I’ve finished work and I’m sitting in a little pub in Peel, close to my guest house. The director and I were going to go to Selby to have a spot of beer and dinner, but I needed to clock off. Something I ate is playing havoc with my stomach. I’ve been in pain for much of the day but keeping quiet. Maybe it’s some of the mercury amalgam from the filling the guy had to drill into. Or maybe it’s the three pints of Okell’s Ale I had with my supper last night. “Okell’s: only for locals”.
Also the cold has got into my bones. There’s a constant cold blast from off the sea. They packed up the camera just in time as the hail blew in. They have an instinct for it. “Hail’s coming,” they said. I saw no evidence of it. Then suddenly it was spanking down and I was glad to be under cover.
I honestly thought the film industry was going to explode in this island when I was living here as a kid in the nineties. You’d think it’d be the perfect regeneration, but owing to bad management and probably the wrong heads reading the scripts, it didn’t work out well. Now someone would have to do a Peter Jackson scale thing and find funding elsewhere. There’d be no help from Tynwald anyway. They’ve dropped 27 million or so in duff investments and caused so much rage that investing in film is a bête noir – or perhaps more appropriately a Moddey Dhoo. Who was reading those scripts? Who was greenlighting this huge investment? Here’s the problem. When there’s no art in the island, all the artists leave. So if there are creative decisions to be made it falls to bureaucrats or retired artists who are out of touch to make them. It’s a shame.
At least they tried. They made things. They employed lots of artists, many wonderful makers. But the formula didn’t cook. It all haemhorraged money. “Me and Orson Welles” ended up costing the island ten million quid. As an industry insider I know what Welles did in film. And to a generation above me, he was a game changer. “Who is your Rosebud?” someone asked me just the other day. But as a 12 million quid investment, nowadays? Not everyone reads Empire Magazine. A lot of people think of Pulp Fiction as a classic old film now. Citizen Kane is still a fantastic movie, but it isn’t being talked about. I watched it on a plane. But in dollars, Waking Ned total investment was 3mill. It turned in over 50. Nothing compared to Full Monty which was 3.5 and pulled in over 250. Film can do it. But who thought 12 million would come back?
This rock was huge as a Victorian seaside resort. It’s equally easy to get here by boat from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It’s right in the middle of the map of this little group of english comprehending nations sharing a weird history of antagonism and conquest. Psychologically the island could be well placed as a beating cultural heart of this island group. It hasn’t worked out that way yet. It’s a desert.
Online poker, banking, gambling and money laundering. Fat men in suits. Self importance. Nothing even slightly interesting on the surface. Although there are people with depth here, for sure. Some of my dad’s friends are highly charged, highly intelligent, still curious, still shifting. There’s an audience for interesting stuff here if marketed well. Because everyone is so so so so unbelievably bored and nobody brings shows and certainly nobody makes them. But the Gaiety Theatre is beautiful, built in 1899. It’s run by Tynwald/ IOM government again. The same people who are reading the scripts. The programming reflects their taste. They need an artist somewhere “Who is the artistic director?” I Google it. As far as I can tell it’s someone in a suit with 3 other jobs, going “yeah whatever”.
They’re just receiving. It’s sad. This island – particularly Douglas – is made of empty accommodation. There’s room for a few big projects…
They deliberately planted a load of monkey puzzle and palm trees in the early 1900’s in order to make it all look a bit exotic. They can somehow survive in the shitawful soil and freezing wind.
Even though there’s nothing much here, again I’m tempted to come back and try and make some change. I’m not writing about what I’m involved in right now. I’m glad someone is making something and I’m going to support that enterprise, in my home island.
They’re doing something creative because they feel the lack of that in this island. They’re right to try and make it work.
I’m part of the problem though. I’m too hungry and too optimistic to stay here. I can’t drop the vigour of London for the beauty of Manannan right now. And when/if I can, I’ll be probably be too old for my voice to be relevant.