Andrew Kötting (director)
104 min (length)
17 July 2023 (released)
20 July 2023
Bromley-born Andrew Kötting is one of the most innovative and most respected artists, writers and filmmakers in Britain today. His best known work, GALLIVANT from 1996, can best be described as part road movie and part home movie as we follow him, his then 85-year old gran Gladys and his seven year-old daughter Eden (who suffers from Joubert Syndrome) on a thirteen week long journey around Britain’s coastline, spanning over 6,000 miles. Along the route, the trio meet locals, eccentrics and above all, get accustomed with long-standing traditions which makes this fascinating travelogue a homage to British culture and identity.
To gallivant about means to wander or travel about from one place to another in pursuit of adventure and entertainment. This is precisely what filmmaker Kötting tried to achieve with his travelogue (which premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival where it won the ‘Channel 4 Best New Director’ award). As Kötting states: “It was my gran Gladys and her husband Albert who took me on my first trips to the seaside, camping or caravanning. We would nearly always go to Bexhill-on-Sea…” Obviously, those fond childhood memories are full of nostalgia and it’s little wonder then that the artist’s film (after a brief pre-title sequence) – and the journey together with his opinionated gran Gladys and his daughter Eden – begins at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. Little Eden suffers from Joubert Syndrome, meaning that mainly, she can only communicate via sign language using her hands. While Gran and Eden don’t appear to be that close at first, during their long journey they really bond – it is one of the factors why Kötting decided on this trip… because he wanted to document this travelogue as a journey across generations and before the three might part in ‘different’ ways.
After the starting point, it’s off to St. Catherine’s Chapel and cemetery in Abbotsbury, Dorset, where gran attempts to tell Eden a ghostly tale, which is followed by trips to other places in Dorset with their camper van. Here, the trio approach the village of Beer (yes, it’s really called Beer) where Gran and Eden enjoy a spot of rowing. The journey continues along the coastline until they reach Lizard in Cornwall (England’s most southerly point), followed by a visit to the Goonhilly Earth Station. Particularly interesting is the Cornish village of St. Agnes, where the tale of Bolster, the giant who fell in love with the virtuous young maid St. Agnes, is performed annually using gigantic puppets.
The trio then head to Wales (industrial Port Talbot and Glamorgan) where Gran and Eden pose in front of a huge red dragon sculpture. Other stops include the amusement arcades of Blackpool, followed by Cumbria. Here, we get to see the former nuclear plant of Sellarfield (quite an unsettling image), some charming allotments in Barrow-in-Furness and Whitehaven, where Kötting chats with an old couple who have been living in the town since the day they were born. When he asks the man what the word ‘tradition’ means to him, he replies that it is something old, which should never be forgotten. And when he asks his wife whether she can gurn, she giggles and then pulls an utterly grotesque face before breaking out into laughter.
After Cumbria it’s off to bonnie Scotland where the travellers stop in Strathclyde, Dunoon, the isle of Skye and Cape Wrath in the Highlands, where they encounter Highland cows and chat with locals. Kötting can be seen in conversation with a local woman who suffers from bunions, to which he responds by showing her his own bunion on a shattered ankle no less. Further stops in Scotland include Aberdeen and the Lothians, before they cross the border back to England where their first stop is the picturesque town of Berwick-upon-Tweed and of course, a trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Next on the agenda are Yorkshire and the picturesque village of Aldbrough. By now it’s Halloween 1995 and Gran and Eden are sitting in a field playing with carved pumpkins.
Next stop is Grimsby in Lincolnshire where a local lad on the beach sings a shanty performed with his accordion – that is, until the ditty is abruptly interrupted by the oncoming tide. After that we’re in Southwold in Suffolk, before Kötting, Gran and Eden join a bunch of men during a picnic at Martello Towers. The journey continues to Clacton-on-Sea and some joyless looking outskirts in Essex. Not to be missed are a visit to Rye and also a visit to the historic town of Hastings, where the three witness the pagan May Day celebration known as the Jack-in-the-Green festival. Finally, the long journey ends where it all began: in Bexhill-on-Sea.
What makes this travelogue so fascinating and insightful is not just the human interaction between Kötting and his little daughter and Gran, but the footage of all the people they met during their journey – it is safe to say that many of those they met are no longer among us. At times, the places and its people give the impression of a time warp… like places stuck forever in the 1960s or 70s.
We all know that in present Great Britain, such places become rarer and rarer and therefore it’s all the more important that Andrew Kötting has captured a slice of British history on film.
GALLIVANT has been remastered in 2K from the original 35mm interpositive and is presented on Blu-ray and on DVD in its original aspect ratio. Bonus material includes an array of Kötting’s short films and 44-page booklet with writing by director Kötting and his collaborator Andrew Sinclair. The release is limited to 1,000 copies.