One of the themes that crop up in this piece is whether things change for better or worse, or whether we tend to think of our own time as always having been the ‘best’.

When I ask people about their memories of the Rink days they invariably say they were “the best days of my life” or something similar. You might think that is due to collective, selective memory and that we all tend to view our past with a rosy glow.

My job isn’t necessarily to take a position on that, but I think my job is to make a work that may suggest interpretations, whilst also allowing the viewer a way in to bring their own experiences and take their own position.

There are many elements to this. For instance people talk about the thrill of dancing on the quite unique sprung dance floor. A gentleman left a message on my voice mail last week – he described how the floor would ‘ripple’ when people did the Palais Glide. It was obviously a very fond memory not now possible to replicate. Other people describe the thrill of dancing with your partner. For them there is nothing to compare, and although they might still go to such dances now… it was somehow different then.

But my piece is centred around a building, and a building of that age invariably changes with the times it finds itself in. People bemoan that it was knocked down;

“it was such a waste they” say;

“it could have been kept open and then this generation could experience what we had… there’s nothing to compare now “

Something similar was said by Kayleigh’s nana.

Kayleigh is one of the dancers on this project and is looking to pursue dance as her full time career. Her nana is her biggest fan. She was there all afternoon last week (see previous post), stood in the tall grass, watching admiringly from the perimeter as we filmed her granddaughter dancing on the site that she herself had danced around as a young woman when it was a ballroom. I interviewed them together on camera and it was quite touching to see the connection between generations being made via the project. Kayleigh had used her nana’s recollections to inform the way she danced. She also said that having been part of the project had convinced her to go out and learn ballroom dancing as she felt there was nothing to compare in these contemporary, singular times.

I find that point of view interesting and yet strangely at odds with the sentiments expressed by people who went to the Rink later in the sixties. To many of them the previous Bigband days represented a link to older, more repressive values, and the fresh air blown in with pop culture arrived none too soon for many of them. Those days of pop idols and screaming signalled the death of partnered dancing and heralded the arrival of the ‘me’ generation.

You can see the life and death of a ballroom as a metaphor for the way society has changed in general. I’m not sure that if the Rink was still standing, it would have been much used for partnered dancing now. It’s far more likely it would be a nightclub or a sports centre.

We now live in an age of plurality and allow ourselves to dip in and out of differing historical genres. Cultures tend to co-exist rather than any one being predominant (in the west at least). So maybe where one social phenomenon replaced another, often in a fairly destructive way, with the passing of time perhaps Kayleigh can benefit from a wider choice and take the best from history.

That, to me, doesn’t seem like a bad model to adopt… but then maybe for me, plurality is my own historical ‘best of time’.

It’s interesting to ponder what Kayleigh’s view will be in 65 years from now.



It is now officially the wettest June on record, so I might be forgiven for having been a little paranoid about the weather.

As it turned out we were incredibly fortunate. I had asked Simon Gee, a cameraman friend who is based in the Lake district, if he would be camera 2 on my exterior Rink shoot and he had gallantly made the journey back from Wales to the Lakes the previous evening, and duly met me at 9am the following morning in the car park of Hartlepool United. He should have been tired but he was bright and chirpy and was already assembling gear.

If he was happy, I was even more so… we had sunshine, yes real, happy, shiny sunshine – with complementary blue sky.


Of course there was also that humidity in the air… you knew it would be foolish to expect any degree of permanency. Still… time for a quick walkabout on our location next to the footy ground.

I had been congratulating myself on getting everything sorted. The transport was booked for the dancers, audio playback in place; I had got permission from the football club to use their facilities, my camera crew were booked and about to be briefed – and I had signed the relevant council paperwork to cover the lands use. Then I saw the grass;

“My god it’s like… four feet high!”

I really hadn’t considered the laws of seasonal cause and effect. The last time I had driven past this empty space that is the site of the Queen’s ballroom, it was in its usual green and scrubby state. A place to walk your dog. A cut through. Now I was confronted by this sea of grass – swaying gently like it was waiting to be made into Hay. I was about to ask 20 student dancers to somehow trip through over grown pastures, when they were expecting something a little less resistant to movement.

We considered the option of hiring a strimmer, but decided it would take too long. Tom and Imogen would be here at 10 with the polecam and the schedule was tight.

In the end we had a go at stomping it flat. It was so long that it formed a mat when pushed down, so I decided if we waited until everyone arrived, with teamwork, we could make the equivalent of crop circles .

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that in fact this was a beautiful device. The point of filming here was to visually emphasise the passing of time, and it being overgrown really added something to that feeling.

First thing we did when the polecam was on site was to take a number of camera sweeps across the location in all its serene banality. Starting low and moving through the grass was actually quite dramatic. I wanted to establish the atmosphere of the place before going on to bring in any other element.

Sun still out but getting hazy… you could feel trouble in the air.

The dancers arrived at 12.30 right on schedule. I had expected Mike (the gentleman who was going to do a ‘walk around the perimeter’ for me whilst recalling his dancehall memories) a little earlier, but in fact he appeared just before the dancers, so I decided to incorporate them as a background tableau whilst he did his piece.

Simon got on with his ‘roving mid shot and close ups’ brief and I concentrated on various setups with the polecam. The student dancers were great .One of the most dedicated of the bunch, was suffering terribly from hay fever. This really wasn’t helping, but he struggled on with red eyes, rubbing them at every opportunity. He could have easily opted out and I was, and am, very grateful for all their commitment. A couple of the girls complained about the possibility of dog poo and the appearance of uninvited worms…but I couldn’t blame them.

By 4.00pm the air had changed and ominous black clouds loomed. By 5.30pm we were having our lunch (yes lunch), watching the torrential rain pour.

I had the footage though; everything was good.



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.