Memories of the Granddad I never knew


My grandfather, Bill Barraclough, celebrated his 40th birthday in May 1940 in France. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force and, just a few short weeks later, was part of Operation Dynamo, one of over 300,000 soldiers evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.

So the one big film of 2017 that I’m looking forward to is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which chronicles that period – a moment that changed the course of World War 2.

I’m less interested in the eclectic cast – Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles – than I am in the milieu and atmosphere.

It’s been done before. John Mills and Bernard Lee starred in Dunkirk, and there have been TV adaptations of the story and many documentaries.

But I get the sense that Nolan will do justice to the story on a grand scale. And the backdrop will be authentic and, for those of us who have a personal connection, no matter how distant, rather poignant.

Bill Barraclough died in 1948, aged 48. His wife (my grandmother) always said it was due to him swallowing the filth that filled the waters of the English Channel during the Dunkirk evacuation.

I wrote a little about his experiences a few years back. You can read it here.


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Telling ‘Ghost Stories’ on location

img_2997-1My set visit to Ghost Stories last week was, I think, my 22nd location report since 1987.

Others have included The King’s Speech, Brassed Off, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Swallows and Amazons, Wall of Tyranny, Little Voice and ’71.

You can read some of them elsewhere on this blog.

Here’s co-writer/co-director and star Andy Nyman giving me his best creepy peep…

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Unsung Horrors – out now

14581304_10209746116625302_2644260857672029440_nUnsung Horrors is the second anthology of reviews, interviews and overviews of sometimes forgotten films. Conceived and edited by the team behind ’70s Monster Memories and We Belong Dead magazine it contains 200 entries including three by me on Race with the Devil, The Black Panther and Dark and Lonely Water.

It can be ordered now. See the image below for details.


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The Story of Brassed Off on radio


Twenty years ago Brassed Off was released and the country went brass band crazy.

A year earlier I’d been on location in Grimethorpe for a day’s shooting. I listened as Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald described the raw emotion of being a part of the story. I talked with writer/director Mark Herman about the roots of the film. I interviewed producer Steve Abbott about the film’s route to the screen. And I witnessed Pete Postlethwaite, with co-star Stephen Tompkinson, raging about the legacy of the Thatcher government and the rape of the Yorkshire coalfields.

Earlier this year I organised a reunion screening of the film at the Ilkley Film Festival. Present were Abbott, Tompkinson and fellow actor Philip Jackson; Mark Herman was poorly. To all of them Brassed Off represents that rare thing – a job that was much more than a job at the time, and which has taken on enormous meaning in the decades since.

On the night they also recorded interviews for producer Mark Burrows and it is his 60-minute documentary that emerged from their memories.

Today the government decided not to hold an inquiry into the ‘Battle of Orgreave’. Brassed Off is as relevant today as it was back in 1996, and holds a harsh spotlight up against a terrible period in modern British history.

Listen in tomorrow at 12 noon on BBC Radio Sheffield here.


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Talking books with Hannah Kate

hannah-kateIt was a genuine pleasure to be the guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf today, hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester 106.6 FM.

Two hours of chat – two hours! – meant we covered a lot of ground, not least chatting about some of my books but also common areas of interest such as short fiction and classic horror films and TV.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect for me was being invited to choose my ‘apocalypse books’ – the works I’d choose to safeguard if the world was headed for the shredder.

I selected Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), The Rats (James Herbert) and The Collector (John Fowles), all novels that affected me in some way or another.

I’ll post a link to Hannah’s show when it lands. In the meantime, to my writer pals, you could do a lot worse than to contact Hannah and offer yourselves up as guests.

You can find her here.

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Hannah’s Bookshelf… and me


Listen in to North Manchester FM 106.6 on Saturday afternoon when I’m the guest of Hannah Kate on Hannah’s Bookshelf.

We’ll be discussing my latest book FANTASTIQUE – Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Filmmakers as well other titles in my back catalogue.

fantastiq-front-cover-finalBut there’ll be a chance to consider influences, inspirations and maybe even authors and themes that get under the skin. I’m sure horror will make an appearance somewhere, particularly as host and guest both write short fiction.

So please tune in. You can find out more here.

