Henrietta Bredin

The Suffolk Way

The Suffolk Way
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I spent last weekend at the Aldeburgh Documentary Festival and it’s an event I can thoroughly recommend. It’s been going for 13 years now, with a programme devised by Craig Brown, and the roll-call of speakers it attracts is hugely impressive. On a blowy wet Suffolk day it’s extraordinary to be able to take refuge in the Aldeburgh Cinema and find, up on the stage in front of you, behind a slightly rickety round table, lit by a standard lamp with a dusty pleated shade that looks as if it came from the sitting-room of someone’s great-aunt (and probably did), Libby Purves and Max Hastings, talking about the challenges of filming war, and showing clips from his films about the disastrous Sudan expedition to relieve Khartoum in 1884/5 (Could lessons be learned from that today ... ? Probably not, it would seem) and Hastings’ more recent exploits in the Falklands. Later on, Ronald Blythe and Griff Rhys Jones paid tribute to Roger Deakin, author of Waterlog and Wildwood, who also made wonderful films about allotments and Dr Sam Hutt, otherwise known as Hank Wangford, the Suffolk country and western singer responsible for such unique hits as  ‘Never Wear Mascara when you Love a Married Man’.

We finished off with Anthony Wall talking about the 30 years he has spent producing and directing documentaries for Arena. These have ranged from the massively ambitious Stories my Country Told Me, which sent, among others, Eric Hobsbawm and Desmond Tutu on journeys of discovery to investigate the nature of nationalism, to the gloriously funny My Way. The latter was a celebration of a song that has been covered by practically everyone you’ve ever heard of. Shirley Bassey gave it her all to such an extent that it looked as if she was about to devour her own sequin-clad self – I’ve never seen a mouth open so wide. And, needless to say, we were not allowed to leave the cinema without singing it too, following the words with the help of a bouncy ball. Great stuff. And there’s the Literary Festival coming up at the beginning of March, with more treats on offer. They know how to put on a good show in Aldeburgh.