Margaret Williams obituary


A“magician of the digital camera” with a unprecedented visible sense, Margaret Williams, who has died aged 73, was a pioneering director through the heyday of dance on tv within the Nineties and early 2000s.

She introduced experimental but accessible up to date dance to mainstream audiences on the BBC and Channel 4 in movies akin to Cross Channel (1992) – made with the choreographer Lea Anderson, on location between London and Calais – and Exterior In (1994), with the groundbreaking inclusive dance firm Candoco and the choreographer Victoria Marks.

Fairly than merely filming the motion, Williams captured dance in a means that would not exist on stage. Marks recalled Williams asking her to adapt actions to “pull the digital camera alongside”. “Instantly I understood the opportunity of the digital camera not recording the motion, however choreography and film-making being intrinsically in dialog with one another,” she stated.

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Margaret Williams’ movie of the Candoco dance firm performing Exterior In, 1994

Williams’s movies had been exquisitely composed and framed with an artist’s eye, deliberate with superbly drawn storyboards – maybe a legacy of her first job on the animation studio HannaBarbera in Hollywood – and laced with quirky humour, “a beautiful humorous bone” as Marks put it. “Being reverent and irreverent on the identical time.”

When a retrospective of Williams’s dance movies was proven on the Wapping Undertaking in 2007, Judith Mackrell within the Guardian praised her “unusual and wonderful eye for dance”. Within the Occasions, Debra Craine famous: “Williams’s witty, dynamic model captures dance in ways in which give it a brand new spin, transcending the constraints of the stage whereas staying true to its essence.”

For Channel 4, Williams directed the dance sequence Tights, Digicam, Motion within the 90s, and 4Dance the next decade. She labored with the main choreographers and dancers BalletBoyz, Jonzi D, Wayne McGregor, Kenrick Sandy, Cathy Marston and the flamenco star Joaquin Cortès.

Williams was instrumental in getting dance seen on display – “passionate and pushy for the artwork kind” in response to Anderson – however past dance she directed movies, documentaries, multi-camera recordings and stay cinema relays of music and theatre, together with Maxine Peake’s Hamlet (on the Royal Trade, Manchester, 2015), movies for the director Katie Mitchell, and an bold efficiency of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh seashore.

Margaret Williams’ Cross Channel, 1992, made with the choreographer Lea Anderson

She collaborated with the composers Judith Weir and Errollyn Wallen and made the TV adaptation of Thomas Adès’s opera Powder Her Face (1999). Exterior the humanities, she made documentaries, together with the sequence of movies A Love Divided (1991) about {couples} stored aside by political forces, set in Belfast, Jerusalem, Johannesburg and Berlin.

Williams was born in Epping, Essex. Her father, William, an accountant, and mom, Norma (nee Timms), had moved there from Leeds after the second world conflict with Margaret’s older brother, Roy. Movie was an early ardour: first Snow White and Pinocchio, later Buster Keaton and the French New Wave, however she additionally liked music, from Britten’s Younger Particular person’s Information to the Orchestra to Jimi Hendrix, who she noticed stay at Chelmsford Corn Trade.

At Woodford highschool, a scholar artwork instructor inspired Williams to go to artwork faculty. She studied portray and drawing at Loughton School, the place she met and was influenced by Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher, founders of the artwork collective and punk band Crass.

In 1971 Williams went to Los Angeles to work at Hanna-Barbera, the place she painted backgrounds for The Flintstones. At events in LA she met two of her idols, Robert Rauschenberg and Chuck Jones, and on listening to David Hockney was staying at a close-by resort, rang as much as his room to see if she might meet him. “Come on up.” he stated.

She returned to the UK in 1973 to coach in rostrum digital camera on the BBC, however left after two years, partly as a result of as a uncommon girl within the division she was too usually requested to make the tea. In 1975 she shaped the manufacturing firm Arbor with the director David Rowan and made award-winning arts documentaries. Her first movie as a director was a documentary on road model for the BBC in 1982, and in 1995 she arrange MJW Productions.

Williams’s important work in dance started with Flesh and Blood (1990), with Anderson and her all-female firm the Cholmondeleys. She later solid a fruitful working partnership with Marks, usually working with non-professional dancers, akin to within the movies Moms and Daughters (1994), the playful and compassionate Males (1997), that includes seven males of their seventies, and Veterans (2008), with troopers in fight rehab.

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Margaret Williams and the choreographer Victoria Marks used non-professional dancers in Moms and Daughters, 1994

On set, Williams was in her aspect: heat, full of life, confidently in cost and filled with optimistic spirit. There was an environment of fellowship. When a scene in Males required the performers to take away layers of garments earlier than leaping right into a river, Williams and Marks stripped all the way down to their bathing fits too. It was whereas making Males, in Banff, Canada, that Williams met her companion, Stephanie Matthews, the movie’s artwork director. After two years of a long-distance relationship, Matthews moved to London, the place she labored in historic constructing conservation. The couple married in 2010.

Matthews described Williams as somebody who was by no means bored, with a watch that was “hungry” – within the 5 years previous the pandemic she taught a category at UCLA within the US known as Seeing the Unseen. She would work 10 hours a day even when she was not in manufacturing, as a result of the concepts by no means stopped.

Latterly she was growing drama scripts with the author Nick Herrett and the playwright Neil Bartlett. Even after her prognosis with glioblastoma (mind most cancers) in 2020, she continued the artistic behavior, taking pictures of photographs that caught her eye in hospital.

Williams impressed others just by being a uncommon feminine director within the 80s and 90s, however she additionally generously mentored younger filmmakers, together with the award-winning dance-film duo Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple. “Mags noticed in our work one thing nobody had ever seen earlier than,” stated Wright. “She gave us the boldness to take our work in dance movie critically, and to take dance movie as an artwork kind critically. We supply round her encouragement to this present day.”

She is survived by Stephanie and her brother Roy.


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