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News Eleven years of Culture. pt 3

As Beth Bate, Director of Great North Run Culture prepares to leave the organisation after 11 years, she talks us through her top 11 moments! Click to read previous instalments, part 1 and part 2.

5. On a truck with Wallinger - read more about this commission

After damaging my lower back some years ago, I’ve become resigned to the fact it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever do the Great North Run. Many of my friends and family take part every year and there’s always a part of me that would love to be on the other side of the barriers one year, hearing the crowds cheer, battling through the miles, picking up my goody bag at the end. 

The project we commissioned by Mark Wallinger for our 2012 programme finally allowed me to come a little closer to the real action. Mark first attended the Great North Run in 2005 and we’d remained in touch since, discussing possible project ideas, looking for opportunities to work together.

Finally, in 2011, Mark proposed to create a new film of the event, an hour-long single shot piece, with the camera positioned just in front of the elite male athletes. Camera Running was a silent, dreamlike glide along the course, always focused on the horizon, whilst taking in the spectators and infrastructure at the sides of the roads.

We filmed on a large truck with a camera attached to a gyroscope suspended from the front. Mark and I sat in the open back of the truck, each with small screens to monitor what was being filmed from the front. It was a drizzly day and I had to buy us both full waterproofs and, as we sat rustling in the back of the truck, waiting for the starting gun to go off and the camera team to start filming, I knew something momentous was about to take place.

The next hour was mesmeric and nerve-racking. There was no second chance, no opportunity for another take. If anything went wrong, we wouldn’t have a film. We clutched our screens while the crowds all waved, the crews at the cheering stations yelled support, and the people of South Tyneside came out in force with deckchairs and picnics. We waved and cheered back, feeling slightly fraudulent that we were being driven and weren’t actually running… But despite that, this was the closest I felt to actually doing the run itself. I’ve travelled to the finish in many ways, from coach to helicopter, but here we were, right in the action, amongst the people who make it such an incredible day.

So, not a run. And I’m not much of a runner any more. But Camera Running is my memory of the closest I’ll get to really completing those 13.1 miles. 

6. What you thought 

One of the most inspiring aspects of working in the arts and culture is when you hear directly from people about how much they loved a project, when you genuinely see the impact it has had on people’s lives. My life was changed for the better through involvement and participation with the arts as a teenager and it has been enormously important to me that the work we do at Great North Run Culture also has an impact.

I arrived in the office on the day after theGreat North Run Million Opening Ceremony to a very full inbox. We received hundreds of emails from people writing to let us know not only how much they had enjoyed the event but also that it had moved them, that they felt proud, that it was a night they would remember for ever. The event itself was phenomenal but to know that people were truly inspired was a feeling I’ll never forget. 


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