Little Cote

'Little Cote' follows the lives of Ronnie and Val Bennett across seasons of change on their small livestock farm in east Suffolk. Starting in February 2019, it's a quiet journey over a turbulent 18 months, taking in several big issues of the day — climate change, the environment, Brexit and a global pandemic — with typical Suffolk pragmatism and good humour. Filmed with a painterly eye, ‘Little Cote’ is an affectionate portrait of an old-fashioned couple and the disappearing way of life they’ve shared with chickens, ferrets and cows for nearly half a century.

  • Dean Parkin
    Man in the Blue Overalls
  • Dean Parkin
    Man in the Blue Overalls, Pearls from The Grit, Right Up Your Street, Spread a Little Kirkleyness, Halesworth Whispers, We Are Here, All in a Day's Work
  • Naomi Jaffa
    Pearls from The Grit, Right Up Your Street, Spread a Little Kirkleyness, Halesworth Whispers, We Are Here, All in a Day's Work
  • Sally Ann Burnett
    Key Cast
    Eastenders, Midsomer Murders
  • David Redgrave
    Key Cast
    Doctor Who, The Last Horror Movie
  • Nathan Berry
    Man in the Blue Overalls, Halesworth Whispers
  • Maurice Horhut
    Pearls from The Grit, Halesworth Whispers, Spread a Little Kirkleyness
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    20 minutes 22 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 12, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    685 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • FolkEast
    Glemham Hall, Suffolk
    United Kingdom
    August 20, 2023
Director Biography - Dean Parkin

Dean Parkin was born in 1969 and grew up in Carlton Colville, a village near Lowestoft in east Suffolk. He left school at sixteen to work at a printers and then a bookshop. From 1999 to 2015 he was part of The Poetry Trust team responsible for the annual international Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, ending up as Creative Director. He is now a full-time published writer, performer and workshop leader, running sessions for all ages from primary school children to the over 90s.

Dubbed 'Suffolk’s unofficial Poet Laureate' by BBC Radio Suffolk, Dean has written poetry collections for adults and children, over twenty books of local history, and three one-man shows. In 2018-19 he wrote and performed in 'Pearls from The Grit' — the Arts Council and Heritage Lottery funded touring theatre show about Lowestoft's lost fishing village — which drew sell-out audiences and rave reviews across the eastern region.

Over the past decade he has created ten video poems with an East Anglian focus which have received over 60k online views. Commissioned by the BBC in 2019, his 'Suffolk Heart' poem has become an annual feature of Suffolk Day each June and to date, 100k have viewed the accompanying film. 'Little Cote' (2023) is his first short film with Nathan Berry.

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Director Statement

Little Cote is my first short film and first full collaboration with cinematographer Nathan Berry. My aim is to celebrate and preserve a vanishing, and now socially unfamiliar, way of life. The film is a follow-up to 'Man in the Blue Overalls', a poem film we made about Ronnie Bennett in 2015. Four years later we wanted to focus on the partnership between Ronnie and his wife, Val. 'Little Cote' captures the apparently 'unremarkable' lives of two people who have been neighbours from before I was born. It is this connection that meant Ronnie and Val were comfortable talking to me, and all their dialogue in the film is verbatim.

I wanted to create something pleasing both to ear and eye. And something that could only have been made in Suffolk. The big issues of the day naturally arise in 'Little Cote' — climate change, the environment, Brexit, the pandemic — and are treated with typical Suffolk pragmatism.

My collaboration with Nathan Berry builds on four recent poem films and is our first partnership production. We share a familiarity with and love for the old rural county ways, and despite lack of funding, we were determined to make this film. I encouraged Nathan to pursue his own visual take on the world of Little Cote and we had most of the footage before I started putting the script together, matching Ronnie and Val's words with Nathan's scenes.

'Little Cote' also involved my longstanding composer/musician Maurice Horhut. Classically trained and now a professional jazz pianist, he is a brilliant composer of melody. Creating the more abstract atmospheric soundtrack has been a real departure. I have worked with producer Naomi Jaffa for over two decades. The piano textures were her idea; we edited the script and directed the actors together.

Stories of place have been a constant source of inspiration, particularly Ronald Blythe's 'Akenfield', Jeff Young's 'Ghost Town' and Terence Davies' 'Time and the City'. I love the puzzle of ordering verbatim speech to achieve an effect of barely heightened reality.

The Suffolk voice is at the centre of my work. It's an accent that gets mangled on stage and screen and it's hard to find actors who can effortlessly sustain anything authentic. I had intended 'Little Cote' to be a video poem which I would narrate, but after putting together a 'work in progress' version, a script for a male and a female voice emerged for which actors would be required. Having worked with David Redgrave and Sally Ann Burnett on my 'Pearls from The Grit' theatre show, the voices of Ronnie and Val were easy to cast.

'Little Cote' has been a journey with a changing map. In February 2019 we'd intended a four-part film to cover the seasons of the year. But Covid stopped us in our tracks and resulted in two more sections: an impromptu folk music session after lockdown was lifted and a final part of how world events resonated in this quiet corner of Suffolk.