Tuesday is the day of my exterior shoot. It’s a pivotal day and will be the link backwards and forwards in this piece. Because of that I am both looking forward to it all coming together and somewhat nervous about factors that are out of my control; the biggest of which is the weather.

I did ask the council if they might supply a little shelter if the worst were to happen… and was told that should be ok. But nothing has been forthcoming and I just don’t have the time or inclination to chase it up any more… experience has taught me that if you need to hassle people on more than five occasions you are probably better off sorting it out yourself.

The sixth formers have been great though and Becki their tutor is totally on board, even though I had to re-arrange at short notice due to my polecam operator Tom having work in London that evening.

There are things to do that you don’t immediately think about. For instance I thought, as I had been working with the council, that filming on land they own would be ok. It was only when someone commented that they;

‘assumed I had all the right permissions’ that I pondered;

‘hmmmm I wonder what those might be?’

I duly found a contact in estates who, first of all had to confirm that they actually owned the land, and then had to circulate various departments for clearance.

At this juncture I should say a big thank you once again to AN, and in particular, the fact that artist public indemnity insurance comes via AIR as part of the annual subscription. I have cover for when I work on commercial jobs, but would not otherwise be covered for on-site ‘art’ related activity. That of course is the first thing an official body wants to know… who gets sued if anything goes wrong!? I was able to wing off my policy and all was fine.

Then there is transport for the dancers. The college doesn’t have a budget so it’s down to me to arrange. Then I need some way of playing music live at the site. I started off with grand ideas of having some form of P.A. system… then a petrol generator to power an amp and play it all off my laptop. In the end I have borrowed my daughters boogie box…it’s a lot less precious.. fair belts out the decibels and runs off batteries. It will probably sound rubbish in the open air… but it only needs to provide reference for the dancers so I’ve decided that the simplest option is the most elegant in this respect. Then there is the football ground next door. They have now very kindly allowed us to gain access to act as a vantage point. Then there is the hire of the steadicam and the camera…at first it looks like it’s not available… finally all is ok.

I just mention all of this to underline the fact that the ’90 percent perspiration, ten percent inspiration’ dictum still holds for these things as far as I’m concerned.

Let serenity descend.

I have briefed Tracy at the Hartlepool Mail. She is as dependable and helpful as usual, and will feature it in the paper with a follow up, plus send a photographer from the Mail on the day. I rely on her in part to disseminate the message to all and sundry – in the hope that some people will come down on Tuesday and talk to our cameras. I might even mention it in the ‘Hartlepool in images’ facebook group (he says with trepidation… see previous post FACEBOOK FIASCO).

I have a tight schedule… nothing can now be allowed to divert mission ‘Rink Revival’… hmm except the damned rain… a gale force wind isn’t gonna help the polecam either. England oh England.

Woke up this morning dreaming of Frank Ifield – he of “I remember yooo…oo” fame. No idea where he came from. I can only assume that I am getting so consumed by the project that random sixties stars are now visiting my twilight world uninvited.


The ‘BIG DAY’ has gone…

the band played, people danced, everyone seemed happy.

There was a lot of nostalgia in the room – predominantly 40’s meets 50’s. That was inevitable given the Bigband theme and subsequent emphasis on ballroom dancing.

What is interesting though is that there is actually a larger contingent of people and musicians around the area (and also scattered globally) that see the space in less nostalgic terms.

I had been in touch with a musician called Paul Flush a couple of months ago, and it so happened that he was due to come over to England from Belgium where he now lives, just in time to make the dance. I had arranged to interview him the following day in Newcastle but he stopped me to say ‘hello’ on the day and we had a quick chat. Once again the bow tie came in handy for recognition purposes. For him it was a means of touching base with some of the musicians he knew from the 60’s, and he made a point that I was increasingly becoming aware of.

“Sometimes with these things ” he said “you get the feeling that the idea of ‘revival’ can go just a little too far back. The majority of people alive today don’t remember the war years, but were more in tune with the 60’s and the new era of music being invented”.

