Film ID:
NEFA 17585



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Documentary by the Durham University Film Group on working class Northumbrian poet Tom Pickard and the international centre for poets in Morden Tower, Newcastle, founded by the poets Connie and Tom Pickard in March 1964. A narrator describes Pickard’s move to Northumberland, survival as a poet, his influences and events at the Morden Tower poetry centre. The venue has hosted readings by celebrated poets that include Basil Bunting in 1965 and the American beat poets, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso. Footage includes a performance by Alan Jackson and the Living Mythology blues jazz group

Title: Tom Pickard. Northumbrian Poet

Credit: Photographed by George Auckland

Credit: Jon Silkin

Credit: Poems read by Tom Pickard. Alan Jackson

Credit: Music in the Tower by Living Mythology

Credit: Ballad sung by Johnny Handle

Credit: Written and Directed by Peter & Margaret Lewis

Credit: A Durham University Film Group Production

Titles appear over various shots of the Northumbrian countryside near Allendale.

The film opens with a shot of Shield Street in the rural town of Allendale, moving past the Hotspur Hotel. A man in Wellington boots (Tom Pickard) posts a letter at the Allendale Post Office and walks away. A dog peers out of a window flap at the back of a Land Rover. Tom Pickard gets into the “R.S. Patterson & Co 24hR Breakdown Service” Land Rover and drives away, passing the ivy-covered Dale Hotel. General views record the Land Rover as it travels along country roads, intercut with a portrait shot from inside the vehicle. The poet drives, and then walks through the muddy fields of Nether Scotch Hall land to his home in a small farmhouse. His young son runs to meet him.

Inside, Tom and Connie Pickard and their son sit in the living room beside the fire, drinking tea, and looking at the Fulcrum Press book of Basil Bunting’s poems “Briggflatts.” There are close-ups of the book propped on a sofa, a photograph of Bunting and Allen Ginsberg, and a drawing of a poet pinned to the wall. Another shot of a cosy domestic scene by the fire follows. The scene closes with a close-up of the title page of Tom Pickard’s book of poems “High on the Walls,” published in 1968.

Tilt down from the entrance to Morden Tower to Back Stowell Street along the West Walls in Newcastle, where Tom Pickard walks along the lane  towards camera. Various shots follow his progress to Morden Tower. There are interior shots of the messy shelves of books, wall art advertising “Warp” Morden Tower birthday celebration, and notices advertising poetry events. He lights the old-fashioned ceiling gaslights in the room and begins to tidy up. Back outside, he locks up and leaves.

A handwritten poster advertises readings by Alan Jackson and Elaine Feinstein at the Morden Tower. Tom Pickard enters the Northumberland Arms public house in Newcastle with the two poets. There are various shots inside the pub. The male customers look to camera with amusement as a woman in a headscarf pulls a pint behind the bar. A clock reads eight forty. The poets enjoy a drink and a joke in the snug room bar. Pickard chats with a couple of men in another room at the pub.

Exterior shot of the Morden Tower at night. Various shots then record individuals and audience groups inside Morden Tower, along for the poetry readings, as they mingle and chat, one holding a copy of Samuel Beckett’s "Poems In English". The camera pans along seated members of the audience, many smoking, many young, some in the beatnik or hippy fashion of the period.

Poet Alan Jackson reads his poetry. Portrait shots of the poet are intercut with portrait shots of individual members of the audience, listening, smoking. There are shots of individual members of the band Living Mythology as they perform at the centre, playing a tabla, guitar, harmonica and singing. Many in the audience are seated on the floor. The exterior of the Morden Tower is then captured in darkness.

In the next scene, there is a general view of Tom Pickard’s house in the Allendale valley. He strides past camera in his parka coat with his dog and heads across a muddy field. A shot of the entrance to the Morden Tower is followed by a poster for his appearance at The Studio, Fine Arts Society, 51a Saddler Street. There is a final shot of the exterior of the Morden Tower. The film closes with a portrait photograph of Tom Pickard holding onto a strand of barbed wire.

End Title: The End

[Note: NEFA also holds the film We Make Ships (1986) scripted by Tom Pickard and produced by Siren Films].