Victorian Titford Pumphouse shot from a low angle. Four large windows are seen on the brown brick building. A blue sky is behind.

A Sunny Day Filming at Titford Pump House

On the first day of the month, as December began, Alarum Productions were also starting something exciting … 

Quiet on Set!

Hello! My name is Jess, I’m a final year student at the University of Birmingham studying Drama and English Literature. But that’s not the important bit, or the reason I’ve appeared on this blog – 

I’m currently gaining work experience with Alarum Productions, to learn about all things relating to theatre companies, their management, projects, and performances. So here I am, a new voice on the blog, to chat about 1st December and what Alarum Productions (and myself) were up to on the waterways.  

During a stolen pocket of sunny weather, in an otherwise gloomy winter, I joined the Alarum team at Titford Pump House in Oldbury, as we set out to shoot a promotional film. The film, that will be released soon, showcases Alarum’s ongoing projects and theatrical works so far. Under the keen eye and expertise of filmmaker Erin Hopkins, Alarum Productions (Heather Wastie and Kate Saffin) captured excerpts from their performances, that tell the stories of women on the waterways through theatre, music, and poetry.  

All filming adhered to Government Guidelines on Covid-19.  

I have to point out again just how perfect the weather was for filming; the canal, boats, and locks were practically gleaming! The low sun was bounding off every surface, especially the old Pump House windows, all aglow and shining … who needs studio lighting? Needless to say, the cold was still toe numbing but that didn’t deter Heather and Kate from performing pieces from their double bill shows: Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways and Acts of Abandon. I, on the other hand, was lucky to stay wrapped in a coat – no chilly costume changes for me. 

The first shots for the film were captured on a drone, which Erin piloted to fly right over the water below. It hovered above the cut and darted over the locks, much to the interest of passers-by who naturally had to stop and watch the drone in action, and stayed to watch Heather and Kate perform for a little while. In fact, there were quite a few wanderers along the canal who paused to look and left with a smile (and a flyer!).  

Erin Hopkins piloting a drone, on the grass at the Pumphouse. The drone is mid-flight.
Erin expertly piloting the drone.
Erin Hopkins is standing behind a tripod and camera which is pointed at Heather Wastie. Heather is holding up a newspaper and performing to the camera.

Heather and Kate both performed excerpts from Acts of Abandon. Heather picked some humorous and musical moments from The Muck and Shovel Brigade, and Kate picked some lovely moments full of character from The Mary Rose. Titford Pump House and the surrounding Titford canal, which forks around it, was certainly a fitting backdrop and for me personally a great space to spend the day, away from endless studying in the library.  

Kate also performed excerpts from Isobel’s War in Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways, so look out for her costuming and set pieces, that further brightened up the day, in the final film. Whilst you’re on the lookout also listen out for Heather’s songs – or earworms I should say – that she performed with her accordion.  

Erin Hopkins is standing behind a tripod and camera which is pointed at Kate Saffin. Kate is pulling a rope out a colourful box and performing to the camera.

It was a really successful day of filming, that I enjoyed assisting in – although nothing ever goes as smoothly as you’d like on set, we all left happy with what we had filmed. So even the unexpected noise of the recycling plant that seemed to be having their busiest day of the year, or the intrusion of a massive wolfish dog who just wanted a place to nap, didn’t hold back the day of filming.  

In the end a great selection of theatre, music, and poetry was filmed, and it will all come together to capture the essence of Alarum Productions. I had the opportunity to see this teaser of what’s to come be pieced together in person, but all are welcome to catch the final product soon on the Alarum Website and YouTube Channel.  

Lastly, a big thank you to Birmingham Canal Navigations Society and Canal & River Trust for helping make this all happen, by allowing us access to Titford Pump House.  

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