Case Study: Beyond Borders – Drifters on Tour by Field Music
In 2013, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival commissioned the Mercury Prize nominated, North East based, band Field Music to compose a new cinematic score for the seminal silent documentary, Drifters, by John Grierson. Widely acknowledged as the first British narrative documentary, and originally shown alongside Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, the 1929 film kick-started what would become known as Grierson’s documentary film movement. Drifters is a quite remarkable depiction of the unquestionably tough reality the North Sea herring fisherman of the time faced, largely focusing on their battles within the hostile environment from the Shetland Islands to the North Sea.
Thanks to the impact of the original performance back in 2013, our Beyond Borders programme here at the PRS Foundation was a perfect fit for the project, and we were thrilled to help it tour the UK. A screening of Drifters, with live accompaniment by Field Music, travelled to independent cinemas and art spaces Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, Queen’s Theatre in Belfast, Irish Film Institute in Dublin, Glasgow Film Theatre in Glasgow and Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea.
“Music For Drifters is another fine showcase for the prodigious talents of this Sunderland twosome.”
– Joe Banks, The Quietus
“Fantastic event and evening – different to the norm, would like to see more events like this.” (Male, age 26-34)
“More of this please!” (Female, age 26-34)
“Unusual, memorable – more of the same please.” (Male, age 35-44)
Catching up with the creators:
Speaking to London In Stereo , Peter Brewis discussed his thoughts on the project as a whole now that it’s completed:
“I did worry what people would think, if they’d ask why we were involved in a project centred around a 1929 silent documentary about fishing, and why we were playing these obviously out of kilter rock instrumentals. Those two things just shouldn’t go together but I hope that what shines through is us trying to communicate the movement of the film in a way in which we know best – the way we could best give some kind of aural meaning to the film was by doing those things. I’m glad we didn’t go down the folky, or cinematic, or knowingly soundscape-y route because I think the one we took was actually the best that we could have done it.”
Speaking to the Berwick Film Festival about the project, David Brewis said:
“It’s incredibly exciting to be given the opportunity to tour Drifters, as writing and performing the original commission for Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in 2013 was a true pleasure, culminating in a wonderful evening. We are delighted that we can do it all again at some truly lovely cinemas and art spaces around the country, and very thankful to the Festival and PRS for Music Foundation for making it all possible!”
What happened next?
The band revisited their original improvisation and recorded the score for a limited release on Record Store Day earlier this year. On silver vinyl and with impressive accompanying artwork, the Memphis Industries release can be purchased here.
The band have now released a digital version of the soundtrack, listen to the full album here on Spotify.