Film Details

  • Title: In Fading Light
  • Date: 1989
  • Genre: Drama
  • Original Format: 16mm optical
  • Duration: 103 mins
  • Length: 3900'
  • Sound: Yes
  • Colour/BW: Colour
  • Digital Version Available: No


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In Fading Light

Amber Films 1989

When Amber film and photography collective decided to work in North Shields, the group bought a pub. When it wanted to make a film about the town’s fishing industry, it bought the Sally, a 63 foot anchor seine netter. Actors coming for auditions found themselves at sea for days, gutting fish. When the story required a storm sequence, cast, crew and fishermen set sail, into the teeth of a force 9 gale, tripods anchored to the deck. Writer Tom Hadaway had a lifetime’s experience on the fish quay. Filmmakers and actors brought a commitment to authenticity that was almost heroic. In Fading Light captures the Shields fishing industry on the edge of its decline, a beautifully shot film about work and community.

The film centres on the upheaval caused in a traditional fishing community by the unexpected arrival of a young woman. A tale of epic proportions, life and death, emotional conflict, told with a documentary realism that denies melodrama. Tom Hadaway's tragic/comic dialogue, the stunning visual quality (it took months to overcome the problems of filming at sea, something that has very rarely if ever been attempted in a drama of this scale), and the veracity of the performances combine, not just to tell a moving story, but to give the audience experience of a way of life.


Made under the auspices of the ACTT Workshop Declaration with financial assistance from Northern Arts and Channel Four Television.


North Shields; North Se


Kitty Fitzgerald
Rich Grassick
Ellin Hare
Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen
Pat McCarthy
Murray Martin
Lorna Powell
Peter Roberts

Screenplay: Tom Hadaway

Sound Recordist: Dave Eadington
Production Assistants: Annie Clark, Viv Dawson, Jane Neatrour, Annie Robson, Lynn Silmon
Art Director: Judith Tomlinson
Camera Assistants: Mick Duffield, Peter Woodhouse
Continuity: Wendy McEvoy
Electricians: Tony Cook, Alan Fish
Grips: Geoff Scott, Ray Stubbs
Caterers: L + N Catering, Mark Snaith, Val Taylor

Original Music: Alasdair Robertson, Ray Stubbs
Musical Director: Alasdair Robertson
Musicians: Catherine Holmes, Alasdair Robertson, Ray Stubbs, Wendy Weatherby
Sound Engineer: Frank Gibbon
Recorded at Saltmine Studio, Co. Durham
Use of 'Strange Boat' & 'Fishermen's Blues' by kind permission of Ensign Records, performed by The Waterboys

Davy Butterfield
Tony Chester
Jimmy Cullen Snr
Jimmy Cullen Jnr
Terry McDermott
Davy Miller
NB The Sally was the Amber fishing boat bought and run for the production Davy Butterfield, Tony Chester, Jimmy Cullen Snr, Jimmy Cullen Jnr, Terry McDermott, Davy Miller

Made under the auspices of the ACTT Workshop Declaration Financial assistance: Northern Arts & Channel 4


Karen Olsen: Joanna Ripley
Alfie Olsen: Dave Hill
Dandy Mac: Sammy Johnson
Micky Molloy: Brian Hogg
Betty: Amber Styles
Irene: Mo Harold
Yopper: Joe Caffrey
Peter Parkin: Art Davies
Kitchen Lady: Norma Day
Clerk: Mike Mason
Barmaid: Cilla Mason
Ray: Ray Stubbs
Pool Player: Gavin Kitchen
Big Man: Peter Morrison
Taxi driver: Steve Evans
Quaymaster: Brendan Healey
Tracy: Anna-Maria Gascoigne
Tracy's mates: Jacqui Clairemont, Lisa Sanderson.


Fishing, Industry, North East, North Shields, river, Tyne, Fish, North Sea, Seine Net, Boat, Storm

Reviews and Awards

Silver Medal, New York (1990)

Silver Anchor, Toulon (1991)

DVD of the Year, DVD Times 2005


British cinema has made notable past efforts to document the fisherman's hardy life, yet compared to the Amber Film's briny air, Man of Aran and the like might almost be drawing room comedies. ... This is a forceful portrait of an imperilled way of life and a British film to be reckoned with. Geoff Brown, The Times

Triumphant tale ... without being either patronising or's a pleasure to see. Derek Malcolm, The Guardian

An astonishingly assured work which lends new edge to the cliche about gritty realism. The smell of the icy salt spray bursting over the rails of its fishing boat practically explodes off the screen...leads us gently into the most intimate corners of its characters' lives. Peter Calder, New Zealand Herald

Not since Mick Grigsby's, A Life Apart and Deckie Learner, have the rigours of life on a trawler been so vividly captured... Julian Petley, Sight and Sound

Associated Work


In Fading Light (Amber Films, 1989). Follow the link if you would like to buy it.


  1. Let Go, photographic exhibition by Peter Fryer, commissioned in parallel with the development of the film. Follow the link to see a free online presentation.

  2. The Making of In Fading Light (Amber 2005 - DVD extra)

  3. North Shields Residency (Amber Films 2005 - DVD extra)

  4. Documentation of shoot by Peter Fryer

  5. Fishing Industry, photographic exhibition by Nick Hedges, follow link to free online presentation.

  6. Fishing Industry, educational poster pack using the photographs of Nick Hedges and others, developed for schools in North Tyneside to coincide with the work on In Fading Light. Follow link if you would like to buy it.

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