Tag Archives: Jason Singh

Drifters: Following the fleet around the coast of Great Britain

I just wanted to drop you a line (geddit? you will in a minute) about a very special silent-film-and-live-music tour happening this summer. You may know Drifters, John Grierson’s silent debut, a gorgeous, choppily edited and Soviet-inspired promotional film for the fishing industry. I would always highly recommend you see with with Jason Singh’s stripped-down “vocal sculpture” score, although I hear it has actually been improved on and expanded since I first saw it in 2012.

Now Singh is taking Drifters to the sea – to the fishing towns that will best recognise the labour and the courage shown in Grierson’s evocative film. He’ll be accompanying the film in a series of special screenings in Leith, Hull, South Shields, Aldeburgh and Great Yarmouth.

Drifters (1929)
Drifters (1929)

The 2017 Following The Fleet: DRIFTERS tour will visit six of the UK’s important fishing ports, re-tracing the historic journey of boats, men and women in pursuit of the once abundant herring shoals. Commencing in the major port of Leith on Saturday 5th August, the tour will then be dropping anchor for a free atmospheric outdoor screening at Hull Marina as part of The Floating Cinema’s ‘In Dialogue’ film programme within Hull UK City of Culture 2017 (10th August), before calling at SeahousesHUB (22nd September), The Customs House, South Shields (24th September), Aldeburgh Cinema (28th September), finishing at SeaChange Arts, Great Yarmouth (30th September).

But there’s more. Shona Thomson of A Kind of Seeing has commissioned site-specific archive film screenings to show alongside the film. Each Drifters event should have a unique appeal to the community it appears in – a really powerful combination of archive film and live music.

  • Leith-based female singing collective Davno will celebrate the major port’s East European connections of the past and present with their ethereal arrangements of traditional songs from Poland, Russia and Ukraine.
  • As part of his On the Bench film series and waterways tour from Sheffield to Hull, Yorkshire artist Harry Meadley will present live narration for a selection from amateur filmmaker John Turner’s Hull Street Scenes film series of the 1950s exploring our presumptions of what ‘archive footage’ might be.
  • Northumberland-based singer/songwriter Andy Craig brings his historical knowledge of the landscape to explore the transformation of the once-thriving fishing village of Seahouses to a busy tourism destination.
  • 21-year-old Aaron Duff – whose deep maritime connections in North Shields through his seafaring grandfather he honours by performing under the name of the last ship under his command Hector Gannet – will perform a new live soundtrack commemorating those lost at sea. Also on the bill is 17-year-old Eve Simpson, a mesmerising and accomplished live performer from South Shields whose passionately political voice will be accompanying films from the North East Film Archive around the role of women in the South Shields and Tyneside port industries.
  • The haunting, raucous and joyous East Anglian ensemble Dead Rat Orchestra bring their own innovative blend of folk and improvisation to explore the urgent issue of coastal erosion around Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
  • A group of fresh, talented performers from the Portuguese-speaking community of Great Yarmouth accompanying films of the golden days of the 1950s seaside resort, reflecting on the changes the town has seen and is still going through.

To find out more, and to book tickets, visit the website.

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Sonic Cinema: Drifters (1929) with Jason Singh at the BFI

Drifters (1929)
Drifters (1929)

UPDATE:  This event has been rescheduled for 5 November 2012.

In November, the BFI will release a dual-format DVD/Blu-Ray edition of an intriguing double-bill: Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) and John Grierson’s Drifters (1929). It’s the second instalment of the BFI’s The Soviet Influence series, which has the stated aim of revealing the impact of 1920s Russian films on later British film-makers.

Drifters premiered at the Film Society on November 10, 1929, on the same bill as Battleship Potemkin, which was receiving its British premiere. Grierson had previously produced an English language version of Eisenstein’s film for its American screening and the influence of Eisenstein is clearly revealed in Drifters.

To tide us over until the home video release, we have a screening of Drifters, a film about herring fishing, and fishermen, directed by the father of the British documentary movement, John Grierson:

Like Potemkin, Drifters employs montage in an expressive manner, creating dramatic tension in the absence of any psychological characterisation. Both films also use ‘types’ (non-professional actors) instead of actors in order to create a more ‘authentic’ reality, and both films make use of extensive location shooting. Grierson, nevertheless, always stressed that he was keen to make a film with distinctively ‘British’ characteristics, which he saw as moderation and a sense of human importance. Drifters is, therefore, slower paced than Potemkin, and focuses on more mundane, less inherently dramatic events. (BFI Screenonline)

I am resisting making a “red herring” gag, but you should feel free to do so. This NFT1 screening of Drifters will be accompanied by a live score from Jason Singh, a recording of which will also be presented with the film on the disc. Singh is a “beatboxer, vocal sculptor and sound artist”, and his score combines both live and prerecorded vocals with all manner of processing and sampling. You can read more here, and watch a snippet of Singh in action below. I think you’ll agree it’s very atmospheric.