The Warm Glow of Home: Making 'Litre of Light' in Durham Cathedral for Lumiere Durham 2015
As many of you will know, I spent much of November filming Durham-based light artist Mick Stephenson as he built his most ambitious work to date in Durham Cathedral's Cloisters. 'Litre of Light' - a full-scale replica of the cathedral's famous rose window - was his contribution to Lumiere Durham 2015.
Well, my film is now cut and wrapped and available for your viewing pleasure right here:
When I began shooting the film I didn't really know where I was going with it. I had a few ideas of course, and my initial interview with Mick flagged up several promising themes to pursue. The most apparent "drama" of the whole process was the very real possibility that Mick and his team would not be able to source enough empty plastic bottles to complete the sculpture in time for the grand opening of the Lumiere festival (I even made a quick appeal video during this time to help out). With a last-minute surge in bottle donations the piece was of course completed in the final hours before the special preview was scheduled to begin, and the rest is history. Litre of Light was a huge hit throughout the festival and over the course of the its stay in the cathedral raised over £2000 in donations to its host building and the charity MyShelter Foundation that runs the international project Liter of Light (which loans its name to Mick's sculpture and which he talks about in the film- the two distinguished on paper only by the respective English and American spelling of the word litre/liter).
Once the festival (and therefore my period of filming) was over I set about looking through the many hours of footage I'd shot, trying to divine where the best story to tell lay. I was distracted however by the fact that around the same time I embarked upon this project I'd also met with Ian Wylie, editor of quarterly North East journal The Northern Correspondent. We discussed the possibility of me, together with photographer Nat Wilkins, contributing something to the yet-to-be-established video journalism wing of the publication. December's issue of The Northern Correspondent would carry the theme of 'Home' and with my Lumiere shoot over, I had to come up with something quickly if I wanted to submit anything before it went to print.
I hadn't expected there to be any overlap at all between my film of Mick's creation and the theme of Home, but as I watched my footage and listened to my interview with Mick I was pretty startled by the fact that not only did there seem to be some appropriate material to work with, but that in fact seeing the footage through the filter of the idea of Home drew out some of the most compelling and evocative moments I had witnessed during the making of Litre of Light. Not only was I fascinated by Mick's home/workshop hybrid, his family of helpers/collaborators/multi-talented neighbours - and the fact that all of this was happening in the corner of an old council estate at the bottom of an ex-mining village just outside his home town - but that in fact the idea of "home" was at the very core of MyShelter's Liter of Light project, which Mick's sculpture was promoting. Suffice to say I'm pleased not only to have been able to fit my Lumiere project to The Northern Correspondent Issue #6's theme of Home without really having to force anything, but also that it allowed me the opportunity to see Mick's project from a perspective I may very well have otherwise missed.
I'm also very excited to be part of The Northern Correspondent's first foray into video journalism and I really hope that this side of the publication will grow, attracting more filmmakers and video journalists in the region to contribute moving image to future issues. The Northern Correspondent's ethos is unique in the North East and I think that ethos has great potential to translate well to a form of video journalism that asks a little more time, space and reflection of its audience than perhaps most online news videos do. For my own part I've looked more than once to The Intercept's new video journalism platform Field of Vision as a potential model (or at least source of inspiration) for such work.
Finally I'd like to point you toward a very thoughtfully written reflection on Mick's piece - and the donation box that was set up alongside it (which asked visitors to write a message and put it into a bottle) - by Revd. Canon Dr. James Francis of Durham Cathedral (he's the chap telling visitors about the charitable work of Litre of Light in my film, having very kindly allowed me to attach a wireless microphone to him as he did so). Jim read every one of the 2,000+ messages written during Lumiere and has grouped a small selection of them into the broad themes that he found recurring (for example there were many messages about the Paris tragedy, which happened at the time of the festival).
Thanks and Acknowledgements
My enormous gratitude to Mick Stephenson for his openness and generosity in allowing me unconditional access to film the making of his 'Bottle-Rose' - thanks Mick. Thanks also to Mick, Gareth, Stuart, Katie and Jim for their time and willingness to be interviewed on camera for the film. Thanks too to Carlo, Cassie, David, Helen, Mick's mum and his four grandchildren for their participation. Big thanks to Diggy Wilson for her invaluable inquisition skills during Mick's main interview and thanks to Mike Smith for his invaluable camera/grip assistance while I was filming the festival. Thanks to MyShelter founder Illac Diaz, Tripti Aggarwal of Liter of Light Bangalore and Zikry Kholil of Incitement for their help sourcing footage of the Litre of Light project in action around the world, and thanks to Matej Valtr (via Incitement), Timothy Gabb (GabflyMEDIA) and Shashank Bhosale (via Liter of Light) for their images promoting the great work of the Liter of Light project.