Friday, 30 July 2010

Review: 'Shed Your Tears & Walk Away' by Jez Lewis

Noticing the Natives in Hebden Bridge

A FEW YEARS AGO my grand-daughter, who lives in the working-class town Todmorden, said she was not going to secondary school in nearby Hebden Bridge because there 'Mi Mum says all the "druggies" come out in the afternoon'. At the time I thought that that was a false view or excuse to keep her out of Hebden based on 'inverted snobbery', imposed upon her by her mother who didn't really care for the middle-class incomers from the South and elsewhere who swarm round the streets of this former small mill town. I didn't at that time believe there was a drug problem in Hebden; in a way I idealised it having first gone there as a kid of ten or eleven around 1950-1, when I was shocked by the broadness of their Yorkshire dialect: living in Lancashire, I'd never heard nowt like it.

It only goes to show that not only are some things 'seen but unnoticed' but that we also hear what people say but don't digest it: 'Shed Your Your Tears & Walk Away' is a film about the genuine natives of Hebden Bridge, the folk I was once dazzled by when I went there to buy tropical fish from old Marnie with my Dad. The children and grandchildren of the people I saw and heard and so admired for their rough talk in 1951, have now been deposed by upper-class incomers.

Mostly it takes place in an exotic setting, near the park, against a dramatic backdrop of a lush green landscape both in the centre of Hebden and in the surrounding hills around Heptonstall, where a former poet laureate used to live, and another poet is buried. Indeed, a lot of the action is played out in front of a newish apartment block where till recently two anarchist incomers, one a member of the Northern Voices editorial panel, used to live. With the mills gone these lads and lassies in the film have become society's rejects - almost foreigners in their own land inhabiting a kind of nether world; a world within a world that most of us walk past without noticing. The town is full of tourists during the day, like nearby Howarth, and where there where once antique shops there are now cafes, bookshops and a sun dial in St. Georges Square.

The film is both directed & narrated by a former native of Hebden, Jez Lewis, who went to London, but came back because he was concerned about his friends from school who where dying at a frighteningly young age. People in the film attack the cultural colonisation of Hebden by incomers, it seems the jobs are just not there for people who make things anymore. Instead, there is a vegan bakers on Market Street, where now an anarcho-syndicalist member of the Solidarity Federation who works at Leeds University and comments on gender politics, goes to buy his vegan croissants in the morning.

Chris Draper commenting yesterday on the above film says that he doesn't expect to include it in his forthcoming feature on Six o' the Best Northern Films in Northern Voicies 12 because it is not a commercial film and is a documentary. There will be a more refective review in the Bit on the Side section of NV12.

1 comment:

bammy said...

Last night Chris Draper, NVs film critic, not having seen this film, is wondering if it is just another reactionary account typical of the British film industry. That is does it just show the reaction of the local down & outs to the incomers without analysing the social circumstances that led to the decline of a generation of Hebden Bridge natives or implying a solution. He says from 'Saturday Night & Sunday Morning' onwards most British films show charaters kicking against the system, but lack any suggestion of a more constructive challenge.