ’70s heroin use was rife. The song directly injects sounds to represent the different elements to drug use and the blend of noise is completely stimulating: music with the Slits goes far beyond the realms of the guitar and drums; involving matches, spoons and ashtrays to emulate the visual element’s to the story.

Tessa Pollitt, bassist of the Slits features clippings from her scrapbook she has been making ever since she joined the band in 1976. Tessa had kept all of the newspaper clippings from when she first ever started out, originally in a band called The Castrators, causing a torrent of controversy amongst the media. The raw and organic nature of the band’s audacious attitude is infectious. Fire in Tessa’s eyes flicker as she pours over what was, at the time, brilliantly shocking newspaper articles about band’s defiant performances on stage, swearing, screaming and cussing. Tessa smirks as she recalls how the newspaper journalists actually had decided to censor the band’s name as it was deemed too controversial at the time to be printed.

Documentaries about fellow punk bands from the Slits era are for the most part easy to come across, with a vast collection dedicated to the likes of the Clash and the Sex Pistols, but the Slits are sorely under-represented within the media. In fact, one of the most potent stories in the band’s history, is recalling the depraved knife crime committed in an act of extreme hatred towards Ari Up. The perpetrator was a man who was quite clearly harbouring severe judgement and resent of the band and their ethos. Although the band experienced traumatising and violent abuse, they remained fiercely courageous and persevered with their music until the band’s eventual dissolve in 1982. ‘Here to Be Heard’ is a powerful documentary, the brain child of Ari Up certainly re-writes the Slits firmly back into history, which Ari would have been proud of. The punk spirit which resided in the very bones of the Slits, and a whirlwind of anarchy that followed them was captured very well, and is definitely one which shouldn’t be forgotten.


By Lauren Cole-Lomas