It was an industrial catastrophe that still casts a shadow 90 years on. Now two Falkirk artists have collaborated to create a new film that aims to cast light on the Redding pit disaster.
Director Adam Stafford and poet Janet Paisley have produced ‘No Hope For Men Below’, a short film inspired by the events of September 25, 1923, in which 40 miners lost their lives.
The film was given its first public screening last week to members of the Sir William Wallace Lodge of Free Colliers in Reddingmuirhead, many of them descended from those who were caught up in the disaster.
More than three years in the making, the production almost never saw the light of day. After initial funding for the project fell through in 2009, Stafford shelved it until an event made him reconsider.
“There was a pit disaster in Wales in 2011 (at Gleision in Swansea Valley, in which four men were killed), caused by flooding – almost exactly like Redding,” he said.
“I thought: this is still relevant – nearly 100 years later, it’s still happening in small communities. Men are still putting themselves in danger in this way.”
Stafford (31) enjoyed success as director of ‘The Shutdown’, which was written by another prolific Falkirk artist, Alan Bissett. That film told the story of another industrial accident, this time at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, which left Bissett’s father badly injured.
It was nominated for a BAFTA and won several awards at film festivals around the world.
“The theme of ‘The Shutdown’ has carried on to this film,” explained Stafford. “They are kind of like companion pieces. They are both about
working class males, and the impact of the industries on their families.
“The difference is that ‘No Hope for the Men Below’ is written from a female’s perspective, because you hear a lot about what these men went through, which was like a conflict in itself. They had been through World War One, and if that wasn’t bad enough, when they got back they had to go back down the pits.
“Janet and I spoke about what if we examine from the perspective of the women who were waiting for the men below ground.”
With Bissett tied up by other commitments, Stafford approached Falkirk poet Janet Paisley, the mother of an old school friend, to work on the film.
“I emailed her asking if she would be interested in writing a poem based on the Redding disaster.
“She was recovering from a stroke at the time and she replied saying she had not written anything in more than a year. I think she was on the verge of saying no.
“The poem that she produced is fantastic. Her one clause was that the poem would be written in broad Scots, as she doesn’t write in English anymore. I thought it will either sink the film or it will make the film. I think it was worth taking the risk.”
The experience of filming in a Fife mine shaft - ordinarily used to train members of the emergency services - gave Stafford a revealing insight into the working life of a miner.
“It was a little glimpse into what these men had to put up with. The actors were completely cramped up,” he said.
Stafford now hopes to arrange a public screening of the film in Falkirk.