If you ever thought that scuba diving in North Devon would be dull then think again. The waters off the coast of Ilfracombe are littered with wrecks and populated by fascinating underwater life. A new short film - Every Dive is an Adventure - introduces members of Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub Aqua Club (ILFSAC) who dive alongside volunteers from Seasearch, surveying marine life as they explore this fascinating underwater landscape.
Film producer Jo Stewart-Smith talks about the inspiration behind this latest addition to the Boat Stories series "I had two people equally passionate about their favourite subject and was torn between whether to focus on exploring undiscovered wrecks or recording marine life in our short film. Luckily, because wrecks which lie on the sea floor act like rocky reefs and become magnets for marine life we are able to reveal a little bit of the excitement of both."
Jo says that the title for this film is a direct quote from ILFSAC Chairman Shaun Galliver who says in the film "Diving off the coast of North Devon is a challenge and we never know what we are going to find - whether we're looking for a new wreck or new marine life - every dive is an adventure."
Galliver, a self-confessed 'wreck head' told Jo about the many wrecks off the North Devon Coast "Around 1910 Cardiff was one of the world's busiest ports and in one year 13 million tonnes of coal or 300 ships a day travelled past Ilfracombe. Many of those either hit rocks or hit each other so we still have a lot of undiscovered wrecks here, we found four last year and even last week we dived two new ones."
He commented that to dive a new wreck, one that no one has touched or seen for 150 years, is amazing and the club can offer that opportunity to its members. ILFSAC has been exploring new wrecks since it was founded in 1960 so its club house is a bit like an Aladdin's cave of treasures from the deep. One of these holds pride of place at the bar; a ship's bell which came from the steamship The George Lamb which came a cropper on the rocks in the late 1800s.
Jo was entranced by the brilliant colours in ILFSAC diver, Maggs Ashton's photographs. Maggs is passionate about photographing this colourful underwater world 'people always say you must have photographed that in the Red Sea, I have trouble convincing people that they are found here in North Devon."
In the film Sally Sharrock tells us about Seasearch, a project which encourages divers to map out the sea bed and survey marine life "We work on the assumption that if we don't know what's there we can't protect it and the only people who see what is down under water are the divers. We train them in basic marine biology so that they know what they are looking for."
Talking about the variety and colourful nature of the marine life Sally says "It's like an old fashioned sweet shop where you have all the jars of different colours on the walls." On this dive she discovers a curious looking Tompot blenny and exclaims "they're always good fun, 'cause they've got a big smiley face!"
Every Dive is an Adventure will be shown on the big screen along with the 9 other Boat Stories Films at a free event on Friday 16 October 2015 at Bideford Cinema, Kingsley School, Bideford - details at www.bidefordcinema.org.uk.
Unsurprisingly, seats are selling fast so if you can't get to the screening you can watch the films online at www.boatstories.co.uk or look out for the DVDs which will be on sale in selected museums and information centres soon.
Ten films in the can and time to celebrate!
The Boat Stories project has successfully completed production of a series of ten short films about fishing and boats in North Devon and we celebrated in style with a VIP reception and public screening event at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe.
The theatre was at full capacity with an audience which included some of the stars of our films, production crews, funders and supporters. As well as an opportunity to view these fabulous short films on the big screen we heard from some of the film makers and contributors about the process of making the films and the subjects therein.
It is time to roll out the red carpet for the series premiere of Boat Stories - ten short films featuring local characters whose lives revolve around boats and fishing in North Devon.
Local film maker Jo Stewart-Smith has joined forces with community film making organisation North Devon Moving Image (NDMI) to tell ten different boat stories. From traditional salmon fishing to the Lundy ferry and from Clovelly to Ilfracombe Jo sought out stories of heritage, politics, sport and family to create a valuable snapshot of life in North Devon today.
As the project comes to a close and the final film sails out of the editing suite it is time to celebrate Boat Stories with a free screening event at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe on Friday 4 September 2015 at 7.30pm.
Amanda McCormack, Creative Director of NDMI is delighted with the project "Jo has worked extremely hard on Boat Stories. From a chance meeting on Woolacombe beach two years ago to this fabulous series of local social documentary films we certainly have a journey to celebrate."
"Boat Stories has been much more than just a film making exercise. Jo has also kept the public up to date with the project in her frequent blogs and photos on the Boat Stories website and this in itself is a great local resource. Additionally, I've been very strict about NDMI's 5 minute running time policy and some of Jo's interviews were too good to end up on the cutting room floor so we have posted the best video clips on the website."
Jo also did a great job of keeping it local, another rigid NDMI rule. She says that one of the best things about working on the project was the opportunity to work with new filmmakers. "Boat Stories was made by four different locally-based freelance cameramen, we had several young talent assistants on camera and sound and we worked with a different local musician for each film."
Jo adds "The biggest highlight though, was the people I met: fishermen, skippers, crews and scientists or conservationists - being welcomed on board for a few hours or whole days and being given a privileged peek into a new world."
"There were lows too: including losing a camera over the cliff on Lundy island on the first day of our three day visit and realising we'd have to wait till the following year to complete the film. On other films we cancelled trips for bad weather and lack of fish, had a couple of seasick cameraman and technical issues with film equipment, but the shows went on!"
