A new release of archive film and video celebrating RNLI communities across Scotland will finally kick off its major Scottish big screen tour later this month.
Launch! On the Sea with Scotland’s Lifeboats will premier at Mareel in Lerwick, Shetland on Sunday June 20 at 2pm before visiting cinemas and community halls in lifeboat communities across Scotland throughout the rest of the year.
Directed, researched and edited by Shona Thomson in a co-production with Screen Argyll, the film has been two years in the making with unprecedented access to the RNLI’s own archives. 1920s film footage of lifeboats sourced from the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive is woven with 1960s colour promotional films and breath-taking digital video captured by RNLI crews’ 21st century helmet cameras whilst out on the wild sea.
Launch! features a brand new immersive 5.1 surround soundtrack – designed specifically to be experienced in the cinema – composed and recorded by John Ellis (who has played and recorded with Tom Jones, Lily Allen, James Yorkston, John Squire and The Cinematic Orchestra), Arun Ghosh (APPJA Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year), Jason Singh (sound artist and nature beatboxer known for regular appearances on Springwatch, Countryfile and BBC 6 Music), and Jenny Sturgeon (acclaimed singer-songwriter whose recent project The Living Mountain is a collection of songs and films inspired by Nan Shepherd). Bringing the musicians together whilst in lockdown through pioneering online mixing software was the soundtrack’s producer David McEwan (who has collaborated with Nitin Sawhney, Jeff Beck, and Sting).
Reflecting modern volunteer lifeboat crews, Launch! also features images of the women who save lives at sea in Scotland. These were taken using glass plate photography by Jack Lowe as part of The Lifeboat Station Project – Jack’s eight-year mission to photograph all RNLI lifeboat stations in the UK.
The Scotland-wide tour opens at the newly re-opened Mareel in Shetland. Footage of both the Lerwick and Aith RNLI crews feature in the film alongside big screen appearances from 30 other lifeboat crews. Cinemas and film clubs are being encouraged to arrange a screening of Launch! in their community alongside special guests and discussions to support the local community’s lifeboat station.
The film’s director and award-winning curator of A Kind of Seeing, Shona Thomson said: ‘It’s been quite a journey but I’m grateful everyone involved in Launch! has sustained that passion for sharing the incredible work of the RNLI with audiences who want to come back together and return to their local cinemas.
‘I feel honoured that the RNLI generously opened up their archives to me. With a beautiful soundtrack that intertwines sensitively with the archive images, Launch! is an atmospheric film made for the big screen that I hope cinemagoers will enjoy as it truly does take a community to launch a lifeboat.’
Jason Singh, who collaborated with Shona on their successful Following the Fleet UK tour in 2017, said: ‘Creating the soundtrack for Launch! was an incredible experience. We had a dream team of creative and technical virtuosity and wanted to create a score that honoured the emotion and power of the footage and that of the work of the RNLI. We also wanted to bring together acoustic and electronic musical worlds to reflect tradition and also modernity. I hope people get to experience the amazing work that the RNLI and the wider communities have done over the years.’
Roger Lockwood CB, Chair of the RNLI Scottish Council, said: ‘This is a truly unique and exciting opportunity for audiences to see for themselves the operations of the RNLI in Scotland.
‘Scotland’s 46 lifeboat stations provide coverage for some of the most dangerous coastal waters in the world – used not just for leisure or transport, but also for people’s essential livelihood. I am delighted that through Launch! a wider public will be able to appreciate the selflessness of our Lifeboat volunteers who put their own lives at risk to save others.’
Sambrooke Scott, Head of Audience Development at Screen Scotland said: “Launch! is a thrilling and vivid fusion of archive film from the rich history of the RNLI with contemporary music by some of the UK music industry’s most exciting artists, brought together by Shona Thomson, one of our best cultural producers. It promises to be a truly unique experience that deserves to be seen on the big screen, and what better setting for its premiere than Mareel, Scotland’s most northerly cinema. Screen Scotland is a very proud supporter of the project and look forward to it touring Scotland later this year.”
Nicola Kettlewood, Manager at Film Hub Scotland said: “It is fantastic news that Scottish cinema audiences will at long last have the opportunity to experience Launch! on the big screen. A treat for the senses, this affecting film tells a story of bravery, ingenuity and community through a skilful blend of archive film and video with a spirited original soundtrack.”
Launch! is supported by EventScotland as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, by The National Lottery and the Scottish Government through Screen Scotland, and Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network.
Tickets for the Launch! premiere at Mareel in Lerwick can be booked online at shetlandarts.org, in person at Mareel’s Box Office, or over the phone on 01595 745500.
Cinemas, film clubs and community groups can contact the Launch! team to arrange a screening of the film (supported by the film’s accompanying marketing pack) during June to December 2021 through the project website: launchonthesea.com.