Review: North Sea Holes

The North East Coast of the UK has history. A rich industrial and fishing history which is characterised by towering metal structures, docks and busy ports. As the industry declined over the 1980s, the proud structures became looming monuments to an era’s passing, and it became too easy for the rest of the country to view the North East as a coastline scarred by hard times and hard people.

Luckily for us, Finisterre Ambassador Sandy Kerr, along with the failsafe crew of Chris McClean, Lewis Arnold and Matt Smith, disprove the gloomy myths around the scene of the North East with North Sea Holes.

I didn’t want to portray the North East in a bad way because it such an amazing place despite its slightly checkered past.
— Sandy Kerr, speaking to Matt Smith
Image by  Lewis Arnold

The film is atmospheric yet uplifting, like a fast moving grey sky punctured with moments of sunbeams and cloud breaks. Images of industry are contrasted with natural structures of sand and salt water. Waves are peppered with surfers trying to find favour with a sea that can be both generous and ferocious, both to those who fish it and those who try to surf it.

Try your luck at the North Shields Gut
— North Sea Holes, Ewan MacColl

In addition to the contrast of declining industry heritage and natural beauty, North Sea Holes focusses on the blooming surf scene and, in particular, the wonder of the region through Sandy’s eyes. Pairing intricate surf sequences with personal, individual struggles from the past, the film holds both a sense of vulnerability around Sandy’s life, but also honours his dedication. Bravery is abundant both in and out of the water.

[Sandy] seemed more interested in the older crew and that kind of respectful attitude set him apart.
— Lewis Arnold , as told to Matt Smith
Image by  Lewis Arnold

Image by Lewis Arnold

The film is focussed around one man, but acts as a gateway for the rest of the world to discover the hidden warmth and steely centre of a community on the edge of “the banks and knolls of the North Sea holes”. This warmth is present in the narration, the sequences and the golden undertones of sunsets, tea coloured waves and nostalgic memories. It may be grim up north for some, but this film is a celebration of the ‘other’ North Shore and the people that cherish it.

Catch the full movie and interview here.

Nomadic writer and designer