I am sure it is not often that the AA feature in film credits. However, a careful observer will see them being thanked at the end of our film, ‘The Hidden Artists of Barnsley’, which has been skilfully directed by volunteer Conor Ramskill.

The film was made in late summer and early autumn 2013, meaning that one challenge faced by our crew was to adapt to ever changing light and temperature conditions. This, however, proved to be relatively minor in comparison to the other challenges which arose.

Take, for example, Day 3 (20/08/2013). Wortley church yard was our destination, our mission: to film a scene about the life of Archibald Wortley. Sandwiches packed, kit and people loaded, the valiant Volvo set off down the M1 in plenty of time for a 10am start.

Alerted by a sudden smell, which for once was not coming from the greyhounds who usually sleep in the back, the car drew to a halt. Disaster was on the horizon as one dedicated volunteer was already in Wortley, having been pressured into returning there for a second time as the camera battery had failed the previous day.

Keen not to allow a flat rear tyre to interfere with their schedule, the crew, with their tackle, were soon climbing the embankment, through blackberries, onto a motorway bridge. The idea behind this was to find a recognisable place from which to book a taxi to Wortley. Unfortunately, the bridge’s location was decidedly rural and it took a long, hot march to Birdwell before a taxi could be summoned.

Another issue which perplexed the film’s producers was where to find someone in their eighties prepared to play John Spencer Stanhope. As it happened, the answer was just across the road. This volunteer not only took in his stride being thrust in front of the camera with very little notice, but appeared resplendent in his own magnificent costume.

Some of BAYD’s management group and, of course, their relatives, were keen to help out on the acting front. Apart from a pre-existing knowledge of the artists, many of these volunteers brought to the film a complete inability to learn a script. Accordingly, the unseen heroes of our film are: an ironing board, along which A4 sheets of lines were stuck; a fireplace – ditto and, best of all, a leather desk blotter, claiming to be a sketch pad, which cunningly concealed scripts in more than one scene. So, when you see someone bending down to admire an artist’s work, do try to forget that they are just refreshing themselves on their lines.

Thankfully there were brilliant exceptions – notably the versatile Jon Barber, who appears both bearded and un-bearded, and was word perfect throughout. Our young volunteers, too, were extremely professional and demonstrated great patience and tolerance towards their older co-actors who consistently failed to feed them their cues.

Sourcing props and costumes for a film covering 250 years was yet another challenge. Could a nightdress bought at House of Fraser really become a Regency dress? Well, yes it could – can you spot it?

They say an army marches on its stomach – well so do cast and crew, and one of the more unusual tasks for our project administrator was to get the correct fillings in the sandwiches and, most importantly, remember the director’s ketchup. The ever-changing size of the crew led to some over-catering. Fortunately, certain cast members seemed to work up huge appetites whilst filming their two minute scenes, with the result that no sausage sandwich went uneaten.

Filming was certainly never boring. Thankfully, the director remained in good temper when others would have given up all hope. The organisation (though fluid) was completely brilliant …and, most importantly, we got there in the end. Hurrah! And thank you all!


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