Chrissie Ingle, Project Development Officer at North Devon + says "The Boats stories films have shown how intrinsically linked north Devonians are to the sea. These short films, supported by the Northern Devon FLAG, pack a lot into 5 minutes and are funny, engaging and, most importantly, informative. I thoroughly recommend going along to the showing of the films as part of the ‘Sea Ilfracombe’ and ‘Fishtival’ events, they are a treat to see. "
The Boat Stories Premiere is the launch event for Sea Ilfracombe 2015 - a weekend of celebrating all things maritime from 4-6 September. Although this is a free event, tickets must be reserved via the North Devon Theatres box office.
North Devon Moving Image short film project Boat Stories has come up trumps again with Winner Takes All, an exciting short film capturing the thrills of women's gig racing in North Devon.
The five minute documentary, produced by Jo Stewart-Smith with Bideford based film maker Matt Biggs of Artaura Productions, follows Appledore Pilot Gig Club Ladies A Team as they compete on home waters at last year's Appledore Gig Regatta.
When Boat Stories Producer, Jo Stewart-Smith met the Ladies A Team she immediately spotted a good story "I was impressed with the welcome I was given" says Jo "how hard the teams trained through the winter – how competitive they were and yet the friendships they made through the team and the club carried on into their social life so that they were a tight knit group at work and at play. "
Emily Lea, Vice Captain of the team says they were really excited when Jo approached them with the idea of making a film and they are thrilled with the result "The film captures the great passion and incredible dedication members have at Appledore Pilot Gig Club. While watching the film, I went back to those gruelling training sessions, those competitive, goose bump moments where we almost beat our rivals and that sheer feeling of giving all you have got, for those incredible minutes of racing!"
"Rowing is already a popular sport, but with the help of this film, I feel it will promote the sport in a positive light, and encourage more people to get fit, and what better than to row in a boat!"
The sport is popular with both men and women, a lot of Appledore Pilot Gig Club members are married, which brings healthy competition between the sexes. The ladies have three racing teams, A, B and C crews and an intermediate group, who will be forming a D crew this season. There is also a group of 'women of a certain age' and Emily says "We are very lucky to have the amazing "hot flushes" they compete in the vets and super vets races, and often win silverware for the club. We are all very close and it just proves age really doesn't matter when it comes to rowing."
"Women of today are so busy juggling home and work life, rowing is a welcome escape, you can step into the boat in a stressed and bad mood and leave after a good row feeling refreshed, confident and ready to face the world!"
The team's next battle will be in The isle Of Scillies at the World Championships where they will be rowing hard but also celebrating 4 hen dos. Emily notes "This of course will be happening after we have competed. There is a strict rule amongst the woman of no drinking until the last day ... that's the beauty of rowing though, we don't need alcohol to have fun!"
As ever, we are really grateful to our Boat Stories funders: Northern Devon FLAG, Bideford Bridge Trust, Tarka Country Trust, Westcountry Rivers Trust and North Devon +.
Along with the other Boat Stories short films Winner Takes All can be viewed on our films page and at the Boat Stories website www.boatstories.co.uk where you can read more about gig rowing in North Devon and the making of the film.
Salmon Netting on the Taw and Torridge is the second short film to be released in the North Devon Boat Stories series.
Once upon a time catching salmon was a way of life for almost everyone living by the Taw or Torridge rivers in North Devon. The salmon population declined in the rivers over the years and the number of netting licences were restricted. As numbers of salmon in the rivers dwindled further, in 2002, the rods men offered to buy out the remaining nets men. Three boat owners refused the offer and these are the only licensed netters remaining on the estuary today.
This short film is an insight into a disappearing traditional way of life and introduces us to 84 year old Stephen Taylor and his wife Sheila as they cast their seine net for salmon on the River Taw.
Amanda McCormack, Creative Director of North Devon Moving Image, hosts of the Boat Stories project, says "This film is a real gem. It oozes charm both from the charismatic couple and the tranquil scenes on the estuary. It's so important to capture lives like this on film, traditional skills which may well disappear in the future - even in our own lifetimes."
Film producer Jo Stewart-Smith has dug up so much gold when it comes to stories for her films that (rather than file them away) she is sharing them via the Boat Stories website with blogs on the film making, snippets of stories from her subjects and out take video clips.
Jo says "Simon Vacher (the cameraman) and I were inspired by filming this lovely couple working hard together outdoors and having a good laugh. We were also lucky to be in a fantastic location – the Taw & Torridge estuary – with beautiful mellow, evening light."
"I’m not sure I can row a boat against the tide or haul in a heavy salmon net now – let alone at 84! They were so natural when we filmed them – they just got on with the job and let us follow them around."
You can watch the film online at the Boat Stories website www.boatstories.co.uk and it will soon be available for viewing on DVD at Braunton Museum. In September there will be a public screening as part of the Salar the Salmon exhibition at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon where you will also have a chance to meet Steven and Sheila Taylor and hear their stories in person.
Thanks to the positive response to the first two Boat Stories films NDMI has received further funding from Northern Devon FLAG to produce four more films in the Boat Stories series, bringing the total up to ten films. Production will be complete by the end of Summer 2015 and the films will be available free to watch online and at libraries and information centres in North Devon.
Keep up to date with all the latest news from NDMI Creative Director Amanda McCormack.
North Devon Moving Image CIC
Gareth Alvarez, Director
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