Cultural investigation of lost communities wins Peninsula Arts Film Commission

A film inspired by folklore and an abandoned hovel in North Devon has been selected as the winner of an inaugural film competition.

Rasher / memory landscape is the brainchild of James W Norton, and will be shown at an event in May after securing the 2016 Peninsula Arts Film Commission.

An experienced filmmaker, James has previously worked on projects for the Old Royal Naval College, the Poetry Society with Filmpoem, the Royal Museums Greenwich, Southwell Minster and Film London.

Now he will create a film using original material and archive footage, with the final piece being screened at Plymouth University’s Jill Craigie Cinema in May 2016 as part of the annual Plymouth History Festival.

James, who is based in Cambridge, said:

“It is a great honour to be chosen for this commission, and an opportunity to continue my association with the South West. In 2006 I travelled through the region looking for folk devils and haunted landscapes. I came across a chilling folktale about a man called Rasher, as well as an abandoned hovel on the Devon and Cornwall border that was seemingly lost in time and space. Both discoveries have haunted me ever since, and this film is perceived as a cultural investigation into lost communities and departed ways, exploring folklore via the lens of docudrama.”

Launched by Peninsula Arts – the public arts programme of Plymouth University – and the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA), the £5,000 commission opportunity was open to both filmmakers and curators and a wide range of submissions were received from both professional film-makers and new artists across the UK.

Entrants were expected to explore SWFTA’s extensive archive and identify ways through which it can be brought to a wider audience.

By running the commission annually, it is hoped to build a body of work which presents Plymouth’s film heritage in a means accessible to both current and future generations.

Plymouth University and SWFTA are among the principle partners of the new Plymouth History Centre, which aims to create a unique visitor attraction breathing new life into its world-famous figures and most precious historic collections.

Dr Sarah Chapman, Director of Peninsula Arts, said:

“The new Peninsula Arts Film Commission provides an opportunity to support the development of new work by artists and filmmakers, who can provide fresh ways of opening up and visualising the regions rich history. Having received a wide range of proposals from across the UK we were struck by James’ proposition that seeks to merge history, landscape and mythology into a beautiful and poetic film. It is hoped the annual commission will begin to invest in the development of new film associated with the region.”

Stacey Anderson, Director of the South West Film and Television Archive, added:

“James’ proposal represents a great way to use the SWFTA collections, which celebrate the evolution of our human connection with film, from early regional pioneers through to more modern trends in creative filmmaking. SWFTA films are of their time, which gives them great authenticity, and it will be fascinating to see how James might interpret them in a contemporary way. The potential for this to be a catalyst in transforming how SWFTA engages with audiences, and indeed how audiences perceive the archive film we hold, cannot be underestimated.”