Sometimes a story captures the public imagination for all the right reasons. ‘Stories from the Hop Yard’, the film from Catcher Media, seems to have done just that, that is if the sell-out audiences are anything to go by. Launching at 2018’s Borderlines Film Festival, it sold out at Hereford (within a fortnight of going on sale, the first sell out of the festival, calling for two extra dates in April that are now also sold out), at Malvern it attracted the single biggest audience of the festival with an audience of over 420, and you’ll be lucky to get one at Ledbury now for the screening on 4th May. It was rated 'Top Audience Film' above numerous Oscar winners and other local films. Interestingly, ticket holders haven’t been the usual ‘culture vultures’, with many admitting never having stepped inside venues like the Courtyard or Malvern Theatres before.
So, what’s been going on? As we have discovered during the research and filming stages of this wonderful project, the hop has potent value. Yes, there is huge - and unapologetic - nostalgic appeal. We all know that the sun didn’t shine every day and there was some miserable picking in the rain and the mud, but what is so evocative and powerful is the sense of community in the hop yard, the picking together and therefore the pulling together. Even if you have never stepped inside a hop yard or picked into a crib, it’s hard not be charmed.
During the making of the film, we interviewed over 60 people. We know that is just the tip of the iceberg, with dozens more stories waiting to be told. Sometimes there was a sense of urgency in the retelling and the for posterity’s sake. The late Barry Parker of Instone Farm is a case in point. He died in February this year. We interviewed him at his home last autumn and his words were, and are, strangely prophetic. He was 93 then, and house bound. He was a fourth or fifth generation hop farmer from his Munderfield base, and there was a strong sense as we talked that he was the last of the few still standing. In his now immortal words he was able to illustrate the importance in community and social historical terms, of recording stories like his: ‘If you don’t get the stories now when old duffers like me are gone, then our stories will be lost forever’.
This film has we hope demonstrated that history isn’t just about the archiving and recording of the ‘big’ events. It is these local stories that deserve to be recognised and remembered for future audiences, the extraordinary stories that are hidden in the ordinary. We hope you continue to enjoy the film and continue to feed through your memories. Thank you for watching!
By Marsha O'Mahony