Tess Farley talks about her short film We Still Believe in Love

Tess Farley talks to us about We still Believe in Love (So F**k You). This wonderful love letter to Manchester is currently featured in the online edition of Filmed Up, HOME’s North West Filmmakers showcase.

Question: How did the Film Come about?

Tess Farley: In April 2020, as a freelance theatre maker and participatory artist, all my gigs had been cancelled. Whilst working to source PPE for social care, I applied for a commission through Greater Manchester Combined Authority: The Covid-19 Creative Commissions. This film is one of 60 art-works from Greater Manchester artists documenting the pandemic.

When I applied, I knew it was an ambitious pitch. I didn’t really expect to win a commission because there had been in excess of four hundred applications…and then I won the bloody commission and had to make the work…(shit).

We Still Believe In Love was written through a process of engaging with communities. These are real stories and experiences, weaved into monologue form, told through the voice of our protagonist. These are real people’s lives, thoughts and feelings.

I didn’t know what I would write or how it would be written or what stories I’d be told in the (very-quick) writing phase. I didn’t have a creative team at that point or know if any of the artists I asked to work with me would say yes. They did. I thought it was possible we could make something special, and I didn’t stop to think about how ambitious it was. I just believed we could.

We had no idea how we would produce a film in lockdown, all working completely remotely. We did. Somehow. (Without even a single zoom meeting). The entire process was experimental, avant-garde and at times challenging, on a very tight deadline. The team were incredible, and some of them have never even met.

We made the film, but we had no idea if anyone would watch it really. Then United We Stream premiered in June 2020. Unbeknown to me, Dermot had submitted the film to festivals and it got into many official selections and even won an award for Best Writing.

Our little Manchester film has now been screened all over the world, as far away as Tokyo, Canada and India. But a year after the premiere, finding a Manchester audience once more and having the film celebrated in the city means more than I can articulate. This film, made with the tiniest budget but with the biggest sentiment, is, at its core, a love letter to Manchester.

Q: It feels like a wonderful labour of love and a real collaborative effort…

TF: It definitely is and there are many people to thank for it!

Thank you so much to United We Stream for programming it, where it premiered in June 2020. Thank you to everyone who’s so far watched it, resonated with it, and shouted about it.

Thank you to Dermot, who (usually without my knowledge) submitted the film to festivals and made our little Manchester film travel all around the world.

Thank you to the incredible team who made this work with me in strange, uncharted territory and trusted that it wouldn’t be rubbish. And mostly thank you to the amazing people whose stories we were able to highlight. (note from the editor: please see credit at the end of this article for the team members’ biographies)

The main thing for me is that people know their voices deserve to be heard and that we can shine a light on important stories using art: working with communities, rather than just making work about or for them.  Too often we do to communities, rather than do with them…then we wonder why people we might not typically engage aren’t arsed about our art.

Art made with communities can and should have high production values, but is so often under-funded, or just doesn’t reach a general audience because it’s not considered sellable. The label ‘community’ carries a stigma which, in the eyes of the arty-elite, makes the art ‘less than’… and yet here’s an award- winning film, which was so well received by Manchester audiences made in the middle of lockdown with nothing but love, engagement with communities, belief, risk-taking and a lot of talent from the team.

Now we have HOME’s audiences to thank for choosing this film to feature in Filmed Up: a massive cheers to you!


The Team behind the film:

Tess Farley is Artistic Director of Out From Under. She’s a story-teller and maker: usually she makes theatre, sometimes she makes films.  She’s a woman. She’s working class.

Some of the hats Tess wears include: Participatory Artist, Writer, Director, Dramaturg and specialist in Theatre of the Oppressed. She is Associate Artist at Mind The Gap and has worked extensively with and for Cardboard Citizens, as well as with other leading theatre and arts organisations.

Tess is passionate about working with disadvantaged and underrepresented groups to use theatre as tool for social, personal and political change. Alongside this, she also creates bold and urgent new work: always with a socio-political focus, often in unusual spaces or using experimental processes.

Dermot Daly was born in England. Like Tess, he wears many hats working mostly within theatre, screen, and audio. As a filmmaker he has won official selection status from over 100 international film festivals and been nominated or won several awards. A lot of his film work is produced through Chocolate Bear which is an ongoing collaboration with his filmmaking partner Ivan Mack. All of his work aims to include and explore stories about who we are and who we could grow to be, with an emphasis on participation and ‘throwing ladders back down’.

Ali Gadema is an Actor hailing from Manchester. Recent Theatre includes: King John, A Museum in Baghdad (RSC); Returning to Reims (Schaubühne, St Ann’s Warehouse, Manchester International Festival). Recent film includes: Mughal Mowgli, The Moment. Ali is also a spoken word artist and hip hop practitioner and is listed as a co-founder of Young Identity, the North West’s leading poetry collective for young people.

Jonny Murray is a musician from Manchester.  He’s been playing Trumpet and Cornet for 22 years. Jonny trained under full scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music and attended Trinity College of Music: his career to date has seen him play on Radio 1, live at Maida Vale, Abbey Road Studios and on Jools Holland, as well as at many of the major festivals across the UK and abroad. Jonny plays Trumpet with Bombay Bicycle Club, recording on their last two albums. In March 2020, he’d just finished the most recent tour of the new album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, ending in two sold out shows at Ally Pally. He’s currently making music from his studio in the Northern Quarter, Manchester. You Can follow Jonny on Instagram @jonnypmurray

Andy Meyers is a Technical Manager at a large North West Theatre. Andy is a keen photographer, whom, whilst furloughed, used his daily exercise to document the empty city for the film.

3Digits: Dan Berry, is the founder & Director of Submit Records and runs Portal Studios, based in Ancoats, Manchester.