Amber Films 1983
When Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen came to the North East of England in 1969 as a founder member of Amber, she set up home in Byker, a working class part of Newcastle upon Tyne. As she began to document the terraced community, she became aware of the plans for its demolition, to make way for the building of the Byker Wall, designed by architect Ralph Erskine. This lent urgency to her work, which continued over until the early 1980s and the completion of the new estate. The house where she was living was knocked down in 1976.
In 1981 Amber began work on the film which, drawing on Sirkka’s images and interviews, on documentary footage and dramatisation, evokes an entire era in British working class life. It is an intimate portrait of a community faced with redevelopment.
The Byker project began with a £150 grant from Northern Arts, and a rent free hairdressing salon in Raby Street from the city council, which Sirkka turned into a studio for free portraits. In 1972 a two year Fellowship in Creative Photography for Sirkka from the Northern Gas Board and Northern Arts brought the collective an income of £2000 a year, but it also meant that Sirkka had to work for the Gas Board part of her time.
Book, exhibition and film were published/released in 1983. When shown on television Byker attracted condemnation by some city councillors, outraged at the promotion of working class culture. The work connects with that on Quayside (1979) and T Dan Smith (1987). Both Sirkka and Amber are currently back in Byker, developing a new exhibition and publication, together with a series of films exploring the Byker Wall Estate, regeneration and cultural change in Urban Tyneside.
Made under the auspices of the ACTT Workshop Declaration with financial assistance from Northern Arts and Channel Four Television.
Byker, elsewhere in Newcastle upon Tyne & North Shield
Director: Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen
Production Manager: Murray Martin
Production Assistant: Lorna Powell
Lighting Camera: Peter Roberts
Assistant Camera: Peter Woodhouse
Sound: Elaine Drainville & Graham Denman
Editor: Ellin Hare
Assistant Editor: Elaine Drainville
Electrician: Charles Titchmarsh
Script Development: Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen & Peter Roberts
Made under the auspices of the ACTT Workshop Agreement
Financial assistance from Channel 4
Narration: Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen
Singers: Morton, Mary Wallace, Vince McLaughlan, Sara Hepple & Jimmy Heads in the Ballarat, North Shields; Martha Bulman and the Jollygirls in the Bird's Nest Social Club, Walker; Dazza Robson, Dazza Trainer, Mark Hutchinson and Graham McCartney in the Byker Youth Club; Jimmy Walker and Adelia Walker in Olley's Bar, Newcastle; Gwen Doran
Architecture, Community, Conservation, Demolition, Housing, newcastle, North East, Photography, Planning, Pub, Ralph Erskine, Redevelopment, Singing, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Tyne, Tyneside, Wash House
Reviews and Awards
International Critics Award & Special Town of Leipzig Award (1984)
Grand Prix, Tampere (1985)
Best Documentary, Troia (1985)
Byker, photographic exhibition and book by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen. Follow links to see a free online presentation of the photographs or to buy the book.
Byker Revisited, photographic exhibition and book by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen (2009). Follow link to buy the book.
Quayside (Amber, 1979, AF/QUA), documentary about Newcastle's Quayside.
T Dan Smith (Amber, 1987, AF/TDS), documentary thriller made with the North East politician, jailed for corruption in 1974, who is most associated with Newcastle's planning and architectural developments in the 1960s.
Mouth of the Tyne (Amber, 2009), documentary cut of interviews with T Dan Smith and others, following Smith's life up until 1974.
Today I'm With You (Amber, 2010), documentary rising out of Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen's Byker Revisited work.
Byker, collection of historical photographs.
Lambton Visual Aids Slide Collection (24 slides per set):
LVA 4084 - Working Class Terraced Housing Leeds & Newcastle
LVA 4085 - Working Class Terraced Housing, Manchester
LVA 4086 - Working Class Terraced Housing Sunderland & South Shields
LVA 4087- Modern Urban Housing Hulme & Ardwick, Manchester
LVA 4088 - Modern Urban Housing Byker I
LVA 4089 - Modern Urban Housing Byker II
LVA 4090 - Modern Urban Housing Byker III
LVA 4091- Modern Urban Housing Byker IV
LVA 4092 - Modern Urban Housing Killingworth
LVA 4093 - Modern Urban Housing Peterlee
LVA 4094 - Modern Urban Housing Park Hill & Hyde Park, Sheffield
LVA 4099 - Eldon Square Shopping Precinct
For a monthly changing selection of films and videos by Amber and its friends, visit www.sidetv.net.
For more information about Amber and its film and photographic work, visit www.amber-online.com