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Film about the history of famous East Anglian river flows into Diss

PUBLISHED: 13:37 12 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:37 12 July 2018

A Thames barge entering the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry in Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma Watts

A Thames barge entering the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry in Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma Watts

Jemma Watts Photography

The best films involve stories about intriguing characters. The central figure in the documentary Life On The Deben has a habit of slipping through your fingers.

John McCarthy, Malcolm Hodd, and Tim Curtis the team behind the film, Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma WattsJohn McCarthy, Malcolm Hodd, and Tim Curtis the team behind the film, Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma Watts

In the case of this beautifully photographed documentary, which is being shown at Diss Corn Hall on July 18, the main character is the River Deben.

The film features author and journalist John McCarthy and Suffolk film-maker Tim Curtis embarking on a journey into famous East Anglian river’s rich past, looking at its geography, environment and the influence the river has had over the people who have lived by its banks.

It finds them tracing its origins as a tiny trickle emerging from the ground in Debenham and following its journey all the way to the sea, until it crashes as a raging torrent into the North Sea at Felixstowe Ferry.

During the 100 minute film McCarthy not only charts the changing nature of the river but gets to meet the people whose lives and family histories have been shaped by the Deben and explores the history of the river with some choice pieces of newsreel footage and some dramatic re-enactments.

Tim Curtis filming John McCarthy delivering a piece to camera in Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma WattsTim Curtis filming John McCarthy delivering a piece to camera in Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma Watts

Mr Curtis said that the film took two years to make, which included research, editing and getting John McCarthy back to Suffolk, where he previously lived, by tearing him away from his own globe-trotting projects.

“John was incredibly enthusiastic about the project from the start,” he said. “Being a keen sailor and a former Woodbridge resident, he loves the Deben and immediately wanted to be involved.

“After someone moves away from an area, you are never sure whether they want to look back, but John McCarthy was incredibly supportive from the very beginning. He knows the Deben very well and has a great affection for it.”

In the film he looks to explore the history of the river from the days of the Romans, through the Anglo-Saxon period of king Raedwald, who is thought to be buried at Sutton Hoo, to the medieval era of watermills and the Deben being navigable all the way up to Kettleburgh and Brandeston.

A Thames barge entering the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry in Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma WattsA Thames barge entering the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry in Life on the Deben. Photo: Jemma Watts

It’s a river which has supported fishing, ship-building, trade and exploration as ships have ventured forth from Suffolk and made contact with communities around the world.

• Life On The Deben screens at Diss Corn Hall on July 18, 10.30am and 7.30pm, £5 (£2.50 cons), 01379 652241, disscornhall.co.uk

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