Song for Billy

In 2017 we completed Song for Billy, a 20 minute film using Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen’s The Coal Coastphotographs and new footage from the beaches of East Durham. It was developed in collaboration with the New York musicians and composers, So Percussion and Easington ex-miner Freddie Welsh.

We’d wanted to make a film with The Coal Coast photographs since the completed exhibition was premiered at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art back in 2003. We’d also been talking about doing a live score film project for a while. When Forma / East Durham Creates suggested a possible Coal Coast collaboration with So Percussion we were more than happy to meet up with them. Sitting round a table in a cafe in Seaham both Amber and So felt the collaboration could work…

Sirkka set to digitising her negs, expanding the range of the imagery. We experimented with timelapse video and the rhythms it generated. We exchanged material with So Percussion, who were writing pieces back in New York. In the middle of this we were drawn to the storytelling of Easington ex-miner Freddie Welsh. A live scored version was premiered in August 2016 at St John’s Church, Seaham, as part of Forma / East Durham Creates’ From Out A Darker Sea, and has since been performed in the USA and toured in England. The standalone version formed part of a Side Gallery exhibition of The Coal Coast in 2017 and has been shown at a number of film festivals

The making of Song for Billy was supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Forma / East Durham Creates and Heritage Lottery Fund.