I’ve kept away from screenings accompanied by bands in the past, as I’ve felt it might be neither one thing nor the other! Not really a gig and not really a movie, so this was a bit of a step into the unknown for me.
The crowd at the Pavillion theatre was slightly unusual, as they ranged from the very young to the very old, and were what was described to me by a friend as ‘serious folkies’. This would be lovers of folk music, and they do indeed come in all shapes and sizes and have a lot of facial hair! The Unthanks are a band that attract all walks of life, and even within the band themselves, there’s a good mix of age and experience.
Richard Fenwick is the film maker, and what he has pieced together is quite remarkable, with some stunning images of the ships that have emerged from the Tyneside, from the 1900’s onwards. There are many images of ships at war time, shown during construction and at sea. One piece of a ship sinking puts into perspective the many man hours that went into it’s construction, as well as the loss of life of those on board.
One of the highlights of the piece shows the streets that back directly onto the ship building factory, and the slow movement of the ship as it moves out to sea for the first time, changing the landscape of the town each time a new ship sets sail. From the 60’s onwards, we have the various stages of decline of the industry, with the pantomime villain of Margaret Thatcher in the 80’s and the inevitable closure of the plants.
The Unthanks played a variety of songs on shipbuilding, some new and some covers, and all blended well with the images shown. They have a great ease on stage and do give the feel of natural musicians that could turn their hand to any style of music. The albums of ship building songs ‘Diversions Vol. 3’ will be out in November.
The website for the the movie can be found here, and contains some stunning archive footage and photos, and is really well worth checking out!