T Dan Smith
Amber Films 1987
An experimental mix of thriller and documentary, subtitled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Utopia, the film explores the scandal that centred on the 1960s Leader of Newcastle City Council, The Mouth of the Tyne, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment in 1971 for corruption. Undoubtedly a dynamic and visionary politician, Smith handled the Public Relations affairs of architect John Poulson, who won building design contracts by bribing City Councillors.
Made over a two year period, in close collaboration with Smith himself, it reveals a complex depth to the man, and raises questions about PR, parliamentary consultancies, and the hidden, informal power structure that ties in businessmen with politicians, both local and national.
Two journalists interview Smith and other key players, exploring and interrogating the story of the Trotskyists in Newcastle City Council, the claims of MI5 collusion, cover-up for cabinet ministers and the unseen role of the Privy Council as a power above parliament. Meanwhile, across the city, Jack Cross, a builder, meets with the local Tory MP and the Labour Leader of the Council to try and keep the lid on a scandal that will ruin all of them. The fictional story centres on a high rise block, jerry-built and crumbling after only fifteen years. As this parallel drama of double-dealing and deceit unfolds, it becomes clear that things are little changed since Dan Smith himself enjoyed easy access to the shadowy world of the Establishment's informal and illicit operations. Indeed, Smith makes it clear to the investigating journalists, that in his opinion, what he was imprisoned for has been made easier and become more widespread than ever before.
Made under the auspices of the ACTT Workshop Declaration with financial assistance from Northern Arts and Channel Four Television.
Newcastle upon Tyne, including the Mining Institute and Amber's premises
Gateshead, including St Cuthbert's Estate and The Central Hotel
North Shields, including the New Clarendon (the pub Amber bought and ran during its North Shields residency)
Houses of Parliament, London
AMBER PRODUCTION TEAM
Produced, written & crewed by members of Amber Films
Composed and arranged: Ray Stubbs (on original theme, 'Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny')
Musicians: Ray Stubbs, Gordon Railton, Bernie Walsh.
Production Assistant: Peter Woodhouse
Camera Assistant: John Pinkney
Electricians: Brian McEvoy, Charles Titchmarsh
Dubbing Mixer: Colin Martin
Catering: Daley Bread
Still photographs: Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Jimmy Forsyth.
Made under the auspices of the ACTT Workshop Declaration
Financial assistance from Northern Arts, Channel Four television and the British Film Institute.
Councillor Alan Deal: Art Davies
Jack Cross: Dave Hill
Jeremy Maudlsley-Long: Christopher Northey
Murray: Murray Martin
Steve: Steve Trafford
Councillor Albert: Harry Herring
Councillor Edith: Cilla Mason
Newscaster: Elizabeth Mansfield
Home Secretary: Ralph Nossek
Resident and paper seller: Ray Stubbs
Cleaner: Amber Styles
Alan Deal's Wife: Kay Wight
T Dan Smith
Architecture, Conservation, Local Authority, newcastle, North East, Planning, Politics, Tyne, Development, Sixties, Corruption, Political, Conspiracy, MI5, Council, Poulson, Trotskyism, Trotskyist, Privy Council, System Building, Housing Estate
Reviews and Awards
Royal Television Best Network Programme (1988)
It opens up fascinating areas of political debate... A remarkable development for Amber Films and marks a distinctive advance on the straight-forward documentary approach... Julian Petley, Monthly Film Bulletin
Blunt but effective... an eternally fascinating part of the political scene... ably captures the ambivalence of the man and the political enigmas created by his decline and fall. The Independent
An intriguing film. The Guardian
T. Dan Smith is among the most interesting and socially relevant of contemporary films... Judith Williamson, New Statesman
A powerful and fascinating film which raises many pertinent questions about the power structure and financial wheeler-dealing behind local and central government and the 'art' and 'objectivity' of documentary film-making. Felicity Sparrow, City Limits
Gritty and stylised...it burrows purposefully through the vice, half-truths and secrecy that pervade politics and power. London Daily News
T Dan Smith (Amber Films, 1987). Follow the link if you would like to buy it.
Video and film interviews with T Dan Smith, Jack Johnson, Ken Skethaway and Roy Hadwin (edited cut of these in Amber's Mouth of the Tyne, 2009)
Scotswood Road, photographs by Jimmy Forsyth. Follow the link to free online presentation.
T Dan Smith Archive
Six to Midnight (Amber, 1970s, AF/STM), documentary about Newcastle's Grainger Market.
The Case for Rapid Transit (Amber, 1970s), film made for the Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive, outlining the case for what would become the Tyne & Wear Metro.
Town Council/Newcastle City Council (footage from 1970s incl 'Development', 'Scotswood Demolition', 'Under Byker Bridge', 'Cale Cross House', 'Eldon Square Demolition', 'YMCA/Old Town Hall Demolition', 'Monument'.
Urban Dreams, photographic exhibition by John Davies
City State, photographic exhibition by John Davies
People in Power, photographic exhibition by Chris Killip
Quayside, photographic exhibtion by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen & Graham Smith
Youth Unemployment in Elswick, photographic exhibition by Tish Murtha (exhibition)
Farewell Squalor, photographic exhibition by Sally-Ann Norman
Newcastle Album by Laurie Wheatley
Lambton Visual Aids (24 slides per set):
LVA 4000 - Newcastle Regency
LVA 4001 - Early & Mid Victorian
LVA 4002 - Late Victorian and Edwardian
LVA 4065 - Architectural Embellishments I
LVA 4066 - Architectural Embellishments II
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