Tyneside filmmakers plan documentary of Bowburn asbestos scandal

Tyneside filmmakers plan documentary of Bowburn asbestos scandal

Director Alex Ayre and producer Sarah Younas

Cape asbestos factory, Bowburn

Caroline Wilcock

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

A NORTH-East asbestos scandal is to be turned into a documentary by a group of filmmakers from the region.

Last October, cancer sufferer Caroline Wilcock, who grew up in Bowburn, became the first person to successfully sue the successors of the County Durham village’s now-closed Cape asbestos factory for damages without having worked there.

The London-based fashion designer, who is in her early 50s, suffers from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust, and won a “substantial” payout, potentially clearing the way for any diagnosed mesothelioma sufferer who contracted the disease while living in Bowburn between the 1960s and late 1980s to sue for compensation.

Now a group of filmmakers based on Tyneside are to make a documentary about life in the shadow of the Cape factory.

Currently at the research stage, they are looking for people’s memories of village life and the asbestos plant, which dominated the community for 20 years.

Director Alex Ayre said: “We want to create a collage of memories, painting a vivid picture of village life and the health and safety.”

Mr Ayre, 19, works with Northern Stars Production at Tyneside Cinema and won the 2013 Chris Anderson Award for Best Young Filmmaker at Berwick Film Festival for Kitman, a documentary about Blyth Spartans’ long-serving kit man Tony Kennedy.

“We understand the sensitivity and discretion needed for this project and would not want to intrude on anyone’s family or illness,” he said.

“It will be as much about raising awareness as about making a film.”

Contributors would have the option of remaining anonymous.

Video and sound clips will be used in the documentary, which will be eight to 20 minutes long and be shown at film festivals and online.

Mr Ayre became interested in Bowburn after a chance conversation about asbestos.

“I was interested because the factory was so central to the village and although the dangers of asbestos are now so well known, people then were so open – playing in the asbestos dust,” he said.

To contact the filmmakers, email: bowburnfilmproject@gmail.com Cape has made no public comment on the case at any stage.

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