The Tea Machine is a 20 minute film drama set and made in a Manchester case making factory in 1980. It was shown in November 2010 at the Salford Film Festival and its next large screen outing is at the Filmed up event on June 15 2012 at the Cornerhouse Cinema, Manchester . View the film here.
Photo: Paul Hollyer
The Tea Machine is a 20minute film drama, adapted by Mike Rowe from one of his own short stories and based on a real life incident at Mike's case making factory in 1972.
The drama is set on a typical Monday morning at Continental Cases. Tim is back at work after two weeks on the sick; Shop Steward, Ben (Joe Smythe) is pre-occupied with the forthcoming Union Executive meetings at which the strategy for the current wage claim will be thrashed out; Angry (Mike Rowe) is running to work endeavouring to beat the clock, thus escaping the ignominy of losing a quarter of an hour's pay for a few seconds lateness.
The early part of the morning passes without incident until shortly before break time, when the Tea Machine mechanic arrives to adjust the machine to take account of a price rise. This proves to be the last straw for the volatile Angry, who launches into a tirade on prices and wages.
Enter the notorious malcontent Malcolm, (Ernie Dalton) shadowed by his clone-like apprentice, Wayne (Wayne Sedgeman). Catching the end of Angry's outburst he seizes the opportunity to sow the seeds of industrial discontent.
A brave attempt by an Older Worker (Jack Gerraghty) to lay the blame for society's ills at the door of 'inflation' is quickly shot down. Geordie aka The Gob (Peter Bainbridge) calls for a boycott of the Tea Machine, and the fat is well and truly in the fire.
The Shop Steward who's well in with the Boss, Ronnie Orient (Frank Crumpton) is called upon to rectify the situation. He appeals for moderation as a wage claim is 'in the pipeline' and it's the wrong time to start rocking the boat, but these words of wisdom fall on deaf ears. Malcolm brings into question the wider issues of bonus's, wages productivity and the union's attitude to the problems of the case makers.
From then on all hell is let loose, and the shop floor power base shifts from faction to faction as the case makers battle for control of their own destinies.....
I'd met Mike through my partner Fran Kershner who worked at Commonword Worker/Writers Workshop. Mike was a case-maker by day and a writer by night .We developed the script and got funding, about £3,000 if I remember correctly from North West Arts Film Panel to make it. All the cast and crew got paid as well.
The cast was comprised of people we knew who all spent time at the Film & Video Workshop. Ernie Dalton of North West Spanner was the only 'professional' actor on call.
Joe Smythe, the remarkable poet who had by then become a good friend, regularly calling in for a cup of tea and a chat at the Workshop after his night shift duties as a railway guard. My father, Frank Crumpton, (like Joe sadly deceased in the intervening years,) kindly stepped into the role of Ronnie Orient the factory manager to help out.
He'd never done anything like it before and got such a thrill out of appearing in the movie. We filmed in the factory over one weekend and got the majority of the script shot. Martin Lightening and Roy Newton did camera, sound and editing between them. There was something so right about the piece and it was perfectly of its time.
Written by a worker-writer it was filmed at his place of work and even had the premiere in the factory canteen. We brought out the soundtrack 'Tea Machine Dub' as the first ever double 'B' sided 7 inch single with one of Mike's mischievous verses about John Cooper Clarke 'I Married a Cult Figure from Salford'; put to music by one of the 'invisible girls' Steve Hopkins. It reached number 10 in the N.M.E.'s Independent charts after several radio plays courtesy of John Peel and can still raise a few chuckles.