The Timbertown Follies
The Timbertown Follies: a tale of interned men, cabaret, & bittersweet memories of war
Following the siege of Antwerp in 1914, almost 1,500 troops from the 1st British Naval Brigade found themselves seeking safety in the neutral zone of the Netherlands. Arriving in Groningen, the men were eventually interned in a custombuilt barracks camp that they called Timbertown. To pass the time, the troops undertook a variety of activities, with one set of men forming a cabaret group in music hall style, a genre increasingly popular in the UK. Known as the Timbertown Follies, these men performed more than 300 shows during the war years throughout the Netherlands. The ease with which they performed songs, their perfect comic timing, their affable nature, and always accompanied by an actor in the part of the ‘Lady’ endeared them to audiences, despite the language barrier. The Timbertown Follies were a roaring success.
This documentary reveals the stories of some of the members of the Timbertown Follies, exploring their lives and their emotions. We hear how they made connections with Dutch families, with these bonds lasting a lifetime and even beyond, spanning generations. The film interrogates this fascinating moment in history by looking at the influence that these interned soldiers had on Groningen society, by examining how members of the Follies reflected on this period after the war. There is no denying that theirs was a bittersweet memory of war, tinged with conflicting emotions of homesickness, shame, and glory.
The Timbertown Follies is only a small part of the Great War’s story but it is a part that tells a tale of a group of ordinary men and boys experiencing the extraordinary.
Leo Van Maaren is a scriptwriter, director, and film producer. As a producer, he has worked on a number of films, including The Lost Art of Willem de Ridder, and a documentary about the graphic artist Frans de Jong. He directed The Bankruptcy Jazz, a film based on a 1919 script by the Flemish poet Paul van Ostaijen. The Timbertown Follies is the first of four films documenting the cultural impact of WWI on the citizens in neutral and occupied territories.
Frank Herrebout is a film and documentary maker. He studied at the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam; his graduation film Nurse Lydia’s Flight for Happiness was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival 1985. He produces and directs feature films and documentaries. In his documentaries he often seeks to explore the edgy side of art.