Blog Image




A Day in Liverpool – Film screening with live score

Film, Space & Place, Talks & Presentations Posted on 15 Sep, 2019 11:06:32

On Saturday 14 September I attended a screening of two archive film projects that were performed with a live score at the Bluecoat in Liverpool.

The first, Tracks by the composer Luke Moore, featured footage shot of and from the Liverpool Overhead Railway that included the first ever moving images of Liverpool, filmed by the Lumière cameraman Alexander Promio. The film also included some stunning 3D animation of the railway and surrounding urban landscape by the artist Steven Wheeler (

The main feature, Anson Dyer’s 1929 ‘city symphony’, A Day in Liverpool, was screened with a live score performed by composer and songwriter Aidan Smith. I had seen this film many times before, but seeing it for the first time, on a big screen, with a much-needed score transformed the film and brought it alive in ways that a mute viewing on a laptop simply cannot match.

I was invited by Anselm Burke to take part in a post-screening discussion along with Luke, Steven, and Aidan. Interesting chat afterwards with people sharing their memories of the Overhead Railway.

Below is a short piece about A Day in Liverpool that I was asked to write by way of background to the film for those attending:

A Day in Liverpool

As a ‘city symphony’, although it is not quite in the same league as such classics as A Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929), A Day in Liverpool undoubtedly qualifies inasmuch as it showcases some of the genre’s key features and motifs. Like Man With a Movie Camera (which, not coincidentally, was also made in 1929), A Day in Liverpool goes out of its way to give a sense of the city’s rhythms as orchestrated by the director and editor (or should this be ‘conductor’?). It does this by drawing on the dynamism and seemingly inexhaustible energy of a city at work (and, to a lesser extent, at play). Structured around the working day, the film ebbs and flows with the activities of office workers (their hurried footsteps streaming up the steps of the Port of Liverpool Building), dock workers, merchants, traders, construction workers, commuters, shoppers, street hawkers, leisure-seekers and others caught up with, and contributing to, the rhythms of everyday life in what was a bustling, frenetic and above all industrious city. What the film also depicts in all its soot-choked splendour is the Liverpool Overhead Railway (LOR), known affectionately as the ‘Dockers’ Umbrella’ in tribute to the lively urban scenes that unfold beneath as much as along the elevated sections of track. One particular shot of the LOR, filmed from the top of the Liver Building, offers what is nothing short of an iconic view of Liverpool’s urban landscape as it was in the late 1920s, a gloriously cinematic cityscape which would not look out of place in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, made two years earlier in 1927. If these images seem familiar, this is on account of their appearance in Terence Davies’s celebrated documentary or ‘cine-poem’ from 2008, Of Time and the City (although it should be noted that the images are historically out of sync with the diegetic time-line of Davies’ film, which covers the years from the director’s birth in 1945 to his eventual departure from Liverpool in the 1970s). Footage from A Day in Liverpool also appears in a documentary produced by British Pathé in 1957, called This in Our Time (now available for purchase on DVD). A film that has been little seen in a theatrical setting, and which has only ever existed in mute or silent form, A Day in Liverpool is itself deserving of a wider audience and commercial DVD release. And if there ever was a film from Liverpool’s rich archival film heritage that has been crying out for a much needed score, then A Day in Liverpool, the city’s first and only city symphony, is most certainly it.

Les Roberts, September 2019

Seven Sisters Indoor Market

Film, Space & Place Posted on 18 Jan, 2017 12:55:37


At its heart, this is a film about risk. It is about what we stand to lose in the course of a colossal social transformation reflected in the way our cities are being re-designed. A stroll in central London will show you what this transformation entails. Developers and politicians are building a new skyline, and with it, bearing a new standard of living costs. While recognising that change is inevitable, this film asks: what do we risk losing as this transformation unfolds?

In asking this question, a portrait is painted of a market in Tottenham, north London, called the Seven Sisters Indoor Market. On face value, it is a fairly common market, with numerous and diverse businesses sit side-by-side vying for custom. Looking more closely, it’s evident that it also doubles as an informal cultural centre for immigrants from Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere. This, too, is common enough among various parts of London and cities like it.

