Elegy For Honest Endeavour. Review of Mikhail Karikis’s The Endeavour in The Morning Star newspaper, by Mike Quille. 28 May 2015.
The Endeavour, Tyneside Cinema Newcastle-upon-Tyne 5/5
Mike Quille recommends a film installation marking the demise of shipbuilding and repair on the banks of the Tyne
BLOODMAN. Bloomer. Blower. Bobbiner. What has happened to all the old occupations, skills and cra!s? And what has happened to work itself and the culture of community, protest and resistance which is born of collective labour? These are some of the questions raised by this superb new short film installation.
The Endeavour starts with footage of the last boat to be refitted at one of the last boatyards on Tyneside. The camera lingers on the labour of Fred Crowell, the boatbuilder who’s retiring, and on the tools and equipment in his workplace. The immersive split-screen visuals are accompanied by a varied, sculptured soundscape, as carefully cra!ed as Crowell’s endeavours.
We listen to noisy machinery, crackling flames in forges, food cooking on boilers and the chat and banter of older men at work and at rest. The visual and aural rhythms of labour then segue into a harmonica playing The Swanee River, the minstrel song rooted in su”ering and slavery, which was played too by the Jarrow boatbuilders on their protest march to London in 1936.
A choir follows, singing snatches of industrial protest songs and collectively reciting titles of obsolete skills — heckler, hoarder, hodsman, hoofer. “When we lose jobs and skills, we lose the whole culture that goes with work,” says The Endeavour’s creator Mikhail Karikis. “So much of work nowadays is remote, atomised, digital labour. Yet workplaces used to be the sites of social endeavour, conversation, discussion and protest.”
Fittingly, this is a cra!sman-like film and it’s also an intense, poetic and sad — but unsentimental — evocation of a kind of work and culture that has all but vanished. But the humour of resistance has perhaps not entirely died. “What do you call 200 dead politicians at the bottom of the sea?” Crowell asked at the preview. “A start.”