From Dublin to Soho
Life & Style

From Dublin to Soho

Gordon Lewis has produced music videos for acts ranging from Soft Cell to David Bowie. His recent award-winning short films Secret Child (2018) and Mical (2020) have been highly commended at international film festivals.

Lewis talks to MICHAEL McDONAGH about his life and career, and his forthcoming books.


Recently I went to a press screening of a short film Dream of the Return produced by Dublin-born Gordon Lewis and directed by his partner Yew Weng Ho.

We had first met in about 1976, when I hired the celebrity pop TV director Mike Mansfield to help with videos for numerous artistes from the Moody Blues to the Smurfs. Gordon was the ambitious young production assistant on our team. We lost contact when he left to live in Los Angeles but back then he was a young man from Finsbury Park with the surname Lewis.

What I didn’t know then was that Gordon is Irish, born Francis McCrea, and brought up as a 'secret child' in the 1950s — not a good time for unmarried mothers in Ireland.

Fortunately for Gordon and his mother Cathleen McCrea the enlightened Frank Duff — a man who helped found the Legion of Mary — had opened the only home in Dublin, Regina Ceoli hostel for unmarried mothers and their babies. This act of humanity aimed to keep families together, mothers united with their babies. Cathleen and Francis lived there until he was 8.

His mother then made contact with a previous boyfriend, a carpenter who had left Ireland to find work in London and they married. Living and going to school in Finsbury Park Gordon took this man’s surname Lewis and changed his first name to Gordon to fit in.

When his mother and her husband both died Gordon wrote his best selling book Secret Child to tell her story. Published in 2015 by HarperCollins, it became a Sunday Times bestseller and subsequently made into a short film.

From these beginnings Gordon went on to have an illustrious career as a video producer with offices in London and Los Angeles. He produced music videos for the likes of The Pretenders, Queen, John Lydon, The Cure Roger Taylor, George Michael, Depeche Mode, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Neil Young, Elton John and many more.

His entrepreneurship saw him open a chain of bars in Soho, eventually selling that business.

He has now written Soho Hustle about the music business, set in 1980s London. I met him at our old haunt, the Bar Italia. He explained that during lockdown he’d been stuck in Brazil. Because of his knowledge of the music business in Soho, he decided to write a book.

As we were both in the music business together and we’d dealt with some ‘challenging’ characters. I asked him if he had drawn on his real life experiences but fictionalised them it to avoid lawsuits or even to save his legs?

“I think that’s a pretty good summary. People think it’s just a novel, but actually it's based on real stories.” Like one hapless, and very well known, record company owner who was hung outside the windows of offices because another manager felt that he was trying to take advantage of a situation. The recording mogul survived, but it was a lesson many others took heed of.

I wondered why his main protagonist was a Jewish boy rather than his own experience of being Irish in London?

“A lot of people thought I was Jewish. My name is Lewis, and it's a Jewish name and people who were the movers and shakers running the record companies were primarily Jewish. It got to a point where people just assumed I was Jewish too.”

Gordon is now planning a film on Frank Duff, the man whose home gave Gordon an his mother shelter.

“To me he's an Irish hero but very few people now know about him. I realised he is responsible for about 10,000 mothers and children going through Regina Ceoli and I thought to myself: this story has to be told.”

Sitting chatting in Soho with the irrepressible and energetic Gordon Lewis, living proof that some great Irish success stories of survival did came out of that cruel time in our history, was such fun.

His books and films are testimony to that.