On Wenlock Edge

A story of love, loss, and learning to let go.

An elderly man, Edward, sits with his dog on a park bench watching the sun set over London’s skyscraper-etched skyline. A sudden storm forces Edward back to his solitary flat and into stormy memories of his youth in the hills of rural Shropshire and the people he once loved and lost.

Based on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ song cycle from 1909 and the poetry of A. E. Housman and told through a visually striking blend of traditional shadow-puppetry and contemporary animation.

We follow Edward as both an old man, nearing the end of his life, and a young man, struggling to fit into the world around him. War, industrialisation, and prejudice pull Edward from the rural idyll of his youth into his self-imposed urban isolation.

Wracked by guilt, shame, and heartbreak he must retrace his footsteps to find the peace he craves.

  • Jeremy Hamway-Bidgood
    Director
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Writer
  • A. E. Housman
    Writer
  • Daniel Norman
    Producer
  • Daniel Norman
    Key Cast
  • Brodsky Quartet
    Key Cast
  • Sholto Kynoch
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Music Video, Short
  • Runtime:
    26 minutes 55 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 23, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    2.35:1
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • d'Overbroek's
    Oxford
    United Kingdom
    April 30, 2019
    Live premiere
  • Oxford Lieder Festival
    Oxford
    United Kingdom
    October 20, 2019
  • Heidelberger Frühling
    Heidelberg
    Germany
    April 18, 2020
    German premiere
  • Oxford International Short Film Festival
    Oxford
    United Kingdom
    June 5, 2020
    ScreenTalk Prize for Best Oxfordshire Film / Official Selection
Director Biography - Jeremy Hamway-Bidgood

Jeremy Hamway-Bidgood is a filmmaker, puppeteer and animator based in Oxford, UK. Jeremy spends much of his time making and puppet and animation content for theatre, film, and TV. His work draws on traditional shadow-puppet forms, especially wayang kulit and karagoz, as well as animators such as Lotte Reiniger and Jan Svankmajer. Jeremy trained as a puppeteer in the UK and Japan and holds a practice-led PhD in traditional Japanese puppetry. Whilst, Jeremy has previously made content for other projects this is his first short film for festival submission.

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Director Statement

I knew nothing of Vaughan William’s song cycle when Dan Norman (the producer) first suggested it as a potential starting point for a collaboration.

However, I remembered Housman’s poems from school and had always found them very evocative of an area of the world I knew well (coincidentally both Dan and I spent significant parts of our childhoods in and around Shropshire).

For me, growing up surrounded by the sublime beauty Housman describes was both idyllic and intensely isolating. This led me to the struggles of the protagonist Edward and his inability to find personal peace despite the beauty that surrounded him. A struggle that leads to his inevitable flight to the city.

Integral to Housman’s vision of the landscape is an implicit homoeroticism. This was an eye opener to me as a deeply repressed teenager growing up in a conservative, evangelical environment riddled with explicit homophobia.

From the start I knew that the film needed to encapsulate both these themes.

The poems Williams chose to set to music have no single narrative running through them. However, in one of the poems I felt a clear narrative was drawn out by the music: a man, who became our protagonist Edward, is haunted by the memory of a lost friend (Albert) whose lover he is now entangled with. Edward is a man left behind, surviving but also failing to live. His relationship with Albert and failure to find love and happiness become the central focus of the film.

I am a puppeteer and especially love the illustrative style and design restrictions of shadow puppetry. Early in the project Dan showed me some wood block prints by Agnes Miller Parker based on Housman’s poems. They instantly drew me to both shadow-puppetry and the animations of Lotte Reiniger as starting points for the film. Ultimately the film is a blend of live action puppets (nearly all the motion is filmed live) and animation techniques (lots of compositing and lighting of elements and even some simple motion capture).

There is a sadness in this film that is part imagined and part real. I hope the combination of the words, music (an exceptional new recording by Dan Norman, Sholto Kynoch and Brodksy Quartet) and visuals create a story that resonates with audiences everywhere.