Offshore: Artists Visit Hull – Phil Coy
Phil Coy filming for his new work ‘Avoiding Green’, Hull 2016, photo by Lara Goodband
Phil Coy made the trip to the North East 3 weeks ago to gather footage and research for his new film commission for ‘Offshore: artists explore the sea’. Phil’s film is currently working under the name; ‘Avoiding Green‘, and his time in Hull was spent interviewing local people; including fisherman Tom Rowley, Marine Biologist Magnus Johnson and fisherman gansey expert Deb Gilanders as part of his study of maritime traditions in the North East.
We asked Phil some questions about his project and his trip to Hull:
ID: From what we have heard, your project appears to revolve around maritime heritage and social history in the North East; what is it you’re seeking with your research?
Phil Coy: “Yes I like to orbit around subjects and get different perspectives. With this film I am trying to focus upon the craft of knitting as it relates to the sea, and the material processes and people involved in that. The way I collect material and research is similar to a documentary methodology but the way I cut material has more to do with Grierson’s original notion of documentary as a ‘creative treatment of actuality’. The subject for this film arrived unexpectedly. I was researching the history of a Seamen’s mission ‘The Flying Angel’ in Custom House, Royal Docks, London, for two spoken word publications produced in 2013. The archives for the building were stored in the Hull history centre so I spent a couple of days looking through them and discovered a pamphlet ‘Ladies work for Sailors’ which describes knitting patterns from the 1930’s for charitable women to knit and provide warm clothing for Seamen. I assumed that this was an historical activity, however when I returned to London and described the document to the Mission for Seafarers, they told me that they still received many bags of knitting every week. The idea of this activity fascinated me; it felt so out of step with contemporary attitudes toward production and consumption. Unfortunately it was too tangential to the spoken word publications I was working on, so I scanned the leaflet and archived it in the hope that I could pick up on the project at a later date. Thanks to this commission that’s what I am now in the process of doing.
ID: Who did you speak to on your trip to Hull and how did it inspire the film you are making?
PC: “I spoke to ex-fishermen, working fishermen, their wives and professional knitters. I also spoke to academics, social historians and museum curators. One of the many things that emerged and that I wish to explore further when I return, is how knitting became such a gender-defined activity since the mid twentieth Century, despite being so intrinsically linked to work at sea.
Phil Coy interviewing Tom Rowley, Hull 2016, photo by Lara Goodband
ID: In terms of what you learnt and the advice you were given, what stood out for you most on this trip?
PC: I appreciated the advice to keep your eyes on the horizon whilst at sea! Sadly I did not heed that advice as I spent most of my time looking through the lens of a camera… I was not sick, but my time at sea did completely destabilise my balance, and things felt very different when we returned to dry land. That very physical affect that the sea has on your vision and senses, which can leave you feeling slightly unhinged, that was an unexpected gift for the work.
follow Phil on twitter: @PhilCoy