John McCarthy's Woodbridge


An entrancing new film about Woodbridge and the stunning medieval church at its centre has just been released. Anne Gould spoke to author and journalist John McCarthy and film maker Tim Curtis about how it was made


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Film has the power to do something remarkable - it has the potential to make you look again, especially at something that’s familiar, in a completely new light and John McCarthy’s Woodbridge certainly does that and much more. It shows us exquiste aerial shots of the town centre, it takes us to places that we’ve probably never been to before and tells us stories that in our daily lives we’ve either missed or long forgotten. What it also shows us is that Woodbridge is a beautiful gem, an oasis and for centuries the centre of the community has been St.Mary’s church.

Clearly the film has been made not just with expertise but with a lot of love - the reason being that the two men behind the film John McCarthy and film maker Tim Curtis have both been long-time residents in the town. In fact when they started the project, they were actually near neighbours - although, after 14 years, John and his family have moved back to London due to work commitments.
The film has been made on behalf of The Friends of St Mary’s Church and all proceeds will go towards repairs and restoration of the building. Initially the project was just a short film about the repairs needed to the church tower and in the process John and Tim took a trip to the top. Seeing the remarkable views, they realised there was the potential to do something bigger and rather more special - and John McCarthy’s Woodbridge is the result.
It’s been two years in the making and takes viewers on a tour of the church, bell ringing to the Tide Mill and over the river to the Anglo Saxon burial site Sutton Hoo. “We’ve been to places, spoken to people and been able to film things that you would not normally be able to do,” says John. “Tim has been the absolute driving force in this and has worked out editorially what we should do and arranged all the shots.”
For those who may already have the DVD or saw the launch film at The Riverside Cinema, Tim’s stunning aerial shots are certainly breathtaking. What’s remarkable about these is that they weren’t recorded from a plane or a helicopter but by a flying remote control camera - called a GoPro. Tim, who has worked for the BBC and broadcasters across the world and in war zones said, “It’s a full HD camera and is often used to get into small spaces - it’s about the size of a normal stills camera and I used it for the aerial floating shots. “It took quite a few weeks of practice until I was happy with it. We were also really lucky with the weather too - I got those shots of the church and market square from the Abbey School grounds really early in the morning.”
John and Tim both gave their time and effort for free on this project because they both felt really committed to the church - which is often used for community concerts and exhibitions - in addition to being a place of worship. What’s interesting is that neither of them are particularly religious but they were fascinated by the building itself. “I am not sure about religion. I was brought up Church of England and while I was locked up as a hostage for five years I did wonder if there could be something out there to protect us. Whether or not one believes St Mary’s is important as a building. It’s brought people together for hundreds of years,” says John.
Now that John has moved to Teddington it did mean that had to travel back to Woodbridge on several occasions to complete the project but that wasn’t a particular hardship because he loves the town. “When we  moved here originally it was for the water and sailing and everything about it was right. The river, the Tide Mill, the pretty town the little back alleys. Everyday when I was doing the commute I would stand on the bridge at the railway station and look at the boats bobbing on the Deben and think how lucky I was.” 

*John Mc Carthy’s Woodbridge is 49 minutes in duration, and is on sale as a DVD, priced £10 and is available from