News & Blog

Jess Allen, an activist walking artist, has written an article inspired by Tune for the Blood

2013-12-29 00:00:00

If performing is doing, and performing in relation to landscape is doing (land) art, then farmers are land artists. (Some more or some less invasive, more or less morally accountable, more or less ecologically sympathetic or aware than others.)

I first encountered the film Tune for the Blood while researching rural film-makers and film-making practices in preparation for a PhD in performance studies, researching walking and performance in rural landscapes as an activist arts practice. From my (then) base on a Herefordshire farm, I was interested in the art that was being born out of working, rural landscapes: not just artisan pottery and whimsical watercolour but something subtly political and provocative; something which gave these often marginalised communities a voice. 

This possibly quioxtic task was already somewhat familiar to me: my PhD research is developing the walking-talking practice that began with Tilting at Windmills, a performance from the summer of 2010, in which I walked between the windfarms of my native Mid-Wales, taking sound recordings of the conversations I had with the people I encountered talking about changing landscapes and lifestyles in a changing climate. The edited soundscore then formed the basis for a collaboration with environmentalist film-maker Sara Penrhyn Jones, and ultimately a 15 minute installation film. Sometimes palpably political and astute, sometimes naiive and underinformed, sometimes (paradoxically) both at once, what people had to say was nonetheless bristling and alive. These voices had an edge as distinct and troubling as a turbine blade.

Reviewers have described Tune for the Blood as 'elegiac', and it is. But this is a troubling word in itself; a signifier of the dangerous tendency to fall into the trap of romanticising the countryside and its inhabitants, and worse, being nostalgic for something we know we are losing (through a heady combination of climate change and consumerism), at the same as we are continuing to contribute to its loss.

A palpable (and powerfully provocative) undercurrent of the film, for me, is the jarring juxt#39;ition of the seasonal rhythms of farming with the technological drivers of speed and efficiency that now dictate the unreasonable rhythms of everyday life. The young farmers' responses seem to be divided between finding ever more ingenious ways to bring technology into their practices or a gentle, sometimes dogged, determination to continue as they ever did.

I'm aware that there are considerably mixed feelings over the power we give, and the depth of environmental knowledge we attribute to farmers (or the 'mythology farmers have built around themselves' as George Monbiot recently, and ascerbically, put it). But since we have divested ourselves of the messy inconvenience of growing or raising our own food, and until we are prepared to reclaim it, farmers, at least, those who farm conscientiously and sensitively, might be the closest thing we have to a reasonably calibrated barometer for everyday environmental change.

Back in 2005, Bill McKibben argued that the greatest reason for our extraordinary somnambulism in the face of climate change was probably because the changes are happening at rate and with such a broad coverage that they 'threaten[s] constantly to become backdrop, context, instead of event... not quite big enough to be noticeable, unless you're paying attention with, say, the vigilance of a farmer.' If Tune for the Blood is an elegy, it is to just this kind of vigilance, the same vilgilance and responsibility we should all be cultivating as though our lives or our livelihoods depended on it.

--Jess Allen

Jess did an installation and performance for h.Energy week in Herefordshire in the autumn -
For more of Jess's work you can click on the link:

Three Festivals in three countries for Tune for the Blood

2013-10-22 00:00:00

If any of you are headed toward Hungary don't miss our screening at The Future Film
Festival in Martfu.  You'll have to hurry - the Festival takes place this week from the 24th - 27th of October.  It is dedicated to showing films If any of you are headed toward Hungary don't miss our screening at The Future Film Festival in Martfu.  You'll have to hurry - the Festival takes place this week from the 24th - 27th of October.  It is dedicated to showing films 'on the topic of rural life and the future of the rural world and present best practices related to the economy, society and ecology of the rural world.'  The winners will be    
screened in Brussels at a session of a meeting of the Consultative Group on Agriculture and Rural
Development on November 22 - 23rd.

Next up is Docs on the Bay (Rural Life, Reel Stories) in Stephenville in Newfoundland in Canada.  Tune for the
Blood will be screened on Friday November 15th.  I've just done an email interview with 'The Georgian', the local paper, so we'll be looking out for that.  How I would love to go Newfoundland for this festival.  I've never been to the east coast of Canada, a terrible omission in the life a Canadian.  Hopefully there will be some photographs to post.  For more information about the festival, check out their fb page.

And then following hot on the heels of that screening is the Worcestershire Film Festival where Tune for the Blood will be screened on Sunday November 17th.  I'll be doing a Q&A after the screening.  More information to come!

Tune for the Blood will be screened at Corto e Fieno Festival

2013-08-14 16:02:52

We are brushing up our Italian, trying to expand the few phrases we know, so
that we might be able to say something in Italian at the Q & A session after            the screening of Tune for the Blood. And it might help us to understand some of the other films which will be shown!  Tune for the Blood is being screened on Saturday afternoon in the feature film section of the festival.     

The setting for the festival in the town of Ameno, in the 'Green Heart between Two Lakes' which is a stunning hilly landscape between Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore full of history and picturesque towns.  There are even prizes to be won...will keep you updated.

Great day at Herefordshire County Rally

2013-05-20 10:12:37

It was a shock to walk into one of the vast sheds at Hurstley Court and see it cleared - and now filled with HFYFC Rally exhibits and competitions taking place.  Bert Thomas, Fay's father, said it had taken them 28 days to clear it out.  My memories are of sheds full of sheep, lambs, cattle, and farm machinery, especially the tree planting machine which Bert Thomas has designed and engineered himself.   

We bumped into Fay Thomas, who was very busy - with their farm hosting the Rally, and in her job as Vice Chair of Competitions.  We managed to get a photograph of her and also one of her entry in senior the flower arranging competition.  

Sheep shearing is always a big event and this year the event was looking inreasingly professional.  The senior shearing competition was won by Chris Rowberry while the commentators kept us all well-informed and entertained.

                                                                        Chris Rowberry - Senior Shearing Winner

And here are a few of the other competitions and exhibits which you could see on the day.

It was great to catch up with everyone and once again, to be impressed by all the skills, passion and energy that goes into the annual Rally!

We Return to Hurstley Court for Herefordshire YFC Rally

2013-05-14 00:00:00

One of the great pleasures of filming Tune for the Blood, was the opportunity to spend days with the young farmers and their families at their farms.  One of my favourite scenes in the film is one where I wasn't even there for the filming.  Richard went out and filmed Fay Thomas and her family planting a new cider orchard one April day.  The scene is full of golden light, with the entire family working together to put in the saplings using a machine that Bert Thomas had designed and engineered.  Real family farming.

It will be great to see them all and to catch up with everyone  this Saturday at the Herefordshire YFC Rally!

And it's a special Rally for us - we are judging the Under 16s Video Competition.  Results only days away...
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