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Riverside town hits the big screen

PUBLISHED: 05:32 24 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:20 24 February 2010

THE north-Essex town of Wivenhoe is no stranger to the small screen.

In the late 1990s, both big-budget period drama and an ill-fated BBC sitcom were filmed in its picturesque streets.

THE north-Essex town of Wivenhoe is no stranger to the small screen.

In the late 1990s, both big-budget period drama and an ill-fated BBC sitcom were filmed in its picturesque streets.

At least two locally-produced videos have been made about the history of the riverside town, charting its shipbuilding and fishing heritage.

However, Wivenhoe now is to come under a much sharper televisual eye – that of the satirist – but residents need not fear too harsh a judgment.

For the people producing the new, 30-minute comic film, who know themselves as the Colne Brothers, are themselves long-standing Wivenhovians.

The man behind the project – well-known poet, writer and musician Martin Newell – confesses he loves the riverside town, as does the film's director, Toby Roberts.

Between them, the pair assembled a group of locals including a businessman, a journalist, a best-selling author, an actress and a hairdresser to poke affectionate fun at the Wivenhoe community.

Perhaps because of the proximity to Essex University, or perhaps because of the liberal attitude of its inhabitants – noted since the London dandy set first rubbed shoulders with residents in the 1930s – Wivenhoe has a Bohemian reputation.

That artistic and lifestyle-tolerant quality is the target of the new satire, which playfully highlights the town's excesses as well as its obvious charms.

"There were some other videos made about Wivenhoe, but they were very earnest. They didn't seem to capture the quirkiness of the place," said Mr Newell. "Apart from anything else, one of them was about two hours long, which did seem a bit excessive.

"This is a gentle, affectionate satire of the town and some of its inhabitants. We're making fun of ourselves, really."

Characters featured in the film include a washed-out, wanted-to-be rock star, a radical feminist – who, in a distorted echo of the town's GM protests, campaigns against GMTV – and a brilliant, but impractically-minded professor.

Mr Roberts – who studied film at UCLA in America and worked with Oliver Stone on two of his major features – said: "We have nearly completed the film now. It has been going on for more than a year. With every stage of the production it has become more and more exciting."

He was proud of the professional attitude of all who had taken part and added: "It's quirky and I think it's very good for what it is. It's not offensive – there is no swearing, or anything like that."

The film is to be edited at Components Studio – where the award-winning television comedy The Office was cut – before being premiered with at The Nottage, a Wivenhoe maritime centre. Video copies of the film are to go on sale locally at the end of next month.


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