Film Details

  • Title: The Filleting Machine
  • Date: 1981
  • Genre: Drama
  • Original Format: 16mm optical
  • Duration: 41 mins
  • Length: 1200'
  • Sound: Yes
  • Colour/BW: Colour
  • Digital Version Available: No


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The Filleting Machine

Amber Films 1981

Tom Hadaway’s fishing industry screenplay was written for Amber in the early 1970s, along with The Pigeon Man. Both were adapted for the stage, Murray Martin producing and directing tours of working men’s clubs with Live Theatre, the Newcastle-based company that was associated with Amber at the time.

Based on North Shields’ Ridges estate (later renamed Meadow Well), the film explores family tension, ambition and economic change. Amber’s first wholly fictional film, it represented a milestone in the group’s development, the first time it had worked in close liaison with a writer, and actors. Tom Hadaway, who died in 2005, spent a working life on the fish quay. His writings include the television script God Bless Thee, Jacky Maddison and episodes of When the Boat Comes In for the BBC and stage plays such as The Long Line for Live Theatre. His close relationship with Amber saw him writing the screenplays for Seacoal (1985) and In Fading Light (1989).

The film was one of a number of Amber's productions purchased by Channel Four, and in 1983, the Channel commissioned the group to produce a programme which would contextualise the film, and demonstrate the notion of integrated practice. The programme opened with a series of images of the estate where the film was set, over which were laid voices setting out factors relation to unemployment, and bias against women. The concluding section of the programme showed the film being screened and discussed by pupils in a local school with the actors present, followed by a number of filmed discussions on the estate during which a group of housewives debated the accuracy of the film, and unemployed teenagers talked about the woman's attitude towards her husband. The British Film Institute described the programme as an exemplary example of contextualisation.


Made with financial assistance from Northern Arts.


North Shields, Tyne & Wear - Fish Quay and Meadow Well Estate (then known as The Ridges


Camera: Peter Roberts, Peter Woodhouse
Sound: Graham Denman, Roger Buck
Editing: Roger Buck
Director: Murray Martin
Music: 'Where Corals Lie' from Sea Pictures by Elgar

Camera: Peter Roberts
Assistant Camera: Peter Woodhouse, Alan Moir
Sound Recordist: Melanie Chait
Assistant Sound: Elaine Drainville
Electrician: Charles Titchmarsh
Editor: Roger Buck
Production Assisitant: Lorna Powell
Narrator: Ann Orwin
Director: Murray Martin
Made with the help of staff and pupils at Ralph Gardner School, North Shields; Gladys Wilson of The Barn, Meadow Well Adventure Playground, North Shields; Tom Hadaway, Amber Styles, Lyn Crosland and David Heads
Produced by Amber Films for Channel 4


Ma: Betty Hepple
Da: Tom Hadaway
Alice: Lynn Crosland
Davy: David Heads.


Family, Fathers, Fish, Fishing, Industry, Jobs, Meadow Well, North East, North Shields, river, Sons, Tyne, Unemployment, Fish Quay, Mechanisation, Ridges

Reviews and Awards

An Outstanding Film of the Year, London (1982)

Associated Work


  1. Fishing Industry, photographic exhibition by Nick Hedges. Follow links to see a free online presentation of the photographs or to buy the Fishing Industry pack of educational posters.

  2. Let Go, photographic exhibition by Peter Fryer. Follwo link to see a free online presentation.

  3. The One That Didn't Get Away - animation cells for uncompleted film of Tom Hadaway story

  4. Slide set of 42 animation cells for The One That Didn't Get Away, text, shooting scripts, Northern Arts correspondence, description of slides x 2, notes for proposal, background to film, finishing budget, description of line tests, application to Northern Arts (WB 10)

Edgar Lee Collection, photographs by the late C19th/early C20th photographer, including documentation of the North Shields fish quay.

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