In 1997, I moved to the Colne Valley in West Yorkshire and began volunteering with a local voluntary group, the Colne Valley Tree Society, who plant trees in the valley most winter Saturday mornings. A few years later I began working as a music technology lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and gravitated slowly towards digital filmmaking in my own practice and research with a particular emphasis on documentary film sound. Around 2010 these two activities were brought together as I began filming the activities of the Society for what was to become the documentary film, 'Tree People'. Consequently, I began to explore the history of the Society and the local area itself as I became aware of just how much of a difference their tree-planting activities over many years had made to the valley’s landscape. This article explores the relationship between my own aesthetic ideas and goals in terms of documentary film and its associated digital techniques, especially as it relates to the sonic, the subject matter of the film itself, and the historical and social context of the Society and its location.
'Tree People' is a 45-minute film documenting the origins, development, activities and achievements of the Colne Valley Tree Society (CVTS), a local voluntary group that has been planting trees in the Colne Valley since 1964. The valley, lying to the west of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, UK, is some seven miles long and flanked by the Pennine hills. The film highlights the major transformation to the valley landscape the Society has brought about. It was filmed over a period of about four years, was completed in early 2014 and premiered at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Society in April 2014. A primary focus in the film is the creative use and manipulation of location sound and the musical score, performed by me on piano, and local brass band, Slaithwaite Band. This aesthetic thrust has underpinned much of my work in recent years, and has involved developing strategies for the creative use of sound and music in documentary film (see 'No Escape', 2009, 'A Film About Nice', 2010 and 'Cider Makers', 2007)