For Paul the Rink was less a place to be thought of in nostalgic terms and more a stepping stone to an exciting future. At 13 he was quite possibly the youngest musician to ever play regularly at the Rink. His father was a professional musician who ran a Bigband at another Rink ballroom down the road in Sunderland. Inevitably the musicians tended to know each other and when the call went out for an ’emergency keyboard player’ with ‘Russ and the Nickels’ in Hartlepool, Paul got his first break.

Baptised by fire at such an early age gave Paul a different perspective. He become a local hero at his school as he was regularly supporting name acts on tour, and earning somewhat more than your average paper boy. He has a story about almost meeting Lulu (who was also very young)… but not quite… and subsequently meeting her 30 years later in an airport and being invited into the private lounge for drinks and celebrity chat.

Paul is in fact still a pro musician and a well known jazz player on the continent (the Hammond organ is his specialism). He also plays in techno DJ type combinations, so he definitely didn’t get sealed into sixties nostalgia culture.

Similarly, I saw the Hartbeat boys on the BIG DAY too. They also felt their time wasn’t really portrayed.

I can see why that is. There is a certain romantic aura around the whole dance hall thing which is more evocative when set against the backdrop of war or the ensuing aftermath. Somehow that was truly ‘another time’ whereas perhaps the start of pop culture is something we are more familiar with and so don’t romanticise quite as readily.

Personally my ‘go to’ moment is that scene from the Shining;

“Your money’s no good here sir” says the barman. The band plays on, swimming in a sea of reverb.

I did write that song – the one about the Rink, to be played by and in the style of the Bigband era, and I have high hopes of it being arranged and recorded too, to become both a download and a one off vinyl pressing as a piece of ‘art’.

For me, I enjoy the irony of making what I consider to be an artwork from something that other people may see in a very different way. I am allowing myself to run with ideas that reflect methods and attitudes that come from those I am meeting, rather than being too precious about the conceptual validity of them in purely art world terms. It seems somehow right to make things that those involved in the project might enjoy, whilst also endeavouring to give it a form that makes sense outside the environment of its inception.



Four of us arrived in lots of time. I had an action plan. Set up one camera directly above the dance floor plus a little GoPro camera at right angles to it, clamped onto the balcony. Additionally, I need a live feed from the mixing desk to record the sound direct from stage. Not sure what I am going to do with all of this yet – but if you don’t get it, you don’t have it, so best to get more rather than less is my approach on these occasions.

Then there is the ‘testing the file format’ scenario as there was some debate between myself and cameraman Tom, as to which would work best. I won’t bore you with the details of this conference, suffice to say that when I started off on this long and twisty path called art practice (as a painter), I never envisaged that I would have to grapple with so much ever changing technical detail. I set up the laptop and we see what works best. Our table upstairs on the balcony is now strewn with cables and equipment. Being a video artist I am thinking, is definitely not the easy option.

We are not the only film crew. The event is being relayed live by the local college video unit so there are various cameras, vision mixers and general helper- outers all over the place. Add to this the press photographer and other council related personnel and the place is a beehive of activity. I am glad I took the time to write an action plan. What once was ‘lots of time’ is now ;

“hey people are starting to arrive”…


“Victoria you approach people as they enter the building and ask them if they ever went to the Rink and, if so, would they mind saying a few words to camera”.

I am now in temporary ‘celebrity interviewer’ guise – meeting and greeting people in my suit and bow tie. I am quite enjoying the role as people seem to respond well to my new found status. They don’t know who I am, but I look like I belong to the event… and I in fact know as much, or possibly more, than most people here about the Queen’s Rink, having immersed myself in all things Rink associated for some time now.

Tom on camera and his assistant Imogen on boom, are consummate professionals. He was cameraman for the Ground Force TV series so knows how to get on and do it…responding quickly to events as they unfold.

I am in fact deliberately approaching the acquisition of video this day in a conventional televisual way. It is a style the general public recognise and therefore respond to openly. It follows that, once I get to the point of editing, I will have acquired material which I can subvert in a variety of ways, with the starting point being a form that people initially recognise.

