‘This Is Stanley’

This Is Stanley (2016) is an hour long documentary film about the former mining town of Stanley, County Durham and its people. The film premiered at Stanley Civic Hall 31st July 2016 to an audience of almost 400 people. During the six month project I photographed over 100 people, interviewed 40 and took over 6500 images. A book containing a selection of the photographs, This Is Stanley (ISBN 9781367488960) were produced and through their sale at the premiere £500 was raised for the mental health charity Derwentside Mind. http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/7215825-this-is-stanley . The film and exhibition were shown through the two months following the premiere at other venues in the region.

On a hilltop not too far from Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland, the former mining town of Stanley overlooks rolling countryside all the way to the North sea in the east and to the Pennines in the west. With the decline of traditional industries in the North East as a whole, as well as in this town, much of the supporting infrastructure has fallen into decline: empty buildings, a struggling high street, lack of investment by big business or local government until very recently, reputation for crime and deprivation, a town that according to both insiders and outsiders should be bulldozed.

Over a period of six months I photographed and filmed inhabitants in Stanley and the surrounding areas. When I first started this project, I tried to approach it with an open mind. I arrived in Stanley, with little knowledge of the place and a barrage of rhetoric behind me, a town that is a huge part of my own family’s ancestry, but which I had only visited on a few occasions.

I was treated from the start with incredible friendliness, without exception all those that I approached were willing to tell me their story, to talk (often for hours) about the past, present and future of the town. The older generations remember the mining town, a vibrant and thriving place with something for everyone: shops, cafes, dance halls. They remember it as a place that was forgotten about once the mines closed.

The younger people remember a town that had little for them as they were growing up, but see it slowly improving thanks in part to the town’s excellent sporting facilities. Stanley has a long history of sporting prowess, boxers, runners, swimmers and the town is still producing successful athletes.

Overall though the impression I got was of a town that whatever happens to it, the people continue on regardless. A testament to this are the traditions that have survived generations of change: allotments, pigeon racing, social clubs which fit in perfectly amongst the pit cottages and terraced houses that haven’t changed in generations either. Tied in with those things is the strong sense of community spirit, people supporting and helping each other and this is reflected in the wide range of local charities that support every section of society.

Like any town there is crime, but no more than anywhere else and similarly there is unemployment, but that does not mean that there are not many hard working people giving back to the community in which they were brought up, or for that matter moved to. Stanley’s surrounding countryside is beautiful. The long gone mines have left huge open areas of fields and woods and along with the friendliness, this is a great attraction for people from outside the area. The extensive cycle paths and woodland walks take you to hills and valleys with breathtaking views. The accessibility by both road and bus make it ideal for anything that Stanley cannot provide.

During this six month project I became incredibly attached to Stanley and its people.

SOME OF THE COMMENTS MADE ABOUT THE FILM

• Susan Thomas Jones – It was a great night and a wonderful turn out. I hope that many of the people who were there last night who perhaps haven’t been in The Civic Hall for a while will agree that The Civic Hall is fantastic resource for Stanley and that they will start to support it and use it more.

• Yvonne Cook – What a fabulous film you should be very proud of what you produced, proves Stanley is a brilliant community to live in Thank you for this film x

• Pete Wedd – Great positive film. All three of us enjoyed “Stanley Spotting” all through the film

• Angela Ramshaw – This is Stanley is a beautiful film/documentary. A great evening-moment in history. angx

• Andrea St Julian – Brilliant preview tonight at Stanley civic hall. Funny,touching and informative. Congratulations Simon Green xxx

• Carole Hampson – Thank You Simon the film was great, please consider making a DVD.

• Chris Moon – Well done Simon I really enjoyed the film and it made me proud to live in Stanley amongst all the wonderful people.

• Tim Springsteen Stokes – You should all be very proud of yourselves, a great job.

• Ron Harrison – Only having met Simon Green a very short time ago I was frankly not prepared for the professionalism that we saw last night. There was humour, history, memories for us all, human interest and surprises in that you do not think of the beauty around Stanley and the potential for improvement until it is pushed in your face. I was really impressed and feel even prouder of my home and my roots well done Simon and the fringe organisers.

• Judi Owens – It was an excellent evening and met loads of people I haven’t seen for years. Thank you everyone who was involved I enjoyed everything.

• Joan Johnston – Great photographs Simon! And it was even better to be able to see them on display today at the Fringe. Congratulations again. Real quality documentation of the ‘ordinary’ and making it extraordinary. They represent a lot of your time & hard work…but definitely worth it, eh?!

• Billy Nixon – Well done to everyone involved. A fantastic presentation in showing Stanley at it’s best. Moreplease.

• Jack Burness – Well done to all involved, made me laugh out loud in places and it was very moving at other times…

• Lesley Johnson Bell – What a community we have , this is Stanley was fab, come on folks we need to show our community spirit and build Stanley to its former glory . Well done to all involved . X

• Jamie Thomas – That was good! I’m glad I came. A community to be proud of. Thank you.

• Frankie Elsie Ward – Thank you Kevin Reay for inviting us to the event. We loved it and Elise and Michael were over the moon that both you and Simon Green took the time to speak to them after the show! Thanks again

• Amy Wylie – I think this is a great way to bring Stanley together and what amazing photos

• Pauline Raffle – Thought provoking photographs that show the warmth of the people of Stanley.

• Rebecca Brown – Love this exhibition, it really shows how much life and humanity is here, warts n’ all. The photographs are beautiful (and beautifully displayed!) and the whole event is inspiring. Well done.

• Chris Affleck – Well done Simon…exhibition was excellent..plus film. Ted would of enjoyed it.

• Susan Dove – Fabulous film showing just how beautiful the surrounding areas of Stanley

What a high standard has been set with this project. Superb

• Dennis Calvert – Extremely enjoyable

• Holly Ram – I thought the videos are really interesting and the photos are beautiful, I loved the photos of

people holding the chicks (so cute). It’s a great idea to show off Stanley in this way. Fab work!

• Very interesting – Brilliant work!

• Lynda Golightly – Really enjoyed the exhibition Simon, some excellent insights into the local community and life in the Stanley area. Well Done.

• Lines – Fantastic Photos. Really enjoyed this shot of Stanley life! Lovely to see local people so lovingly portrayed.

• Good to see Stanley being documented from a range of different perspectives. This reflection can remind people of the overlooked positives and assets we have here. Interesting stories within the film. Photographs show some of the great scenery here and are beautifully shot. We need to keep doing more things like this.

• 3rd visit and still more to see. I hope these photos go on show elsewhere. Brilliant.

• A fantastic display. Made me see Stanley in a different light.

• Geoff – Thanks Simon for a new perspective on a town I’ve known for most of my life. Superb.

• Kelsey – Fantastic to see genuine people. The photos really bring out the characters, loved the scenic views and music.

• Just can’t get over this. It is fabulous. WELL DONE XX

• Thank you for displaying these very thought provoking photographs, warts and all. I love the positive aspects, excellent photography and opinions from local people.

• Mrs D Joseph – Thank you for bringing out the characters of those photographed. Took so much love to see the real person behind the worldly personality. Thank you for a lovely visit.

• Geoff Hind – Quality pictures showing life, personality and grit of the people of Stanley.

• George Ledger – Well done Simon a great exhibition showing the real Stanley. It was good to see so many familiar scenes and people in a new and positive manner. Well Done.

• S Peel – Wonderful exhibition, you truly captured the ‘Real Stanley’!

• Gillianne Meek – Eeeeeeh goodness, you’ve got me wondering why I left. Hope this is a really successful night. Honestly it brought a lump to my throat hearing those accents and seeing those sights