Little Ireland set for screening in the home country

A PAIR of South Tyneside film-makers are hoping to take their documentary about Irish immigration into Jarrow to the Emerald Isle itself.

Little Ireland, made by director Gary Wilkinson and playwright Tom Kelly, sold out both its St Patrick's Day showings at the Customs House in South Shields last week.

Using archive material, photographs and interviews, the film looks at the impact of the Irish community on the town from the 19th century up to the present day.

Mr Wilkinson said: "People loved it. At the end, they came up and said they really enjoyed it. We sold all 40 DVDs we'd brought on the night as well."

The film was so successful that the Customs House is considering showing it again later this year.

In the meantime, the pair are hoping to take the 40-minute documentary on the road to various film festivals in Ireland.

Mr Wilkinson said: "We're sending out copies to see if it can get screened at festivals this summer in Dublin, Belfast, Waterford and Cork."

Though he's been involved in dozens of projects in his 10 years at South Tyneside-based Northeastern Films, Mr Wilkinson said the experience of showing Little Ireland to the public was the most nerve-wracking of his career.

He said: "I was very nervous on the night, but it all went well, and it was definitely worth it.

"People wore green and really got into the spirit of it."

Jarrow-born Mr Kelly, the film's narrator, added: "It went better than we expected.

"To sell out two shows and to have such warmth from the audience was amazing. It couldn't have gone better. I was knocked out."

Customs House executive director Ray Spencer added: "To sell out two showings in such a short space of time was a remarkable achievement, and it's testimony to the quality of the film that there are already discussions for it to return in October."

Copies of the Little Ireland DVD are available at South Shields Central Library, priced 10.