Behind-the-scene documentary tells the story of Suffolk’s WW1 trenches

The trenches at Akenham. Picture: TAFF GILLINGHAM

The trenches at Akenham. Picture: TAFF GILLINGHAM - Credit: Taff Gillingham

A documentary movie going behind the scenes of Suffolk’s First World War trenches has been created for release in local cinemas.

Suffolk Trenches in Akenham. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk Trenches in Akenham. Picture: ARCHANT

The Suffolk Trenches in Akenham just outside Ipswich, also known as Trench Farm, is a series of reproductions of First World War trenches nestled in 180 acres of Suffolk farmland, used by scores of TV and film productions, as well as theatre groups and battle re-enactments.

The trenches, recreated in both British and German styles from original source material, have featured in Downton Abbey, 2017 feature film Journey’s End and the famous Sainsbury’s Christmas truce advert from 2014 among many others.

MORE: Downton Abbey films at Suffolk trenchesSuffolk filmmaker Tim Curtis created the documentary film called The War Just Outside Ipswich to support local cinemas alongside Neil McGlone from the Riverside Theatre in Woodbridge, and will be screened at the Riverside on December 4 followed by a Q&A with the pair and trench owners Taff Gillingham and Kevin Smith.

The film takes a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the facility and how it operates featuring insights from staff and actors, as well as sister company Khaki Devil which supplies authentic costumes from the period.

The film also assesses the impact of Covid-19 on the farm and the filming industry which uses it.

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As the film is aimed at being broadcast in local cinemas, East Suffolk Council’s licensing sub-committee on Thursday morning was required to give it a film classification set to the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) guidelines.

In his representation, Mr Curtis said: “It is a behind-the-scenes look at the Suffolk Trenches, a film location just outside of Ipswich, where many well known films and TV series have been shot.

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“The film is to support local cinemas, we are not charging any fees for the film, and the film will be shown with Stanley’s War [Tim Curtis’ First World War movie].”

The Suffolk Trenches near Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Suffolk Trenches near Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

East Suffolk Council’s licensing-sub committee granted it a 12A classification, and praised the film for its educational quality.

Councillor Jocelyn Bond said: “I thought it was an excellent piece of publicity and also very informative on a more general level.

“In terms of the things that hit home for me, one of the major things is the impression on one of the younger actors on the reality of war.

“I think if I had my way everybody ought to see this. It’s a shame that there were some areas where I feel it is not appropriate perhaps for very young children, but overall it is tremendously informative and useful for youth that doesn’t have experience of war to see and experience what it really is like.”

Taff Gillingham said the Suffolk Trenches was a unique facility. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Taff Gillingham said the Suffolk Trenches was a unique facility. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Committee chairman Colin Hedgley added that “it will do a lot of good for this area”.

It is not yet clear if there are plans for other screenings in and around the county.

MORE: Award-winning short shot at Suffolk trenchesTaff Gillingham said the business had been supported through government business grants and the furlough scheme during Covid-19, but with filming exempt in the latest lockdown work is starting to pick up again.

“It’s going to be a long road to recovery and we hopefully will be okay but this [film] was a good opportunity to tell this story and highlight the fact we are here,” he said.

“We are very pleased Tim has done it. There’s nothing else quite like it.”

Visit the Riverside website here to find out more and book tickets.

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