As the event unfolds we take on more singular roles. Vic keeps an eye on locked off cameras on the balcony, Tom has a ‘roving’ brief, with particular responsibility for capturing both the live dance sequences and audience reaction. I take stills.

This day is a sort of staging post in the production. I need material that will allow me to encapsulate the event as a sort of timeless bubble. It will refer backwards and forwards like a conceptual anchor in history.

This is a live event and I have accepted that whatever happens is to be recorded. There is no script, just a running order. It is not a drama. We have not set the parameters.

Having said that, initially the room is flooded with blue light. Everything is immersed in a dull featureless wash. Not something we had anticipated. Tom approaches the lighting people.

“It really wouldn’t have been lit like that in those day would it”.

We intervene. We alter the process of chance. The lights are changed to yellow for the next sequence. It looks much better and we can see some detail. Sometimes you have to just save people from themselves.



Age is a funny thing. The Hartlepool Mail did a follow up article on the project’s progress. I obliged , mentioning the singer Marion Davies and ex Mayoress Betty Brotherston.

On the one hand it’s good to know people read this stuff, and on the other it’s a reminder of;
a. how facts can get a mixed up when relayed over the phone and
b. how sensitive people can be to detail.

Marion was described as being in her 80’s. Her cousin sent her the newspaper cutting from Hartlepool down to Deal where she now lives. Marion rang me the next day. She was not amused;

“I’m not in my eighties” she corrected me (I hadn’t said she was).. “I am eighty – and people say I look much younger!”

Technically speaking, you could therefore say she is in her eighties but I didn’t labour the point.

Meanwhile Betty had been in touch with the paper as, having also seen the article, her daughter had sent it on. Tracy, the reporter, contacted me soon after and said Betty had rang, a little concerned that she had been described as being 86 (not sure where that number had come from) and that she really had to set the record straight as she was in fact 91. Tracy had apologised and placated her by saying they would do a follow up setting the record straight.

I wondered why anyone would want to be older and assumed there was a certain pride in longevity. I dimly recollect my own grandparents going through the obituaries and them gleaning a certain satisfaction from outlasting many of their friends and acquaintances. It struck me as odd at the time, but I have since discovered they were not alone in consoling themselves with this macabre reverse race to the finish line.

I felt a little responsible, as I had been the one to initially put Betty in the glare of publicity, and hoped it hadn’t caused her too much grief. Next time I saw her I duly apologised for the mix up;

“I heard you were a bit upset by the article” I said

“oh no not upset really” she said

“it was just my daughter you know – she said mum you really must tell them they have got that wrong – if people do the math they will think you had me when you were fourteen!”

Must admit that slant hadn’t occurred to me.

On a more poignant and poetic note; our dress rehearsal for the main dance event took place on Thursday with a stream of people coming and going. It was the first time I had seen everyone in their costumes, and, due to the range of ages and abilities, not everyone was there for the whole day. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. The six formers have their slot – but also interact with the care home residents. The young carers came later and are augmented by a few volunteers from the dance group… just in case they lose the plot a bit on the day. They all looked fab.

I had a polecam and operator booked for the day. It was definitely a good move. The ability of a polecam to swoop from ground level up to balcony height made for some beautiful shots. I was particularly wanting to use it to add another perspective (quite literally) to the contribution from those who are less mobile and who will be seated or in wheelchairs.

Looking back at what we shot, it’s hard not to get a lump in your throat when you see their performance, sedentary though they are, whilst the camera soars above them emphasising their immobility, and yet also conveying their indomitable soaring spirits.

The polecam’s ability to sneak a peek (it has a relatively small lens) , where a more conventional camera would be too obtrusively close, managed to steal moments from this real life situation that have a cinematic, almost scripted appearance.

Tomorrow is the big day. I shall be wearing my bow tie, and four of us will endeavour to capture the occasion and do justice to everyone’s hard work.