Wading to Shipley is a 12 minute film by Steve Bottoms, with music by Eddie Lawler. View in HD for best results (minimum 720p). Full contextualisation follows.
At root, this short film has a simple goal which we hope is obvious — to make visible the condition of a stretch of Bradford Beck on its way into Shipley, a stretch which usually remains largely invisible, because it is so inaccessible to foot traffic. The film shows both the neglected, polluted condition of the river, but also – we hope – its potential as a site of considerable beauty, if it could be better cared for, better appreciated, and made more accessible. In this respect, the film seeks actively to support the campaigning work of the recently formed Friends of Bradford’s Becks.
Wading to Shipley began life as a longer video of unedited raw feed — shot in September 2012 — showing a wobbly, handheld-camera journey down Bradford Beck. The starting point was a spot near the end of Canal Road, in the area between Frizinghall and Shipley proper, and the journey then moved downstream to central Shipley, finishing at the point where the Leeds-Liverpool Canal aqueduct crosses over the Beck. This unedited video was made to be screened on board the Angus Ferguson community barge as part of the Blue Route performance for our Multi-Story Water tour cycle.
That is, while the boat made its way down the Leeds-Liverpool Canal from Hirst Lock to the mouth of the Bradford Canal (eventually crossing the acqueduct over the Beck), the video displayed on the Angus Ferguson’s built-in TV screen showed a parallel journey down the Beck to the same crossing point. As was explained to passengers, we wanted our performances to embrace all three of Shipley’s key waterways, but it was impossible for us to lead a walk along (let alone take a boat along) Bradford Beck, because it is so boxed off and hidden away. The only way to walk along the Beck is to walk in it, so we did it with a camera so that audiences could experience it vicariously.
Wading to Shipley, as its title suggests, maintains the basic trajectory of the original journey, but edits it down into a more compressed and digestible form for viewing on its own. (Some shots from further upstream are also included in the opening montage.) The film also echoes the structure of our Blue Route performances, insofar that the soundtrack presents a kind of back-and-forth exchange between Eddie Lawler‘s music and my (Steve Bottoms‘s) commentary (Eddie and I were the two ‘live’ performers on the boat). I am greatly indebted to my friend and former colleague Lee Dalley (University of Leeds) for his careful editing work during the summer of 2013, which has done so much to create this sense of dialogue between music and narrative.
If I were to get all technical for a moment (and by all means stop reading here if you want to!), I might also argue that this is a short film that echoes the conditions of live performance. I am, after all, a theatre maker, so what I’ve tried to make here is something that presents an interplay between absence and presence, as theatre always does (some things happen onstage, other things are reported as happening offstage). So while the camera shows only the river and its surroundings (present/onstage), my commentary also draws attention to the physical labour and risk involved in wading downstream to capture this sometimes perilously wobbly footage (even though I remain visually absent/offstage – except when present as a shadow or voice). I’m interested in this kind of point-of-view filmmaking, because it avoids the god-like “omniscience” of traditional visual narratives (seeing lots of things from lots of angles), and instead embeds the viewing position as a limited, human-scale perspective within the landscape or environment.
Anyway, we hope you enjoy the film. Feel free to share it around! Thanks.