"I remember writing My Name is Joe and what often happens when you're
writing a script is a lot of characters try and claim attention, and they say 'Me, me, me!
You must tell my story!' And there was a couple of rowdy teenagers who demanded attention and one who,
in my mind, is now Liam."
- Paul Laverty on the origins of Sweet Sixteen
From the late 1990s Ken Loach would increasingly choose to set his films in Scotland.
This partly followed from his new collaboration with Glaswegian writer Paul Laverty, but
also reflected the growing availability of public funding north of the border. After
Carla's Song (1996) and My Name is Joe (1998), the ironically
titled Sweet Sixteen (2002) became the third film in Loach and Laverty's
informal Scottish trilogy.
Set in and around Greenock, a former shipbuilding town on the Clyde, the film follows
the highs and lows of Liam, a teenager on the brink of his 16th birthday and of some serious,
The disused shipyards of Clydeside loom large in the background of Sweet Sixteen,
reminding us that here is a place offering few or no economic opportunities for its young people
- or, indeed, many of its older generation, who find themselves redundant, in prison, on drugs,
or leading lives of crime.
It's this environment that motivates Liam's struggle to improve himself and the life of his
family through his high-spirited, enterprising schemes, and that gives Sweet Sixteen
its emotional punch. Ultimately, Liam's determination leads to his tragic downfall; at the film's
end his future seeming even more bleak and uncertain.
This tour takes you behind the scenes of the making of Sweet Sixteen. We talk to
Ken Loach and Martin Compston (Liam), as well as other key members of the crew about their
experiences and working methods on the film. The videos follow the film from its conception to its
cinema release, ending by exploring the its political subtext and the controversy surrounding its
This tour is intended to complement another tour exploring Loach's 1965 television drama 'Up the
Junction' and the BBC's groundbreaking Wednesday Play. Both tours also include teaching
resources for older students (follow the education links at the side of each page to see how you can
start applying some of the material highlighted in each section).
Teachers please note: Sweet Sixteen contains some very strong language, and the clips used in
this selection of short films are not always appropriate for some students. Please ensure that you
watch the films through before using them in the classroom.
Find your way around the tour using the tabs at the top of the page.