With Christmas and New Year behind us, and Borderlines Film Festival in front of us, we are on countdown to the first film in the Herefordshire Life Through a Len’s series. First up is our hop film – Stories from the Hop Yard that has caught the public’s imagination in a way that has rather surprised us. It seems everyone, of a certain age, has a memory connected to the hop yards of the county, and most of them want to share their memories. We could have interviewed for weeks on end, following up every lead, and still we wouldn’t have finished. I’m sure there are many stories we haven’t captured – that would have been an impossibility – but what we have done is capture the essence of those halcyon days. And that is thanks to some of the wonderful, expressive, and generous interviewees we have met along the way.
It’s a timely exercise too. Already, two of our interviewees, stalwarts in the hop growing community, have passed away. Their experiences and memories will be remembered and, I think, revered too. In an expression too often over used, they were old school and I for one am delighted to have met them.
Somehow, out of the 60+ of interviews and many hours of filming, the film is taking shape. Characters are coming through, and themes are emerging. Yes, we have the bushlers, the bookers, the sack men, the pickers. We also have, the scrumping, the missionaries, the fish women, music and singing. The hop scene mid season was kaleidoscopic, bursting at the scenes with characters, of all ages, slackers and the industrious, the noisy the silent, quick pickers, slow pickers. Youngsters would arrive alongside their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, from the industrial centres, laden down with tea chests, pale and skinny, returning to their homes after three weeks in the countryside and picking hops, climbing trees, stuffing apples in pockets, tanned, freckled and nourished.
Did the sun always shine during hop picking? Few remember the rain. But many do recall the fun, the wisecracks, the singing, dancing, time off from school, sitting in the crib, being thrown into the crib, going on strike, the hard work, the scent of the hop. It wasn’t all rose tinted, of course. One Black Country picker recalls the shame of being the family that ‘went hop picking because they needed the money’. Seventy years after she went to Bosbury with her Tipton family for the season, it still stings.
We had romances, marriages, babies born out of wedlock, strikes, discord: the stuff of life really. Nothing much changes, yet, there has been so much change. Come along and see the film, laugh a lot and shed the odd tear. Box office open now
Sat 3rd March 5.00pm
The Courtyard Theatre, Hereford
tel: 01432 340555
Sat 3rd March 4.30pm
Ludlow Assembly Rooms
tel: 01584 878141
Tuesday 6th March 7.45pm
tel: 01684 892277