The historic streets of Hartlepool took a ghostly turn as students from Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) revealed a full-sized fantasy world based on the spooky spirits of Hartlepool-past, which was today opened by TV production designer Tina Sherifa Hicks.
Titled ‘The Haunted Histories of Hartlepool’, second-year students designed and built a full-scale studio set of a street inspired by Hartlepool’s rich architectural history as a shipping port and commercial centre for their Production Design for Stage and Screen (PDSS) degree studies at the college’s University-level campus.
Visiting the north east specialist art and design college to officially unveil the strange and surreal street, Tina, whose credits include Waterloo Road, Scott and Bailey and Eastenders, was visibly stunned by the efforts of everyone involved.
“Having only seen the street design in its very fundamental stages at the end of last year, I was quite impressed then. The concept was fantastic, and the scale of the project and the students’ team work skills really stood out, which was great to see.
“Walking through the street today for the first time, my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the street and I thought it was absolutely outstanding. The students have excelled themselves and the incredible details and the effects have produced an amazing level of work for the second year of a degree. I can’t wait to see what they produce in the final year!”
“In terms of preparing for the industry, working on full-size projects like this is vital and so many courses don’t push the boundaries and give students the true insight to the industry. This project allows students to understand scale, materials, quantities, costs and time limitations. It also brings the students to work as a team which is what the industry is all about.”
The Haunted Histories of Hartlepool is a concept proposal for a six – part fictional TV drama series and all the characters in the series are ghosts from Hartlepool’s past, who have now built and created their own environment, the ‘street’. The ghosts have gathered windows, doors and architectural details from many buildings around Hartlepool and recreated a strange world they are set to inhabit, made up of an eclectic and exotic blend of styles.
Given a brief to research Victorian buildings around Hartlepool and the Headland, the students used the information to create a surreal fantasy world for the proposed TV show, as a production design team would be expected to work in the industry today.
From their initial concept sketches and illustrations the students have produced technical drawings and models, leading to the development of full-size buildings, props, street furniture and scenic painting.
20-year-old Helena Cooling from Stockton is a second year student on the PDSS course, and created barber shop ‘Newton’s Shaving Room’, which she found in Hartlepool’s library archives. After discovering the shop in Arch Street, which opened in 1895, Helena took inspiration and ideas, as well as using the owner ‘Tom Newton’ as character development.
Helena said: “This project has been really exciting and interesting to work on across all aspects, from research to designing to testing and building, and it’s amazing to see it all finished. To think that I started this project with little to no experience in building sets and creating it with only research and a vision, is to me very rewarding.
“The building of ‘Newton’s Shaving Room’ was carried out by myself and another student, Lauren Soulsby, and when I step back and look at the whole street, I see the journey that not only myself, but the whole group have gone on to achieve something amazing.
After graduating Helena hopes to make a step into the entertainment industry.
As part of her visit, industry expert Tina delivered a production design workshop for the students. She was also able to offer invaluable career advice for the future entertainment artists and designers. “I’ve already arranged work placements for some of the students, which is what they need. Learning how to design, draw, use a computer and so forth are only the core basics. Once you enter the design department there are so many other job roles within the department. It’s only until the students can actually experience this first hand that they begin to get a true sense of the scope and feel of the roles that they could train in, or work their way up.”
As a production designer, Tina is often asked to appoint her own team and is always looking to offer opportunities to former CCAD students, including employing two graduates from the PDSS programme, Nick Hope and David Cruikshank.
A former CCAD student herself, Tina enjoyed a trip down memory lane. “I came to Hartlepool to study from 1996-1999 when the course was called ‘Design for the Entertainment Industry’. It’s fantastic to see how the course has developed and moulded into what has become a great course for production design.”
Second-year student Molly Watson also worked on the project and enjoyed working with other college courses and students. Molly’s designed a building similar to a junk shop, where the ghostly characters have taken the best bits from buildings around Hartlepool, putting them together to give the shop a ‘run down’ feel.
19-year-old Molly from Maidenhead, currently living in Hartlepool, said: “To make a full size set is not something you get to do very often and it gives you a much better experience of what it would be like to create something that would be used in the industry for filming, so it is so exciting to see it finally finished.
“Working as a team, everyone has helped each other out, with some people making parts for other people, so it has been quite collaborative. No building is just their own work, it has bits from other people.”
Although predominantly a second-year project, first-year PDSS students have also been involved – designing and building props to decorate the street and shop windows – making it a collaborative exhibition. Students from the costume degree will also be producing designs for the ghostly characters and creating the costumes as part of their course.
Norman Austick, lecturer in production design at CCAD, said: “I am delighted with the exhibition and the students have worked exceptionally hard over the past five months. The street set demonstrates the talents of our students, and should be an amazing experience for visitors.
“This project is designed to showcase and expand students’ concept development and construction skills, which are much needed and valued in the production design industry. The street has been completed to a high level of detail and finish – the industry standards needed when working with high definition cameras – and an example of how CCAD prepares students for employment.
“The Production Design for Stage and Screen programme at CCAD is one of only a handful of similar courses at this level in the country, which develop the practical skills needed for the rapidly expanding theatre, film and TV industry, and we were delighted to have Tina join us and celebrate the opening of the exhibition.”
The exhibition is now open to the public to wander down the street and take a step back in time. The work will be on exhibition for three months, with lighting and sound provided by the programme team to create an authentic visitor experience. Public viewings will take place on weekdays from 10am – 4pm from 28th Jan until 24th April at CCAD’s Production Design Studios on Church Square in Hartlepool.
It is hoped that the work will be displayed at other venues around the region.
For more information on opportunities at CCAD contact (01642) 288888 or visit www.ccad.ac.uk.