Young Tyneside film-makers celebrate fishlasses

150 youngsters have taken a story written by themselves and turned it into a an educational film to be used in schools

Filming of the Cullercoats Fishlass at Cullercoats Bay
Filming of the Cullercoats Fishlass at Cullercoats Bay

Young film-makers were transported back more than 100 years yesterday to recreate a slice of history.

150 youngsters from the production company ACT 2 CAM worked in front of and behind the cameras to record a story they had written themselves.

Authentic fishing cobles more than a century old were among the props as the team filmed key segments of the film at Cullercoats, near Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.

The film, The Cullercoats Fishlass, will be used as an educational tool for schools.

Stephen Wood, executive producer, said the fictional story was set in 1910, was inspired by real-life events in the early years of the 20th century, and was a tribute to the strong-minded women of the former fishing community.

He said the group came up with the idea, researched it, and made their own costumes.

They wrote the script, made the costumes, acted the parts, and directed the story themselves.

He said: “They wanted to do a costume drama and were struggling to get sufficient strong female leads to make it work and they found that these fishlasses in 1910 were very strong and independent and worked on an equal footing with the men. That was their inspiration and they gradually came up with a group of characters who live and work by the sea.

“They were inspired by a speech by Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and letters from working women to the Women’s Guild in 1910 who asked women to write their experiences.

“We have a collection of 100 describing their conditions.

“They saw a painting by the American artist Winslow Homer of a Cullercoats fishlass and they watched a film by Mitchell and Kenyon, which was North Shields Fisheries in 1901, and were inspired by the thought that the women were strong-minded.”

The story was pulled together from actual events of the time, including a rail strike which prevented the women from selling their fish and controversy in the local press about travelling entertainers working on a Sunday against religious opposition.

Stephen said: “All the work is the kids’ and I can’t stress that enough. To have young people to come up with such wonderful ideas and being incredibly creative shows a real eye for drama.

“We invited the Coble and Keel Boat Society, the North East Maritime Trust, and lots of sailors and fishermen to come.

“We have five cobles coming today so we have authentic 100-year-old fishing vessels featured in the film.”

The Cullercoats Fishlass will have its premiere at the Tyneside Cinema in November and will then be used as an educational tool. It is being made with the help of �1,000-worth of donations from the Northumbria School of English and singer Mark Knopfler.

Stephen said: “The kids wrote to him and told him we were doing the project and he wrote straight back, said he was impressed, and donated. It allowed us to fund the costumes and the props.”

The film is part of the Big Film developed through weekly workshops at the Linskill Centre, North Shields, with emphasis on the local fishing community.

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