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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, August 12, 2005
    I'm still enjoying Coast on the BBC which is capturing much of the beauty, some of the life, and some of the mystery of our island's peripheral places. But to complement it I've bought a DVD of Gallivant, a film by Andrew Kotting of his own 7,000 mile clockwise odyssey beginning and ending at Bexhill-on-Sea.

    It's very different to the BBC's massively expensive collaboration with the Open University: filmed on video and Super 8, utilising all manner of experimental techniques, Kotting's coast is very open to eccentricity and exuberance. What saves it from being art-house fodder is his decision to bring along with him his elderly grandmother Gladys and his seven-year-old daughter Eden, who hadn't spent very much tiome together before this three-month journey, and would be unlikely to have much of a future together either, both being close to death, Gladys because of her age, Eden because of her Joubert Syndrome.

    If this sounds like it might make for a morbid film, it doesn't. As the publicity puts it, 'Gladys is strong and opinionated, constantly interrupting with anecdotes and confusing reminiscences'. And while Eden can only talk through sign language, she does so with the vitality of any seven-year-old excited by the adventure her Dad has brought her on. It's 'a triumphant blend of the home and road movie genres and a stunning example of psychogeography', in the words of Iain Sinclair whose reflections are included in the generous booklet which accompanies the dVD.

    Without over-sentimentalising, Kotting records the lively interaction and deepening understanding of this unusual threesome as they make their way around the joys, distresses, madnesses, gales and great big skies of Britain's coastal places; it's very entertaining, and quietly moving, and it does what Coast can't - draws the viewer into a thoroughly engrossing story of three humans growing together on a journey. The places they go are important, and the people they meet there (all manner of wonderful seaside eccentrics), because they inform the way the three interact.

    In his notes Iain Sinclair says, 'This is a homage to the archetypal home movie, the seaside excursion ... Time for putting together oldest and youngest members of the family for that hell of British togetherness.' It is that, and more, as he fulsomely acknowledges in the title of his piece, because it's about Big Granny and Little Eden. And what wondrous company they are.