Museum drama brings Glasgow’s wartime subway to life
More than 50 volunteers and professional actors donned 1940s costumes to star in an innovative short film that will be broadcast on an antique subway train inside the new Riverside Museum.
The 28-minute period drama is set on the 1930s subway car, a well-known feature of the old Museum of Transport at Kelvin Hall, and part of Glasgow Museums’ collection. Visitors to Riverside Museum will be able to board the subway and watch the performance, which will be back-projected onto the end of the train.
During the drama, the 17 actors and 36 extras board and alight at various “stations” on the route. One of these stations included Merkland Street Station, which was bombed in 1940 and re-opened the following year. The drama is set a few weeks after the station re-opened with travellers still anxious about the risks of attack. Despite the fears, Glasgow’s subway was regarded as a safe way to travel during the Second World War, and by 1945 more than 34 million people were travelling on it.
Joseph Briffa, Head of Film and Video at 55degrees, the multi-media production company that made the film, said the production was one of the most ambitious and challenging shoots they'd ever worked on. He said "We had some 60 actors entering and leaving the subway carriage at very specific timings based on a real-time circuit of the subway in 1941, all in single 30-minute long takes. If there was the slightest mistake we had to re-set and return to the beginning. The technical challenge of this was extreme to say the least, and the level of concentration by everyone on set to make this happen was incredible."
As well as the challenges of filming, production staff also had to ensure that the cast of 17 actors and 36 extras all boarded and left the train at exactly the right moment in the script. While aboard, the “travellers” had to sway as if they were standing on a moving train.
Kirsty Devine, Senior Curator at Riverside Museum, added “It was important we got the look perfect. We had to make sure the costumes, make-up, hairstyle and dialogue were all authentic. It was a fun and extraordinary couple of days. Everyone was fantastic, and it was lovely to see such enthusiasm for the new museum. By the time of the final shoot, however, wartime fatigue was definitely starting to show!”
Gavin McLellan, Director of the Riverside Museum Appeal, said “This filming is another example of the public support for the new Riverside Museum, with so many people giving up their whole weekend to feature in this film. There’s still time for members of the public to become part of the new museum. A donation to the Riverside Museum Appeal will ensure that your name or that of someone you love will be a permanent presence inside the museum, just like those who starred in this innovative wartime drama. And despite the difficult financial circumstances, we’ve raised about £4million and have £1million to go – a terrific achievement.
Notes to Editors:
The Riverside Museum Appeal (RMA) is a charitable trust established to raise £5 million in sponsorship and donations from companies, trusts and individuals for the development of the new Riverside Museum. To date, it has raised almost £4 million.
The Riverside Museum Appeal is the second major capital appeal undertaken with Glasgow Museums. It follows the hugely successful refurbishment of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The £5 million fundraising target is a fundamental element of the partnership-funding package. It represents the private and voluntary sector’s contribution towards this exciting and innovative project.
Of the £74 million needed for the development of the Riverside Museum, Glasgow City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund have committed £69 million.
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. To date it has invested over £500 million in Scotland's heritage.