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The metropolitan elite… it’s everywhere

Just contributed a quick opinion piece to BBC Radio York, speaking with Nathan Turvey about the Great Exhibition. Is the north outside of the great metropolitan elite of the south, or is that a concept that is as redundant as it is inaccurate?

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Farewell to Gene Wilder


I was sad to hear of the passing of Gene Wilder, a performer who redefined the notion of comic acting in the 1970s and into the 1980s. I was asked to give my thoughts on this ground-breaking all-rounder by my colleague Nick Ahad, who was sitting in for Andrew Edwards on BBC Radio Leeds’s Big Yorkshire Phone-In.

The link is here. The segment begins at 13.01.

“Come with me and you’ll be

In a world of pure imagination…”

Gene Wilder 1933 – 2016

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Ghostface chatting

I was delighted to be interviewed by Hayley and Caitlin, aka the Ghostface Girls, after meeting them at HorrorCon 2016. Their Q&A with me is now online and can be read here.



And FANTASTIQUE has just been described as “awesome” by Norwegian filmmaker Andre Overdal, writer/director of Troll Hunter, who is one of the 30 directors featured in the book.

I thank him for that. He and his film are pretty awesome too.


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On location: Swallows and Amazons



I’ve worked with Screen Yorkshire on a number of occasions, documenting the wide variety of movies and TV shows that choose to film in our region.

They have included TV productions such as A Robber’s Tale, the location for which was a dilapidated abandoned farmhouse on a freezing winter’s day; the interviews took place in a drab upstairs room as filming continued below, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with shooting taking place in Wentworth Woodhouse on a grey, wet and very cold day. I feel a pattern beginning to emerge…

The feature films have included ’71, where I hooked up with Jack O’Connell after having interviewed him a couple of weeks earlier at Derby Film Festival; Bait (originally The Taking) with my mate Dominic Brunt; Swallows and Amazons, on which I re-connected with producer Nick Barton a full 13 years after meeting for a pre-production interview on Calendar Girls; and, just a fortnight ago, Dark River, the third film from rising director Clio Barnard. I’d first seen her on the amazing and ground-breaking The Arbor, shot live in the middle of a council estate in Buttershaw, near Bradford.

The Screen Yorkshire connection is the natural evolution of my relationship with the former Yorkshire Screen Commission. Back in the mid 1990s it was run by Liz Rymer, who gave me (and photographer Jim Moran) often exclusive access to a string of movies. They included Brassed Off, Little Voice, Solo Shuttle, Among Giants, FairyTale – A True Story, and L.A. Without a Map (with a pre-stardom David Tennant).

All of the resultant location reports appeared in The Yorkshire Post. Later they were adapted (along with an exclusive interview with Ken Loach on Kes, plus reports on classic titles such as The Railway Children, Agatha and This Sporting Life) for my 2008 book Made in Yorkshire, which I wrote in partnership with Jim Moran, who supplied many of the photographs. Made in Yorkshire

I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic of the set visit. It requires a different journalistic discipline to other jobs. Patience and tenacity are necessities. Inevitably there is a lot of hanging around waiting to speak to actors. So the trick is to grab anyone and everyone who might have an interesting story to tell. Thus I’ve spoken to extras, location managers, cameramen, as well as key personnel such as scriptwriters, producers, directors and actors.

Writing a location report is akin to stitching together a tapestry. It’s about focusing on seemingly unconnected moments to create a series of interlocking vignettes that give a flavour of the day. A vital component is keeping the energy high – being able to jump straight into an interview at a moment’s notice, and to pick it up seamlessly if, as is often the case, that individual is whisked back to the set mid-chat.


Director Dominic Brunt and actors Joanne Mitchell, Victoria Smurfit and Jonathan Slinger on the set of The Taking, later retitled Bait. (Photograph copyright: Tony Earnshaw, 2014)

On location at Plumpton Rocks for Swallows and Amazons I picked up no fewer than ten interviews. How to sift wheat from chaff (not that there was much of that) is the key to compiling a winning piece. The other aspect is recognising and respecting one’s contacts. So I remain grateful to those that made it work: producer Nick Barton, PR guru Lawrence Atkinson and Screen Yorkshire’s Rachel McWatt.

The report – an exclusive – appears in The Yorkshire Post (see cover below) and can be read here.


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