Amy Flagg is fondly remembered as the lady in a hat and trench coat, who quietly went about photographing buildings and recording history of the town she loved. But who was Amy ? By the Second World War both her parents had died, plus the town she loved was falling apart from the German air raids. Her life was crumbling around her. When the bombs dropped she captured the scars with her camera. This is a story of courage and determination of a very unique woman who captured some of the most devastating images of South Shields in the 20th century.
Just some of the script from my documentary about South Shields photographer and local historian Amy Flagg. I came across her photo’s a few years ago when I was part of a group who volunteered to digitize the photographic collection held in South Tyneside Library. They were excellent photographs especially her record of the Second World War bomb damage in South Shields. A brave woman. In my research I found out that Amy had a darkroom so was able to print her own photograph’s. I know the magic that can happen there as I had my own set up during the early 90’s. My darkroom was in a cupboard under the stairs where I’d print my black and white’s. Before I had the home set up I went on a short course in photography and darkroom techniques at the local community centre. If I was investing time and money I wanted to know my way around a darkroom first. For the course I’d go out with a roll of film and shoot some photo’s. I developed the photos into a roll of negatives which I then put into the enlarger and exposed the photographic paper to the light shining through the negative. Then put the paper through the tray of chemicals. The image started to come through – it was like magic. Real magic. Not the Paul Daniels showbizzy stuff. This was the real thing… like voodoo. I knew I had to do more of this. And I did.
In June 2016 the time was right to make a short documentary about the life of Amy Flagg. Using archive information, diary entries and photograph’s from South Shields Library I put a script together. North East playwrite Tom Kelly provided the narration, local journalist and writer, Janis Blower, added the voice of Amy. We recorded the voice over’s at The Customs Space studio in South Shields. As with many documentaries I’ve made, North East musician John Clavering captured the mood with some great music. On March 8th 2017 ‘Westoe Rose’ was screened at The Word in South Shields on International Womans Day.
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Gary Alikivi June 2018.