Alchemy magic shows Hawick as it was, as it is and as it may yet be

Hawick has set out its stall as a premier film town by launching a year-long series of events which will look at the Grey Auld Toon in the past, present and future.

A £10,000 grant from Creative Scotland means that Alchemy Film and Arts are able to show selected films from the town’s past for free, engage public interest in recording the town as it is now, and speculate what it may become.

At the launch of the project on Friday, during which a surprising insight on life at a Hawick factory in 1913 was viewed by a packed cinema at the Heart of Hawick, Alchemy’s creative director Michael Pattison said: “Once Upon A Time In Hawick places the town and its communities at the centre of a major artistic programme, bringing audiences together to exchange stories about the town’s past and to share ideas about its future.

“Through the project we will be exploring the identities, industries and stories of Hawick, focusing on the town’s unique landscape and history, threading together a celebratory look at the mills –which are central to Hawick’s industrial history – and the town’s cultures to imaging a future of creativity, regeneration and growth.”

Michael Pattison production creative director and Rachael Disbury production director and chairperson of Alchemy Sue Briggs

The first film to be shown was certainly eye-catching. The silent movie, From Wool To Wearer, showed the journey of wool from sheep to ‘gentleman’s undergarment’ through the various processes at the Peter Scott factory.

There were many extraordinary points of interest, including the sheer amount of people employed in the industry, the relative young age of the lads working on the looms, the apparent sheer ignorance of anything like the health and safety procedures we enjoy today, and the past-times enjoyed by the workers at clocking-off time (tennis and croquet).

The film was found in the Heritage Hub at the Heart of Hawick, and it was sent off to be digitised.

It’s not long, but it is a perplexing peek into the town as it was more than 100 years ago.

Still from the Film,' From Wool to wearer'

And it’s only the start.

The next film to be shown (this time at the Croft Road Cinema) promises to be a half-hour epic.

Sons of Heroes – a re-enactment of the Battle of Hornshole in 1514, filmed in the town in 1964 for £80 – is screened on February 21 at 7pm.

The tale, as any Teri will tell you, sees young bucks from the town setting upon raiding English soldiers with big sticks. It forms a large part of the town’s common riding celebrations.

Sons of Heroes was made by the Hawick Film and Video Group, and once again tickets are free for the event.

Pattison said: “It’s a superb piece of film, which no Teri should miss out on. However, booking is essential as it’s expected to be very popular.

“The film shows Hawick as it was in 1964 as much as it replays the events that led up to the 1514 battle.”

A centrepiece of Once Upon a Time in Hawick is the 10th annual Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival – the only part of the year-long project which is not free of charge.

Held from April 30 to May 4, the festival is packed with films, exhibitions and other events.

Pattison added: “This is one of Europe’s leading film events and it has put Hawick on the international cultural map.

“We have an exciting programme which will bring film-makers from across the world to Hawick to explore image-making in relation to place, cultural identity and collective memory.”

The town’s honorary provost, Scottish Borders councillor Watson McAteer, was at the launch screening.

He said of the festival: “Alchemy Film and Arts have been an integral part of the life of Hawick for the past 10 years, bringing international and UK visitors to the town and community.

“This highly-creative and original organisation has placed Hawick on the international stage as Scotland’s film town.

“I am delighted that Alchemy’s new project for 2020 will be exploring the identities, industries and stories of Hawick, ultimately bringing our historic and cultural heritage alive through discussion and monthly film screenings.

“This is a fantastic tribute to Hawick and I would encourage active local support to this wonderful project destined to create something unique and special for our historic town.”

Other events coming up include Movie Makers, Movie Lovers – screenings and filmmaking workshops with artists Anna Raczynski and Ed Webb-Ingall; various Hawick pictorial screenings, which show the town as it was in years gone by; and Screentime – media workshops with Tom Swift. More events are being added to the list.

See for more information or to book tickets for events.