Born in London 1948, a war boy child with a GI dad and an Yorkshire mum. Always felt out of it far back as I can go. Trapped somewhere in the middle of two cultures, neither of which was understood. Not American not British. School exasperated this feeling as did University. Did well enough, BA Sociology. Took post grad at Cambridge in Criminology. Crime and deviance I understood: not the action (except drugs); but a way of seeing things. Crooks and bad boys both outside the pale.
Had to find a way into the system to earn some money. Surprisingly got a job with Newcastle Polytechnic (later Northumbria Uni). They employed me on some research project, got out of that, upgraded to the lecturing racket: social work students. Had salary; never felt comfortable. Getting interested in drama. Newcastle Poly had a hard core group of people into theatre – not the stage - drama. Working with them in the streets in halls in pubs in theatres, nowhere man found somewhere.
Felt I could write direct act clean put up pull down whatever it took to get the performance off the chocks. Naz told me the performer is sacred. Liked that idea. Kept the ‘Poly’ job going; no money in theatre. Working all hours set up and ran theatre groups, the full round: festivals street events even proscenium stage shows. It was the ‘kick’ of the expressive plastic form that hooked me. The outsider had formed his own church. Late ‘70s ditched education went full time performer writer director.
In Newcastle performers to earn enough to eat had to do a lot of pro-social drama. Like working in schools, edging back into ‘education’ where I didn’t want to be. Get out before they get you. Early ‘80’s shifted into film. To make the films that would feed the hunger of the outsider whose belly had now swollen.
An early S8 video called Autofreight (1978; 23mins) exploited pornography to probe the idea of the observer. The outsider comfortable with pornography not accepting images on their own terms. In Autofreight (title play on Auto-da–fe) explored the mood of the female protagonist tagging along for the ride, outside the skin images mocking them playing with them. Ana Marton friend viewed it said: you can make films.
As child the fairground overwhelmed me. The huge rides took over completely fused me in the moment. Penetration of another dimension: release from prison. In early ’80’s the newly self announced film maker was drawn back onto the fairground. Newcastle is the site of Europe’s largest traveling fair. Why not join the fair make films with them? Why not three films? Traveling. The outsider who had no world could enter a pre-formed world. Recreate in transposed state of mind the wonder of the child temporarily embraced by the huge machines. The Fairground was the huge machine, only social not mechanical: The Wall of Death, Boxing Booth, The Gaff.
1980’s saw marriage to Jane three children: gimme a job. Worked as film editor: it invaded banjaxed my head, all those screaming self important producers. My own commercial film business (making shorts for the tv industry) after initial success eventually failed early 1990’s. Took to driving trucks window cleaning hostel work. Money food rent mouths to feed even though Jane worked: owe her.
Remembered I was film maker. Met Uri Geller in early ‘90’s pitching with him to produce a anomalous phenomena TV show for Thames TV (never happened, would have been disastrous for me). Something stuck. What was happening when people claimed direct contact with the unknown the unseen? The experience of seeing ‘Lights’ by old friend, Tony Jackson (joint scriptwriter of Autofreight) opened up the idea of the paranormal world. ‘Lights from Nowhere’ made with Tony – who was paraplegic – was followed by Spoonbenders and the Cleveland Experiment. Spoonbenders came from meeting Geller, has a wonderful score with a timeless quality written and performed by the late keenly missed Keith Morris.
Dying Trades Trilogy
Bill Pasola’s workshop, the Cobbler’s Tale, was a step into archetype. The cobbler’s shop is part of the preindustrial order where man is surrounded by his tools that speak to hand and eye. Metaphysically the cobbler stands at the centre of a universe. The Last Kill and Catch-a-Fishie spun out of other dying universes, worlds slipping into darkness replaced first by mechanically ordered hierarchic industries, and now by neurophysiological absorption of consciousness into ethereal networks.
Later docs haven’t so much explored worlds as states of mind but as topographies and space. Perpetual Motion Machine, the fascination of Dr David Jones (aka Daedalus) with machine world. Report from the Northern Coal Face and Machines Once Used, the topographies of the mining industry and the magnesium extracting industries lay at the core of seeing lives built around serving machines. Sporadic success with films and distribution was not enough to live. Through the 2000’s worked in hostels on a part time basis. There was a flexibility in shifts and the work entailed no creative draining: free for film.
Made redundant in ’12, the somatic tidal pull was back to performance. Graeme Walker and Mat Cowan started the Byker Mummers 2002. Joined in 2004, took on the rags masks and blacking, returning to a familiar world. 2012 took on performance of writers kin to the outsider. Two shows: Kafka’s a Report to an Academy and Dostoevsky’s A Dream of a Ridiculous Man.
Two shorts dramas on the site: Echolalia and Response 2009, both moulded around the obscenity of the invasion of Iraq. Lots of scripts unrealised. Never got away with the UK film industry so the scenarios lie in the bottom drawer.
Of collaborators Robert Hargreaves who has edited nearly all my films, my deepest appreciation. Sometimes it gets bitchy but without him the films would not have been completed to their standard of professionalism. Without Robert I don’t know if I would have had the stamina to produce the films I have. Always on my mind: the knowledge that his intelligence ability and filmic sensibility would take the film across the line.
And thanks Graeme Walker for the site and pushing me to fill it.
Adrin Neatrour September '15