Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A View from the Bridge


Amber Films – a collective of like-minded film makers and photographers – made this short film in 1974. It is about Newcastle and was made for the City's planners at a time when the city was being re-developed along Modernist lines. Some of the city's fine architecture that had been valued and was of historic importance regionally and nationally, had already been demolished by this time. More was to follow in the next decade.

You can watch it on this link here.

The film was rejected by the planners – they appear at the end of this film working in an office that is high up in the then newly built Civic Centre where T. Dan Smith, the controversial leader of the Labour local government, worked to bring about this transformation of a run down, but still magnificent Georgian Victorian city, into somewhere that could have been anywhere. Smith later fell from grace and went to prison for corruption – though he personally seems to have made little or nothing from this. After his release Amber Films made a film about him instead of one about the city he and his associates set out to destroy. The film about Smith is somewhat better than this one Amber made on Newcastle, but it does give a truthful portrait of how the city looked and felt forty years ago. Perhaps that is why it was rejected.

The opening shots of Newcastle's Quayside and the bridges is taken from the then run down area called The Side, where Amber were based and still are. Murray Martin, who produced this film, went on to nearly single handedly prevent the destruction of the Quayside by the planners. If you watch the planners in their office playing with their tiny plywood rectangles and plain faced tower blocks you can get a sense what might have been.

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