One of the highlights of Doc/Fest 2015 for us was Relish: For the People of Sheffield, a short film about Sheffield’s own condiment Henderson’s Relish. We sat down with Sheffield-born actor Ian Reddington to discuss his recent move into filmmaking.
What was it that made you decide you had to make this film?
I think the germination of the doc would have been when I was about six years old! Obviously growing up in Sheffield, Henderson’s Relish is ubiquitous. When I was younger I was completely entranced by the Henderson’s factory on Leavygreave Road. That’s been there since 1910. When you were a kid and you used to walk into town you’d see this weird building. People would say ‘you never ever see anyone entering or leaving the Henderson’s building!’. So obviously you’re brought up with all that mystique as well. Then I left Sheffield to train and to start my career as an actor, and when you’re away from anywhere you start to pine for home, for what it means. When people ask what Sheffield is like, you say ‘do you know Henderson’s Relish?’, as if that stood for Sheffield, for the entire city. We’ve chosen a bottle of relish to represent us, which is rather strange. It is so Sheffield, that idea. Sheffield wasn’t even a city when Henderson’s started. It’s ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as Sheffield and the people in it!
How did you go about constructing your team?
At the end of last year, I was in a feature film, and they shot the whole film in twelve days. On that film there were a group of kids – they looked about twelve or fourteen, but I was watching them and just thought they were really great. The DoP, Aaron Rodgers, was brilliant, at a professional level, and so were all the other guys. They were at Ravensbourne College. At the end of the film they came to me and said ‘for one of our final modules, we have to make a documentary’ and I said ‘well you’ll never guess what but I’ve got this idea in the back of my mind’. I think they thought it would be some sexy subject, and I said ‘it’s about a bottle of relish kids!’. I brought them to Sheffield and I literally just took them round some pubs, and asked people to tell them about Hendo’s. They were in fits. They couldn’t believe it and they just absolutely bought into it and said ‘Ian, we want to do this. It is absolutely mad and fascinating’.
So my lovely team came on board, and we had no money. I said ‘I’ll just ring some people up!’. So I ring up Bobby Knutt, I ring up Richard Hawley…the only people I knew were my school mates, the Heaven 17 lads, everybody else I just rang up.
You talk about having no money – how was the crowdfunding experience?
It was brief, so we ended up with not a lot, but it helped get some of the lads up here and give them somewhere to stay. We literally had no money. Again, how very Sheffield! Henderson’s has no budget, it’s perfect.
What kind of release platforms are you looking at?
See, you’ve just said something to me – ‘release platforms’ – that I need to digest, to understand what you guys talk about! What I’m used to is ‘stage left, stage right, that’s a wrap, action’, stuff like that.
I don’t know where it could go. Again, how very Sheffield! Well it’s about Sheffield – who would be interested in that? I’ve got to get my head around that. I need people to watch it and tell me. Is someone in China going to get this? I would love it to be seen. It’s about our city and we don’t mind shouting from the rooftops about that. In terms of world domination…watch this space!
Apart from Henderson’s Relish, what do you miss most about Sheffield?
I miss the football. I miss the hills. There is nowhere else like it…other than Rome and Edinburgh! It’s that mucky picture in a golden frame. I was born in Walkley, so lovely views. It’s a city where you can just walk into town.
A couple of years ago Sheffield was voted the happiest place to live in the UK. Michael Palin said he thought it was because Sheffielders are ‘stroppy, but in a good way’. What do you think our special thing is?
Well, it’s not mine but I always agree with what Hurricane Higgins said. He came to Sheffield every year for the Snooker World Cup, and he loved the city. He said the people of Sheffield have a melancholy about them, but at the same time this happy-go-lucky attitude.
What about the advertising campaign for your film, your ‘internet breaking’?
There is no advertising campaign – there is just me shamelessly publicising it. I have to say I have been amazed that I haven’t seen other people doing what I’m doing here. I came up a day early, went to the shops and put posters up, bought some Blue Tack and all that. I had 2000 flyers printed. Some people are on their third flyer!
I want the people of Sheffield to see it and not just the Doc/Fest-goers. I would love the city of Sheffield to see it. I don’t know how that happens. You’ll notice on the credits and in the publicity it says on the credits ‘relish: for the people of Sheffield’. That wasn’t me, the lads wanted to put that in there. They’re going to marry Sheffield lasses, they absolutely love it up here. That’s a kind of testament to the city and how it affected them.
Martin’s Totally Irrelevant Fanboy Question: You have played two very good Doctor Who villains…
Two? I haven’t played two have I?
Yeah. You played the Chief Clown in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and then Nobody No-One in the Big Finish audio adventure A Death in the Family.
Oh you ARE a nerd! Officially! Here is your badge! That [geeky obsession] is relevant to other parts of my career. I just happen to have done things that have a culty status. Whether it was that first Highlander film, or Doctor Who, or Shameless, or the two soaps [Eastenders and Coronation Street]…
The Who stuff was fantastic and that has lived with me ever since ‘89. It was the 25th anniversary season, it was big news. As I’ve said before there was very little in the script, I just had to make stuff up. A bit like this documentary – I was just winging it! Maybe that should be the name of my production company.