Upon closer reflection, however – and it is this reflection that the film attempts – a brilliance emerges. It is a brilliance in which public and private, social and commercial, native and foreign, are merged into a social attitude of inclusiveness – an example of humanity exceptionally embedded into urban space. It is a market imbued with a ‘living room’ feeling made up of informality and spontaneous cosmopolitanism. Imagine trying to cross a corridor amid multilingual chatter, and being blocked by a child practicing karate.

This portrait is painted using hybrid film language that borrows from documentary and fiction styles, as well as ethnographic modes of representation. At times, past and present are merged in the course of invoking personal stories of migration. At other times, static shots allow stories to unfold before the camera, resulting in a language as spontaneous as the spirit of the market itself.

The story of the Seven Sisters Indoor Market is a reminder of what is possible in a city, as well of what we risk losing through the systematic dismantling of the conditions that keep it open.

This emergent conflict is not passive – in this particular site, you may join the members of the Ward’s Corner Community Coalition in their struggle to preserve the market. The first step towards organised resistance, however, is a reflection triggered.

It’s this reflection on risk that this documentary offers.

Klearjos Eduardo Papanicolaou

Director, The Seven Sisters Indoor Market

New Town Utopia

Film, Space & Place Posted on 18 Jan, 2017 11:37:04

New Town Utopia
is a documentary feature film that explores the original utopian dreams of a post-war British New Town – Basildon, Essex – and compares this to the modern concrete reality. We’re close to finishing production, and after four years of serious hard work, have hundreds of hours of footage ready to be crafted into a poetic, challenging film.

It is a meditation on British social history that asks the question: do people make the place… or does a place make the people?

Madrid Movie Map

Film, Space & Place Posted on 18 Jan, 2017 11:03:32

“Geografía y cine” compiles a varied series of works produced by a group of researchers from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, interested in the study of relations between the geographical and filmic space. Particular attention is given, on the one hand, to the way the film uses the geographical space as support for shooting locations and, secondly, to the subsequent dissemination of images from the exhibition of films. That is why mapping these filming locations is an essential step for any analytical study. A task that this group of researchers is carrying out in recent years and that, in the case of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, is displayed through an interactive map called MadridMovieMap.

New book: International Politics and Film: Space, Vision, Power

Film, Space & Place Posted on 26 Jun, 2014 20:23:09

New book: International Politics and Film: Space, Vision, Power, Sean Carter and Klaus Dodds

International Politics and Film
introduces readers to the representational qualities of film but also draws attention to how the relationship between the visual and the spatial is constitutive of international politics. Using four themes – borders, the state of exception, homeland and distant others – the territorial and imaginative dimensions of international affairs in particular are highlighted. But this volume also makes clear that international politics is not just something ‘out there’; film helps us better understand how it is also part of everyday life within the state – affecting individuals and communities in different ways depending on axes of difference such as gender, race, class, age, and ethnicity.

Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space

Film, Space & Place Posted on 06 May, 2014 17:55:27

New Publication: Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space

Edited by Jennifer M. Bean, Laura Horak, and Anupama Kapse (Indiana University Press, 2014).

Biblio (71) Films

Film, Space & Place Posted on 03 Jan, 2014 12:38:56

Reblogged from urbanculturalstudies


the Italian online urban planning magazine, is publishing a series of
links to urbanism-related films
, with interesting examples. Most of the
clips are historical, but there are also recent films, that are not freely
visible online, but which seem quite interesting, as“unfinished
, in which among other things you can see a re-use of an unfinished
road viaduct.

World Film Locations: Liverpool – photo gallery

Film, Space & Place Posted on 27 Sep, 2013 18:59:14

Liverpool Echo article on the publication of World Film Locations: Liverpool (Intellect 2013) featuring an interesting photo gallery of location filming images provided by the Liverpool Film Office:

There was also a short article on the book launch in the 26 Sept edition of the Echo. This features an embarrassingly contrived photo of myself, Roger Shannon (who organised the event), and the fabulous Liverpool-born actress Rita Tushingham:

See also Bay TV piece on the book launch:

The Last of Liverpool

Film, Space & Place Posted on 28 Aug, 2013 14:20:01

The Liverpool edition of Intellect’s World Film Locations series has now been published, edited by Jez Conolly and Caroline Whelan. I have a short article in the book called ‘The Last of Liverpool: Liminal Journeys Around the Port City’, which takes as its main point of departure Derek Jarman’s 1987 film ‘The Last of England’, parts of which were shot in the city: