Film Details

  • Title: T Dan Smith
  • Date: 1987
  • Genre: Drama Documentary
  • Original Format: 16mm optical
  • Duration: 85 mins
  • Length: 3200'
  • Sound: Yes
  • Colour/BW: Colour
  • Digital Version Available: No


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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



Produced, written & crewed by members of Amber Films

Elaine Drainville
Vivienne Dawson
Dave Eadington
Richard Grassick
Ellin Hare
Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen
Pat McCarthy
Murray Martin
Jane Neatrour
Lorna Powell
Peter Roberts
Ray Stubbs
Judith Tomlinson
Steve Trafford


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
Jack Johnson
Ken Skethaway
Dennis Skinner
George Vickers

Norma Day
Joseph Neatrour
Gwen Doran
Max Roberts
Paul Heslop
Lee Ross
Brian Hogg
Nigel Stanger
Mike Mason
Alan Twelvetree
Dick McCullough
Bob White


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 burrows purposefully through the vice, half-truths and secrecy that pervade politics and power. London Daily News

Associated Work


T Dan Smith (Amber Films, 1987). Follow the link if you would like to buy it.


  1. 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)

  2. Scotswood Road, photographs by Jimmy Forsyth. Follow the link to free online presentation.

  3. T Dan Smith Archive

  4. Six to Midnight (Amber, 1970s, AF/STM), documentary about Newcastle's Grainger Market.

  5. 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.

  6. 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'.

  7. Urban Dreams, photographic exhibition by John Davies

  8. City State, photographic exhibition by John Davies

  9. People in Power, photographic exhibition by Chris Killip

  10. Quayside, photographic exhibtion by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen & Graham Smith

  11. Youth Unemployment in Elswick, photographic exhibition by Tish Murtha (exhibition)

  12. Farewell Squalor, photographic exhibition by Sally-Ann Norman

  13. Newcastle Album by Laurie Wheatley

  14. 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

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Associated Links