Film festival offers rare glimpse of Tyneside’s forgotten past


The work of a unique group of  North East film-makers will be at the centre of a short film festival at St Mary’s Heritage Centre in Gateshead.

The St Mary’s Documentary Short Film Festival, running from January 26 to 29, will celebrate the work of the Amber Film and Photography Collective, a group of photographers and film-makers based on Newcastle’s Quayside.

The four-day festival offers film and history buffs the chance to see four seldom-seen documentary films made by Amber during the 1970’s. The films focus on the industry of the Tyne and the people who made their living there.

Each film will be introduced by a member of the Amber Collective who will give a short talk to explain the background to the film, the process of documentary filmmaking and Amber as an organisation.

Films to be shown include Launch (1973), which records the breath-taking scale of the oil tanker World Unicorn, as it emerges then disappears at the end of a street in Wallsend, Bowes Line (1975), a beautiful documentation of Gateshead’s former rope-worked railway and the men who operated it and Glassworks (1977) – a wordless record of the extraordinary, measured ballet of an industrial glassblowing works at Lemington.

Councillor Gary Haley, Cabinet member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, says: “This is a fascinating collection of films.

“Despite the fact they were all filmed on Tyneside, they depict a world that is now almost forgotten, so anyone coming to see them will be able to see a working life that has been largely consigned to history.

“The Amber Collective has made a huge contribution to our region’s heritage by capturing and preserving this day-to-day life of our region. The importance of their film and photograph collection will only grow in the coming years.

“We are delighted to renew our association with Amber and offer a festival that will give the public a rare glimpse into a world that was once so familiar.”

The Documentary Short Film Festival is the second time in five months that St Mary’s has worked closely with the Amber Collective and follows last September’s acclaimed photographic exhibition Coal Staiths of the Tyne, which featured photographs by Finnish photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.

Film shows begin at 7pm each evening. Tickets cost only £3 on the door and this includes both the film and the talk.

Tickets for all four nights are available in advance, priced £10.

For more details, contact the St Mary’s Heritage Centre Box Office on (0191) 433 4699.

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