Today, we bring some photography credited to Anne McDonnell-Lawrence, but she’s no photographer, and this gallery was taken by and of the legendary synth-era group Depeche Mode.
In 1983, Depeche Mode were on tour at Ulster Hall in Belfast when one of their biggest fans across the Irish Sea, Brian McDonnell, had a brilliant idea. During the performance, Brian hurled a roll of film onto the stage for Dave Gahan and the band to find. Attached to the film was a note asking the band to take a few photographs at their leisure and send them back to him in the post.
Seeing the ingenuity of such an idea, Depeche Mode sprung to the challenge and used the film over the following weeks. The story surfaced earlier this year, nearly 40 years since the concert, alongside Brian’s photographs that he was surprised to find one day in the post.
Tragically, Brian McDonnell passed away two decades ago, aged just 37. In September this year, his sister, Anne McDonnell-Lawrence, took the initiative to share the photographs alongside the remarkable story via the Facebook group Belfast Concert Photographs of the 1980s.
Discussing the photos with BBC News NI at the time, Anne recalled the story and revealed that Brian was a devoted, lifelong Depeche Mode fan: “Depeche Mode was his favourite; he always went on about them”.
“All I remember is him telling me he was at the concert and he had brought a film for a camera with him – he wrapped his name and address around it and asked them to take photos and send them back to him,” she continued. “He never thought he would even get a response. I don’t know how long after, but he got the film sent back to him. That was all photos of Depeche Mode.”
Anne remembered her brother being over the Moon to receive the photos and showed them to his family and friends for many years afterwards. The envelope containing the photos resurfaced while Anne was sifting through some of her late mother’s belongings.
“A couple of times I tried to get them posted on a [Facebook] group I’m in with Depeche Mode – I had asked a few times, but nobody got back to me,” Anne told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme. “So when I saw the post on the Belfast concerts’ one, that’s when I thought: ‘I’ll hoke them out.’ I asked did the guy want them. I told him the wee story, and that’s it – it has escalated.”
Reflecting on the attention the photos received on the Facebook page and thereafter from the media, Anne said it has “been brilliant”, just what Brian would have wanted.
“Brian loved being the centre of attention, he loved to party, he loved to sing,” she said. “It was his anniversary there in August. He was 20 years dead, and we were all talking about how 20 years is a long time. But it’s my personal opinion that that’s him saying to me: ‘You’re not paying me any more attention, I want attention’. I think he set it up.”
“Every time we hear a Depeche Mode song on the radio, we just think of him,” she added.
Below you can see the collection of photos taken by Depeche Mode on Brian McDonnell’s film following their Ulster concert in 1983. The collection shows members Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Alan Wilder and the late Andy Fletcher enjoying some downtime together with some friends.