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Putting our canal heritage on a media platform for all to enjoy.
Christmas team meeting December 2012. We had reached the last section on the Agenda, Any Other Business.
Nigel, our Head of Heritage wanted to brainstorm new exciting ways to raise awareness about our precious canal heritage and the work our team carries out every day to conserve it. How could we make Heritage entertaining?
The cogs started to click. “I know let’s make a film”, an enthusiastic me answered supported by a couple of yeses and woops. Fantastic, we could upload it to the Trust's website and YouTube, send it to various interested parties including our Museums and Waterway Partnerships. Use it internally for training. It would be great. Attenborough or Starky may not have been available but how difficult can it be to make an entertaining, informative film on over 200 years of canal heritage?
There were enough of us to make up a crew. Nigel was to be the presenter helped by Judy Jones and Tom Woodcock who had “on camera” experience having both starred in their own produced training videos for the Trust. What’s not to love!
The more experienced attendees around the table gazed bewilderedly out of the Georgian window in our London Docklands office trying to decide what they should have to eat for their Christmas staff do dinner, traditional turkey with all the trimmings or something more exotic like nut roast. They didn’t say but I caught a daunted look on their faces of the task that lay ahead.
What’s so hard about making a short film I thought secretly? Kids barely in double figures were uploading some good stuff onto the web these days surely between us we had enough savvy to outdo these wanabee Hollywood directors. Was there a budding Julian Fellowes amongst us?
Christmas and New Year were celebrated and the winter wouldn’t let up. On one of the coldest days in February with snow on the towpath we huddled indoors around the electric portable radiator in Cambrian House and started to plan our heritage film. I should say that between the Christmas brain storm and this meeting we quickly realised that none of us were Spielbergs. To be frank the kids had one over us on this filming lark, we quickly realised our limitations as a team. We all grew up in an era where webs were found in the corners of dusty rooms occupied by spiders. Not on an Apples!
So with a few nods in the right direction, a tiny budget found and some favours called in, we managed to get a freelance Producer/Director on board who had worked on the nation’s favourite TV programme Countryfile to bring alive our dream. We were all very excited.
Location and Castings
700 miles, 14 locations, 1 horse drawn boat, 6 rewritten scripts, 1 Knight of the Realm 2 hecklers later and move forward to one of the hottest days of the year August 8th. We had chosen Foxton and Braunston as our backdrop for the film and both venues looked stunning in the sun. We couldn’t have wished for a better day. We had our cast of leading ladies. Judy was joined by our heritage volunteers Julie and Anne-Marie with our leading men Nigel, Tom and Sir Neil Cussons. We even for good measure interviewed some holidaying boaters, two all the way from California. All the right ingredients for producing a truly entertaining film that aims to raise heritage awareness.
Squeezing 250 years of heritage into 15 minutes was no mean feat. Debates and discussions went back and forth about which fantastic locations to capture out of 2,000 miles of canal network and which of the thousands of heritage structures and buildings would we choose to film in order to capture the unique essence of our waterway heritage. Of course we would’ve loved to put so much more of our beautiful canal locations in the film but alas we had to make some tough decisions based on our budget.
Making this film was a steep learning curve but an experience we all enjoyed. One that couldn’t have been done without the help and support of Nigel and all the Heritage Team, our great volunteers, Sir Neil, Linda Barley, Stanley Ferry Workshop, the National Campaigns Team, 2 G’s (camera and sound), Si (editor) and Sharon (Producer/Director). We hope that you enjoy the film as much as we enjoyed making it
August 2013 – Première…Share and Enjoy.
Audrey O'Connor; Heritage Advisor for the North West.
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.