A 40 minute 16mm documentary about the 1980 Salford Festival.
The film can be viewed here.
My thanks to the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University for use of this current version whilst my own copy is being re-mastered.
Betty Carter (left) winner of the best float at the Salford Festival Parade
In 1980 Carol Vasey from Salford Council for Voluntary Service approached the Film & Video Workshop and wanted to talk to us about recording the 1980 Salford Festival.
From August 22nd to September 6th 1980, Salford held a Festival to commemorate the 750th Anniversary of the granting of the City's Royal Charter by the Earl of Chester in the year 1230.
In addition the City Council wished to celebrate the improvements of more recent times throughout the new Metropolitan District. During the Festival fortnight over 250 cultural, religious, educational and community events took place.
Unfortunately, due to financial restrictions an official film of the festival could not be made. Members of the Community Involvement Committee, however, wished to record their activities. As a result Salford CVS obtained sponsorship from Diamond Shamrock for such a project, and approached the Workshop to discuss details.
Although the original brief for the film was to record community events such as street parties and local gala days, at the request of the Festival Chairman additional parts of the official programme were covered where possible.
As the filming progressed during the festival fortnight the project snowballed into a much more complex film. It was Fred Karno's army incarnate with Bob Jones shooting with a far from reliable Beaulieu 16mm camera using 'dodgy' reversal re-canned filmstock, myself as an inexperienced sound recordist with a Nagra ¼ inch recorder with used tapes and Alma Tumulavich helping as the PA.
The Motley Crew - Production Assistant Alma, Cameraman Bob Jones and me
It became a mad dash around the city, in my old Ford Cortina Mk 1 often getting lost and making it up as we went along. About 25 events were eventually recorded and later we went out to shoot additional footage and further funding was successfully sought from North West Arts and Salford Council.
So how does 6 hours of film, 15 hours of tape and nine months intensive editing produce at the end a 45 minute completed film?
The problem in editing and structuring the film lay in the diversity of the activities, which had been recorded. We did not simply wish to 'string together' a series of unrelated sequences and we were determined to avoid the easy option of using a BBC type commentary to introduce each event.
We concentrated instead on long, sound-only interviews with participants in the Festival activities, being convinced that Salfordians themselves should provide the soundtrack and any necessary commentary.
We wished to include in the film as many events as possible, and decided to use a rather unconventional technique whereby differing sequences were linked by visual or impressionistic documentary style to represent the spectrum of the festivities.
We filmed scenes from the Festival production of Walter Greenwood's "Hanky Park", a play set in a well-known working class district of the City . Set in pre-war Salford, the play expresses a cogent analysis of the changes Salfordians was experiencing at the time. In addition, archive film from the last celebrations in 1930 was available to us.
A costume pageant had been staged in Buille Hill Park, and we were able to interview people who had taken part. Both Hanky Park and the 1930 Pageant film were used in the film to give a historical perspective to the present day activities. The cycle of recession, unemployment and poverty once more in evidence.
The film is about Salford; its people, culture, sense of community past and present, class differences, memories, history and civic pride. The city, it's problems and achievements; acted simultaneously both as the backdrop to, and the substance of the film.
The poetic/impressionistic documentaries of Humphrey Jennings of the 30's and 40's alongside the TV work of Denis Mitchell and Norman Swallow were both strong influences on the film's style.
In addition we couldn't afford the film stock to record endless talking head interviews as per the usual television documentary, so we used the participant's voices as a commentary track on the events.
Many long hours were spent in the editing room trying to give it a satisfactory structure. It is hard to imagine now, with non-linear editing systems the rule, the quaint craft of marking up, cutting and joining together bits of celluloid with clear tape.
Hilda celebrating after throwing the winning arras at the Women's Darts Match.
Bob Jones in the background capturing the moment.
To-day it could be made in a fraction of the time we spent in the cutting room. Whether it would be is another matter, as serious documentary is largely out of fashion having been superseded by docu-soap, celebrity portraits/product plugs and reality television.