The Queen’s Rink Ballroom in the north east coastal town of Hartlepool is no more. It closed its doors in 1968.
I spent 2 years researching and working on a multi screen video installation, premiered in Hartlepool Gallery, with the intention of creating my own narrative out of the recall of others. It was an all consuming process and one that, by its very nature, was bound to be partial. I kept an ongoing blog journal (here) and this formed the basis of a book I also published for the show. Additionally, I produced a record and wrote a song in 40's period style for the Hartlepool based Big Band ‘Musicians Unlimited’ – see the BOOKS - MUSIC - LINKS section on this site.
First shown July-August 2013 Hartlepool Gallery - Toffee Factory Newcastle upon Tyne November 2013
In all there were 15 videos made for this project. The final show included other 2D and 3D artwork, music and an interactive message wall where visitors could contribute their memories.
This space was the former Queen's Rink Ballroom, now just a patch of grass next to the football ground. A much loved venue in a once thriving industrial town, it spanned two world wars and one beat revolution. Many people met their future spouses there and its legacy is still felt by those both old enough to remember it first hand and others young enough to appreciate its significance generations later.
As Nancy put it " looking at the Rink from the outside it looked like a garage or aeroplane hangar to any stranger passing. They could have no idea of the tremendous pleasure the inside held for all who went there"
Betty loves to dance. Even now she says "well I go to a dance on a Wednesday afternoon...even if I feel like it or not I still go and I think, oh well I'll sit and listen to the music, and then I find myself getting up to dance...can't help it when you hear music." Filmed in the Borough Hall on the Headland in Hartlepool.
I filmed the residents of 2 retirement homes in Hartlepool on numerous occasions over 18 months, participating in the dance project linked to the Queen's Rink Ballroom. Many were to take part in a special event day to remember the happy days of that pivotal, magical space. This piece then passes into the dress rehearsal of their younger counterparts, mirrored across time, destined as they are to come together for the same event, in the same space, in the same time.
Mole really is his surname; quite apt for a man called up to be a Bevin Boy down the pits during the war. Ironic too, since he actually wanted to be a market gardener. Stoically optimistic through the ups and downs, a mechanical bird sound punctuates the soundtrack as time streams, and Lenny sits surrounded by all that is, and was, dear to him.
Kip Heron was a local Hartlepool legend and he actually played in George Martin's band during the Beatles heyday, or so a visitor to the museum told me as I was taking stills for this piece.
At the beginning I am talking to John and Roland from the Hartbeats, themselves former pro musicians from Hartlepool, as we go looking for Kip's café. We don't quite find it, but get near enough to smell the pies. We re-order fragments from the past. The soundtrack also features Paul Flush, a renowned Hammond organ player originally from Hartlepool and now living in Belgium, who was probably the youngest player to ever play the Rink.
Very few photos exist of the Queen's Rink Ballroom days. One of the few that does comes from the early 60's and concentrates mainly on the audience in the foreground, but in the soft depth of field, focus fuzzed background, it is possible to make out the group Manfred Mann playing on the 3ft stage. It reminded me of David Hemmings in the Antonioni film Blow-Up where he discovers a body in the undergrowth by enlarging his negative to the extreme of the reticulated dots. It seemed like a good idea to see if I could track down the Manfreds in a similar way - which I did - and then presented them with their past from 50 years previously. This is the result.