A passion project close to his heart, filmmaker and director Dan Emmerson grew up immersed amongst Northern subcultures, so it was only right that one day he’d find an opportunity to document them visually.
'Gannin Hyem' draws comparisons between days gone by and the modern age through the sport of Whippet Racing, exploring Geordie culture and youth lifestyles along the way. A pastime that has slowly dwindled over the decades, there are still a core group of supporters racing regularly with dogs they’ve cared for and nurtured for years.
Taking a mixed media approach to the film, Dan made use of both digital and analogue formats to truly capture the gritty nature of the North represented in the content. Archival footage was also uncovered that revealed the origins of the culture, allowing the viewer to compare the two and see how the region has evolved years down the line.
“The film, for me, isn’t about Whippet racing so much. It’s more about the North East, identity and what young are people are doing now.”
The spectral presence of Thatcherism haunts the films seven-minute running time (you can almost hear her whispering “there’s no such thing as society” as Emmerson cuts to archive footage of people dog-walking in front of decimated collieries), with Whippet racing’s slow decline mirroring of small, dismantled communities left behind by Conservative governments. “It’s still there, they’re still clinging onto Whippets, but it’s a very post-industrial vibe. You feel that now,” notes Emmerson, on the similarities.
While the film ends on a semi-poignant note (courtesy of Josh, who, as a young person involved in Whippet racing, serves as Gannin Hyem’s sole contrast to vaping, adolescent indifference), it remains, ultimately, a short, sharp documentation of a subculture at its most localised. It’s about the beauty – and inevitable demise – and of the idiosyncratic. Why aye.
“(I love) the bond between people and their dogs,” he explains. “When I was doing it, a lot of people were like, ‘that’s so cruel.’ But, if you’ve got a long dog like a Whippet or a lurcher or a greyhound, that is what they love – they love to run like that. It looks a bit gnarly when you put them in a cage and put a cloth 100 metres away, but they love it. At the end of it, they’re so hyped. All they wanna do is do it again. Once you see that, it makes total sense.”
“It’s a realer connection.”
Also more about Dan Emmerson in:
Another great video 'Bike Life': https://vimeo.com/188861036