The traditional definition of ‘piracy’ refers to robbery or other criminal acts committed by private parties at sea. In modern history, the term also became attributed to radio senders who contravened the monopoly on the airwaves. Since the early 1960s, the number of radio stations and individuals broadcasting illegally in the U.K. has grown exponentially.
Drowned City is a documentary film about the people who devote themselves to pirate radio in London. The film takes a journey with today’s youth who spend their days and nights transmitting from tower blocks and warehouses; with nostalgic, experienced ex-pirates who have lost their battles with Ofcom and paid the price; and with mainstream stars who owe their fame and fortune today to their early start in pirate radio. Through unprecedented access to the secret lives of pirates, we are offered the opportunity to ask why these individuals take such enormous risks for illegal broadcasting. The stories told by key characters provide insight into the poignant affect pirate radio has had on their lives.
Whether seen as an alternative to a life of serious crime, an opportunity to express themselves, or the thrill of the chase from the authorities, pirate radio culture in London has had a profound impact on the characters explored in Drowned City.