Movie scene throwback to 80s mods and skinheads on Margate seafront

'Mods' weekender Photo Frank Leppard

A scene with mods and skinheads depicting unrest and racial tensions in the 1980s has been shot today (April 27) on Margate seafront.

Photo Frank Leppard

The Empire of Light movie is a love story set in that period and today’s filming was for a scene of a race-related altercation.

The movie team say the scene, which included fascist banners, shot on Marine Terrace outside the Dreamland Cinema and the stage set cinema copy built at Godden’s Gap is a small part of overall story.

Photo Frank Leppard

A spokesperson said: “Our film is set in the early 1980s when racial tensions were running high in many parts of the UK and there are some scenes in Empire of Light that reflect those times.”

Photo Louis Mclaren

The Sam Mendes production starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Colin Firth has been shot on location around the town since the end of February.

Photo Frank Leppard

The film also stars Toby Jones, Tanya Moodie and Crystal Clarke. Director Mr Mendes is known for works including  James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre and the war film 1917 as well as numerous West End stage shows.

Photo Roberto Fabiani

Locations used include Margate’s main seafront road, the Old Town, Cliftonville and Darcy’s Café.

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Dreamland’s neon sign on the fin of the Grade II* listed cinema has been replaced with Empire Cinema signs and the 20,000ft set at Godden’s Gap contains a replica of Dreamland’s old cinema, including the staircase and chandeliers, with a ticket booth outside.

Filming will wrap up at the end of next month.


  1. A few errors- as a Mod myself- most didn’t wear crash helmets, and those that did, didn’t have full cover. No tiger’s tails. The Union Jack in one picture is upside down.

      • Why a union flag , when it’s name came from the jack staff at the rear of the boat, it’s the Union Jack and when flown upside down , as it was in the 1970, it was a sign of distress.

    • Crash helmets were required by law in the 80’s? Plenty of revival mods had whip aerials with foxtails?

    • The 60s mods were less inclined to wear helmets but it became law in the 70s and this film supposedly depicts the 80s by which time the vast majority wore helmets to avoid the attention of Old Bill.

      If I recall correctly, the Esso tiger tail promotion took place in the late 60s or early 70s so it is not likely that many had survived on bikes ten years later.

      But the film also depicts a great number of 60s cars being driven on the roads – whereas in reality most of which had rusted and fallen apart by the 80s and certainly most were off the road due to being MOT failures.

      It seems the film is using a certain degree of artistic licence.

  2. The Sunday papers paid us to run across the beach as a group, kicking up sand and shouting (10 shillings each- bought 2 gallons of petrol) the disturbances were stage managed by the press.

  3. It embarrassing the amount of people who claim to be proud to be British yet dont know which way up to fly the union flag

  4. I remember well in the summer of 1981 the big punchup between the skinheads and mods which was brewing on Margate beach before kicking off properly on The Green ( now by The Promenade) Margate .
    My mate was in the The Met Police ,off duty and a keen photographer and I remember him being firmly warned by the local bobbies not to take any photos ,maybe as it might incriminate them
    Let’s just say back then in 1981 the police didn’t hold back with dealing with this disturbance

      • Of course there is the well documented punch ups in the 60’s which featured in photos and a scooter from that period on display the Margate Museum but there most certainly was one in the summer of 1981 as testified /supported by other comments to my own earlier comments
        I remember clearly the surreal situation of listening to a Wimbledon Mens tennis match ( final ?) on the radio whilst this tension was building up in front of me by Margate clock tower and on the beach which escalated to The Green by Margate station

      • Whilst it is well documented that there were clashes between these cultures in Margate in the 60’s , photos of which are in Margate Museum , there also was this clash in the summer of 1981
        I was there and well remember the surreal situation of listening on the radio to Wimbledon Mens tennis finals whilst seeing the tension build up by the clock tower and Margate beach which other people have also given their witness too !

  5. i recall being in Margate station around that time working on the paper distribution off the paper train when around 50 skinheads came running through and onto the platform hotly pursued by a large groups of mods and her majestys constabulary. The mods were parked up around the green and buenos ayres and there pics were all over the f/p of the Sun from the previous days skirmishes–not sure what BH–may have been Whitsun.

  6. The real problems were during the 60’s. The 80’s were tame by comparison.
    The scooter boys in the pics all look a bit old to what they (we) were.

  7. I dont like to see mods being represented like this. I dont remember mods doing a scooter ride under a nf banner ever. There were a few nf types / But most of us were very liberal minded when it came to race. Afterall we listened to black music and there were black mods as well. There is no way I would do this scene. leave that to the comedy mods above.

    • I would agree with your comments. I always thought of myself as a progressive individual rather than a maniacal lout.

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