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I have a b & w box brownie photo of myself about 3 years old standing by a stream with my mum and dad. I am in the middle: daddy holding right hand; mummy holding left. There is a look on my face. These are wardens; this is their prisoner.

Born in London 1948, a war boy child with a GI dad and an Yorkshire mum. Always felt an outsider as far back as I can go. Trapped somewhere in the middle of two cultures, neither of which I understood. Not American not British. School exasperated this feeling of not belonging, as did University. Did well enough at University; took Sociology got the B.A. Then 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. Outside the system I felt I’d be lost. 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 the 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 – on the planks.

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. Like that idea. Kept the ‘Poly’ job going; no money in theatre. Working all hours: day job teaching then after dark I set up and ran theatre groups. Did the full round of performance: festivals street events even proscenium stage shows. It was the ‘kick’ of the expressive plastic form that hooked me. The outsider had his own church. Late ‘70s ditched education went full time performer writer director.

In Newcastle, like just about everywhere, performers to earn enough to eat had to do a lot of pro-social drama. Like working in schools. It felt like I was edging back into ‘education’ where I didn’t want to be. So get out before they get you. Early ‘80’s I shifted into film. To make the films that would feed the hunger of the outsider whose belly had now swollen.

Autofreight (1978) An early S8 movie that exploited pornography to probe the idea of the participant observer. Working with Tony Jackson who co-wrote, it’s about a woman who is comfortable playing ‘games’ with pornography, not accepting porn images on terms other than her own. 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.

Fairground Trilogy (1981-1985)

In the early 1980’s I made three films about British travelling fairs. As child the fairground overwhelmed me. The huge rides took over completely fused me in the moment. They were entry into another dimension: release from prison. In early ’80’s as a newly self announced film maker I 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 with the fair. The outsider who had no world could re-enact re-create in transposed state of mind the wonder of the child’s attraction to the alien. The Fairground was the huge machine, both social as well as mechanical. So I made three films: The Wall of Death, Boxing Booth, The Gaff. The Wall of Death is pure spectacle an exteriority. Boxing Booth becomes a pure subjectivity as the film maker is absorbed into spectacle. The Gaff is spectacle seen against the background of the social relations that drive the fairground.

1980’s saw marriage to Jane three children: gimme a job, needed money. I set up a film production company in the mid 1980’s Ragingwater Productions to make a series of short films for the TV market. The films were very successful selling to over 200 TV stations cable over a period of 5 years, but although the initial returns were rewarding, prices started to fall. Attempts to break into big time terrestrial TV were ultimately unsuccessful, and I found work as an assistant editor and as an editor.

But working TV and feature films banjaxed my head. Even working with Robert Hargreaves a level headed soul I had to put up with all those screaming self important directors and producers. Ragingwaters eventually failed in the early 1990’s so I took driving trucks window cleaning hostel work. Money food rent 3 mouths to feed; couldn’t have survived this without Jane who worked through all the hard times: owe her.

One day in 1996 I got up and found a cheque in the post for about £1000! It was from Southern Cross international film distributors of the shorts I’d made. They had somehow finally found my address and sent me a royalty payment on the sales they’d made. Now for the first time in ages I had some money. It was a sign; time to make films again. And I knew where I wanted to start.

Paranormal Trilogy (1998-2001)

My friend Tony Jackson, now a quadriplegic MS sufferer had had a strange experience. It was time for the Paranormal Trilogy. I’d met Uri Geller in early ‘90’s pitching with him to produce a anomalous phenomena TV show for Thames TV (never happened. It probably would have been disastrous for me). But from all the research I’d done and meeting people like Bob Rickard (Fortean Times) questions still hung in the air. What was happening when people claimed direct contact with the unknown the unseen the inexplicable the anomalous? Tony Jackson had had the strange the experience of seeing inexplicable ‘Lights’ in his room.The experience opened up the idea of a paranormal world and this was something he wanted to investigate. So Tony and I made ‘Lights from Nowhere’. The success of this film was followed by Spoonbenders and the Cleveland Experiment. Spoonbenders came from meeting Geller and follows the lives and fortunes of children who claimed the power of being able to psycho-kinetically bend metal. It has a wonderful score with a timeless quality, written and performed by the late and keenly missed Keith Morris. The Cleveland Experiment stemmed from my interest in paranormal claims for healing, and chance threw my way a strange claim made for some Sufi healing practices which the film explores in graphic detail.

Dying Trades Trilogy (2002-2006)

I have always loved Cobblers, traditional cobblers. The smells, leather and glues; the sounds, the lathes the heavy duty sewing machines the cutting of leather, are alive in me. As a boy I helped out on Saturday mornings in an old fashioned cobbler’s: delivering shoes to customers, helping out in the busy shop. At that time everyone got their shoes repaired, and in the basement, one man was continuously at work making bespoke shoes. But few people get their shoes mended these days and cobblers are rarer now. So when I found Bill Pasola’s shop on Coatesworth Rd. Gateshead I knew I wanted him to repair my shoes and I wanted his shop to be the setting for my film.

