Sneak peek at film which will celebrate Sunderland’s Vaux brewery 20 years after its closure

Passion, pints and pumps - a film is brewing which will celebrate Sunderland’s famous Vaux beers.

By Katy Wheeler
Wednesday, 06 March, 2019, 14:19

Lonely Tower Film & Media are making A Passion for Vaux: Sunderland’s Lost Brewery, a documentary film which will be released in time for the 20th anniversary of the closure of the famous beer makers on July 2.

The County Durham-based production company have teamed up with Maxim Brewery to tell the story of the iconic brewer whose beer - and smell of hops - was once synonymous with Sunderland.

The film features moving interviews with Vaux chairman Sir Paul Nicholson and his brother, Vaux Breweries managing director Frank Nicholson, along with workers, publicans and many others who were involved in the Vaux story.

Mark Thorburn, from Lonely Tower Film & Media, says Vaux’s history is one that runs deep in the city.

“From a producer’s point of view it has drama because of what happened to Vaux, but it’s also a story with real heart. Metaphorically, if you opened a vein in Sunderland it would bleed Double Maxim. It was something that connected people.”

He added: “It’s not a film that’s stuck in the past, or one that romanticises what Sunderland lost: it celebrates Sunderland’s spirit. The Vaux family, the way it operated, its ethics, that camaraderie still exists in Sunderland today.”

Lonely Tower Film and Media Vaux film sponsored by Maxim Brewery. Front Lonely Tower Film and Media Mark Thorburn and Marie Gardiner. Back from left former Chair Vaux Group Sir Paul Nicholson, Maxim Brewery Mark Anderson and former MD Vaux Brewery Frank Nicholson

Marie Gardiner, from Lonely Tower Film & Media, said: “Growing up in Sunderland no one can forget its dominant presence in the centre of the city and the sound of dray and horses on their rounds. We want to tell the story of Vaux via the people who were there, the people who lived it and worked through its sad end. This film will obviously tell the history of the brewery business, but more than that, we hope it will be a tribute to

everyone who loved the place so much.”

Frank Nicholson, who fought to save the brewery, recalls fondly his many years of working at the city centre site and talks about incidents, such as the dramatic day the wall of a warehouse collapsed spilling thousands of beer cans, in the film.

Speaking at a preview of the film held at Maxim Brewery in Rainton Bridge Business Park, he said: “You would think after 20 years those memories would fade, but you see the film and it comes flooding back.

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Vaux signs being taken down from the city centre site on Wednesday July 7 1999

“We were a happy company, from top to bottom, and that’s what me and Sir Paul miss the most, the friendship.”

When asked about why Vaux, which was founded in 1806, is so fondly remembered by the city, he said: “Many families worked at Vaux. The Carters, The Bells, The Wrights, these were families that had four or five generations who had worked there. We were all a family.”

Maxim Brewery, which is sponsoring the film, was founded from the ashes of the Vaux Brewery by, amongst others, former Vaux employees to keep the famous Vaux beer brands alive.

Mark Anderson, former Vaux Breweries finance director, from Maxim Brewery said: “Maxim Brewery is incredibly proud to still be producing the famous Vaux beers, along with our own distinctive and innovative creations.

A sneak preview of A Passion for Vaux at Maxim Brewery

“The history of our brewery business is intimately aligned with that of Vaux and all that it stood for, so to be involved in telling and sharing this poignant Sunderland story on the twentieth anniversary of the Vaux closure is perfect. We know it will be a moving tribute.”

A Passion for Vaux: Sunderland’s Lost Brewery will be premiered across Sunderland, available on DVD and via the streaming service Amazon Prime and will be completed in time for the twentieth anniversary of the closure of Vaux in July this year.

•Anyone with personal photos or film footage of Vaux they would like to share with Lonely Tower can email:

Lonely Tower Film and Media Vaux film sponsored by Maxim Brewery. Maxim Brewery Mark Anderson
Sunderland Mayor Lynda Scanlan, Maxim Brewery Mark Anderson and Mayoral Consort Micky Horswill