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Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and EthicsBilly Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics


Billy Elliot (2000)


Famous for...

  • Billy Elliot, a schoolboy, who overcomes prejudice and poverty to go to ballet school during the British miners’ strike (1984-5) in the fictional mining town of Everington in County Durham, North East England.
  • Over 2,000 boys were auditioned for the part of Billy until Jamie Bell got it.
  • The stage musical with music by Elton John (pictured right below).Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics


Stephen Daldry



None - but nominated for: Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

  • best actress (Julie Walters, pictured right in the film).
  • best director.
  • best screenplay.


Key characters

Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell), schoolboy (pictured right).Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

Georgia Wilkinson (Julie Walters), his ballet teacher.

Jackie Elliot (Gary Lewis), his father and miner.

Tony Elliot (Jamie Draven), his brother and miner.

Grandma (Jean Heywood), his grandmother.

Michael Caffrey (Stuart Wells), his friend.


The story

Ten-year-old Billy Elliot lives with his:Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

  • Grandma (his recently dead Mum’s mother, pictured right)
  • father (Jackie) and brother,Tony (both miners on strike in the mining town of Everington, County Durham in the North East of England).

Billy is taken to boxing by his father but he hates it. He is:

  • more interested in the ballet class (that he secretly joins, pictured right below).  Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics
  • encouraged by the ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (whose unemployed husband is strongly against the strike).

His father tells him to stop dancing but he continues because he loves it.

Billy misses an audition in Newcastle for the Royal Ballet School in London, because his brother,Tony (prominent in the strike) is arrested in a fight between the police and the striking miners.

Mrs. Wilkinson (pictured right below dancing with Billy): Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

  • goes to Billy's house
  • argues with his father and brother, who think that ballet is only for girls and poofs (homosexuals).

Billy’s family (like all the other striking miners) has a miserable Christmas, because they’re short of money.

Billy’s father even has to smash up his dead wife’s piano for firewood, but then finally recognizes Billy's dancing talent.

Billy discovers that his best friend, Michael Caffrey, is gay.

Billy’s Dad (pictured right): Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

  • decides to go back to work (with a few other strike breakers) to raise some money to help Billy get to ballet school (despite being a loyal union member).
  • is persuaded by his son, Tony, not to work.
  • raises the money by pawning his wife’s jewellery and local fund-raising.
  • takes Billy to London for an audition at the Royal Ballet School 

After an anxious few days, Billy is accepted.

Now aged eleven, Billy is put on the London coach by his sad father and brother.

Some years later they (with Michael nearby) proudly watch Billy perform Swan Lake in London as a ballet star.


Lessons for success, unions and ethics

 Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

1. Passion is powerful

Billy and his teacher (Mrs. Wilkinson) love dancing. His father and brother are passionate about the strike and protecting their jobs.

Their passion gives all of them:

  • self-respect.
  • a reason to live.

 Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

2. Make your dreams come true

Billy is an unlikely ballet dancer, coming from a mining town, where dancing is considered too effeminate for men.

But he becomes a ballet star through:

  • his talent and hard work
  • support from Mrs. Wilkinson (and finally his Dad)

 Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

3. Community is crucial

Everington is a close knit community which helps Billy get to ballet school.

But it feels threatened by the government’s attack on the mining industry, led by the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher (pictured right below in 1979).Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

One of the film’s songs, Town Called Malice (by the English rock group, Jam), describes the anger caused by destroying a town’s community.


4. Unfair treatment leads to unions and strikes

The British mining industry has a long history of conflict between the:Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

  • miners (represented by the National Union of Mineworkers ,NUM).
  • mine owners.

The miners' strike in the film (that lasted a year between 1984 and 1985, pictured right in Yorkshire) is about jobs.

Everington mine is threatened with closure, and Billy’s father and brother are fighting to save it.

 Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

5. Be true to yourself

Despite people’s hostility, Michael doesn’t deny his homosexuality and Billy doesn’t give up on his dancing career.


6. Empathy is love

Billy’s father and brother become much closer to Billy, when they realize how important dancing is to him.Billy Elliot - Success, Unions and Ethics

Billy was close to his Mum and Grandma, because they:

  • loved dancing.
  • understood him better.


Key quote on happiness

Just because I like ballet, doesn’t mean I’m a poof, Billy.


Two film websites to recommend

1. filmsite.org (run by Tim Dirks).

2. aveleyman.com (run by Tony Sullivan)

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