Bill Pasola’s workshop in The Cobbler’s Tale, was a step into archetype. The cobbler’s shop is part of the preindustrial order where man is surrounded by the tools that speak to hand and eye. Metaphysically the cobbler stands at the centre of a universe and within the world of the Cobbler is a wisdom now lost to us. The Last Kill and Catch-a-Fishie were 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. The Last Kill is about the last itinerant slaughterer in Dumfries and Galloway. The films follows the rural round of Davey Kelly as in the Autumn he visits local small holders dispatching their animals humanly on site. He is the last of his kind. Itinerant slaughter is now banned, now the animal keepers will have to be able to kill their beasts themselves or take them many miles to large abattoirs. Catch – a – Fishie goes out onto the sea with the local NE coast fishers, looking at a life of fishing in this area and the generational problems the industry is experiencing. The world of the sea is off-set by the world of the Eyemouth fishermen’s choir which experiences some of the same problems as the local industry it represents, in song.

Later docs have explored worlds as states of mind and as topographies and space.

Perpetual Motion Machine.I met David Jones (aka Daedalus) through a good friend of mine who knew him well. Daedalus (1938-2017; https://doi.org/10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.90000380233) was an extraordinary mind and also a practical engineer able to design and make complex machines and artefacts that illustrated some of his ideas. best example of this is his Perpetual Motion Machine, now in the vestibule of the Royal Society, which he conceived and built for a New Scientist convention. It’s a fake, and there is challenge put out to any one who can work out how it works. Initially he was resistant to the idea of a film, but gradually came round to the idea, and was an extraordinary subject both to explore and to work with.

Report from the Northern Coal Face (2009); Machines Once Used Now lie Neglected (2012)

These two films concern themselves with the experience of the types of men whose labour was at the core of the old Northern Industrial experience: the miners and chemical workers. The workers in these industries are often represented as semi-skilled individuals of low educational attainment. These films seek to draw another picture. The men in these industries were highly skilled intelligent workers, often using their own judgement and making critical decisions on the spot for managements that were remote from the actual process of work. They were and are an undervalued group of men. ‘Report from the Northern Coal Face’ uses interviews and home movie footage to recreate the world of mining and looks at how as the collective demands of discipline no longer shape their lives, the ex-miners have developed their individual skills and talents to recast their lives. Machines Once Used Now Lie Neglected is set in the vast ruins of Hartlepool Magnesium Plant a chemical works that once supplied most of the UK’s magnesium. But the plant was starved on investment and lost out to intense Chinese competition in the 1990’s and was closed in 2007. The workers guide as round the huge ruins of the site, as in a far away office, new developers plan a huge housing estate on the site.

Where the Bee Sucks (2015)

This film originated from a chance meeting with bee keeper, Ralph Pattinson, who with his charm and enthusiasm drew me into the world of the bee. Where the Bee Sucks was filmed through the course of a year, a full cycle of the seasons allowing the changing relationship between bees and man to be seen and appreciated.

Riverside Voices (2018)

This doc was commissioned by the West End Heritage Society. But as they asked me to produce script and direct the film it feels to me like one of my own. Using the Tyne as a flowing guide, the film, using former workers as witnesses picks up the story of the abandoned industries that once flanked the river.

Reply to a letter from…(2020)

A visit to the Jewish Museum in Berlin provoked this response. Whilst at the Museum an exhibit of a letter from Hans Peter Messerschmidt a prisoner in Auschwitz caught my attention. The manner in which the Museum handled the translation of this letter prompted research into the Auschwitz camps and generated this film which ended up as my reply to Hans Peter but also a reflection on the consequences, beyond Hitler’s Germany of the collaboration between governments and big business corporations.

Dramatic Shorts

Besides Autofreight I’ve made two other short dramas: Echolalia (2005) and Response 2009 (2009). Both these films were moulded around the obscenity of the UK involvement in the invasion of Iraq. There are a number of feature film scripts written – all unrealised. The BFI and the British film industry have never seemed to have had much time for me, so these scenarios lie in the bottom drawer.


Made redundant in ’12, I felt an immediate physical pull back to live performance. Graeme Walker and Mat Cowan started the Byker Mummers 2002 which I joined in 2004. We perform regularly in pubs over Yuletide donning rags masks and made-up faces. With more time on my hands I wanted to develop write and perform my own work. The immediate attraction was to look to writers who have been an intrinsic part of my life; writers I always understood as outsiders. I have developed three one man shows. The first one was a rendering of Kafka’s ‘A Report to an Academy’. This show was an almost verbatim rendering of the short story, and is an oblique probing of the state of mind of the outsider who above all wants to join the mainstream. The second show, Dostoevsky’s A Dream of a Ridiculous Man (2015), was substantially written by myself, but adhered for the most part to the author’s the original proposition on the dangers and problems inherent in the invention by idealists of idealised worlds, New Jerusalem’s. Such places cannot be the abode of us imperfect men. The third show Rhyming God (2018) a fusing of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and the Book of Job was conceived and written by me. It starts with the statement that ‘God is Dead’. It presents Job as the moral critic of God, and Nietzsche as the moral critic of humankind.


To collaborator Robert Hargreaves who has edited nearly all my films, my deepest appreciation. Sometimes the relationship gets difficult, it wouldn’t be a creative relationship otherwise. 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.

Also thanks to Ken Slater who has done much cinematography for me, often like Robert working for a rate I could afford. Ken is a superb lighting cameraman and working on docs he has the rare talent of being able to put the subjects as ease with the interview situation.

And thanks Graeme Walker. He has been an intellectual sounding board the last few years, helping me to look in the right direction and think about the right questions. As well as collaborating on Rhyming God, Graeme has also worked on web sites publicity and worked creatively with flair and inventiveness for the site and pushing me to fill it.

Adrin Neatrour Feb 2021