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The old oak

A hymn to community, solidarity and finding friendship in the unlikeliest of circumstances, Ken Loach’s brand new film The Old Oak, written by Paul Laverty, is being screened on Friday 6 October to open Hartlepool Folk Festival 2023. 

The Old Oak is a special place.  Not only is it the last pub standing, but it’s also the only remaining public space where people can meet in a once-thriving County Durham mining community after 30 years of decline.  Landlord TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner) hangs on to The Old Oak by his fingertips, and when the pub becomes contested territory after the arrival of Syrian refugees placed in the village without any notice, his situation becomes even more precarious. TJ meets curious young Syrian Yara (Ebla Mari) with her camera, and an unlikely friendship emerges. TJ introduces Yara to one of the ways the village hung on during the hardships of the Miners Strike: "When you eat together, you stick together." Suddenly, a plan blossoms that may result in understanding and hope for both communities.

We are overjoyed that the film's screenwriter, Paul Laverty, and several of the cast will join us for a panel discussion immediately following the screening. Among them is a group of Syrian women who have started their own catering collective. The women will be with us throughout the weekend, providing catering for our artists and running a stall in our new Food & Craft Village, so you can sample some of their delicious food yourself!

Paul Laverty is making a special trip back from France, where he will be on the film's promotional tour, to join us for this exclusive event. He has been Ken Loach's creative partner for almost 3 decades, having previously scripted films including The Wind that Shakes the Barley, I Daniel Blake, Sorry We Missed You, and Bread and Roses.

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