Arthur Wharton film set for release
The first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton, is the subject of a new short film, shot in the north east of England. Entitled ‘The Rise of the North Star’ it is a reflection of his time at Darlington, where he first drew attention.
Wharton, born into a wealthy family, arrived in the town in 1882 from the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to train as a missionary. However, sport began to dominate his life. He joined Darlington three years later as an amateur and was in the Cleveland Challenge Cup-winning side.
Now, Mike Tweddle, a quarry inspector by profession, has directed a 10-minute film about Wharton’s early career for PER Productions.The evocative snapshot of his life was shown to the cast and guests for the first time at the weekend and warmly received.
Darlington Railway Museum and Carmel College playing fields were used as the backdrop for the film with Phil Haymer, a council events officer, playing the leading role. Tweddle plans to release the film in the next few weeks.
He said: “It cost only £250 to make and only two days to complete but a lot of hard work went into the project. We were going to use a local football club but we had to look elsewhere as they were hosting a wild west convention. We ended up at a school playing field but that, to my mind, made it more authentic. It is an amazing story but also a sad one as he ended up destitute.”
Shaun Campbell, who set up the Arthur Wharton foundation, was thrilled with the result. He said: “I found the film quite moving. Maybe that was because it involved local people using local resources.
“It was made on an extremely low budget yet the passion and commitment involved was a wonderful testament to Arthur Wharton. The mood and the theme of the film was just right. It did feel as if it was set in the correct time frame. They did a very good job in that respect.”
Wharton was buried in an unmarked grave before the organisation Football Unites Racism Divides (FURD) provided funds for a headstone. Wharton’s grandaughter Sheila Leeson was a guest of honour at Wembley in March when England played Ghana and a statue has been commissioned for his adopted home town of Darlington after The FA donated £20,000 to the project.
Campbell said: “The FA has been extremely supportive. We are now at the stage where the statue is about to be cast in bronze. So in the coming months we will see the realisation of the full statue. I am very excited about that.”
From The FA