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    Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time

    This is a discussion on Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time within the Everyday Life forums, part of the Community channel category; Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time | Film | The Guardian Around ...

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      Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time

      Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time | Film | The Guardian
      Around 2,500 films including home movies, documentaries and news footage from Victorian times up to the 1980s is now available online

      The grainy footage is of dozens of shifty men in flat caps, smoking cigarettes, talking to each other in a market square, some exchanging money, others nervously keeping watch. And then men in trilbies spring from nowhere, making arrests and bundling people into vans.

      The remarkable surveillance footage is from 1935 and is significant because it was the first film used as evidence in a British court of law.

      Police, or specifically PC Saunders – proudly named in the end credit – filmed what was an illegal betting ring going on in Chesterfield’s market square.

      The film is one of around 2,500 from the BFI archives – that are now accessible online, via the BFI Player, from Tuesday as part of a huge project called Britain on Film. They include home movies, documentaries and news footage from Victorian times to as recently as 1980.

      “We have these extraordinary, vast collections,” said the BFI’s head curator, Robin Baker. “But until these films have been digitised the only chance of anyone ever seeing them are on the occasional screenings.”

      Researchers have unearthed many gems, not least the Chesterfield evidence footage – essentially 1930s CCTV – which takes a surreal turn when three elephants parade past, presumably because the circus was in town.

      There are also 1960s documentaries aimed at a Middle East audience showing how wonderful and engaged Muslim communities are in Manchester and Cardiff – the message being, please come and live in the UK.

      What are believed to be the earliest surviving home movies, from 1902, will also be shown. They feature the Passmore family, on holiday on the Isle of Wight and in Bognor Regis as well as at home in Streatham, London.

      Baker said: “What I find so fascinating when watching home movies is how universal the themes are, how they tap into your own life experiences.”

      One of his favourites is from Glasgow in 1962 as it captures the last days of the trams. “It is a lovely marking of an end of an era. I’ve never lived in Glasgow, I don’t remember the trams and even someone like me watching this has the sense of the deep sadness of something that has been lost from our lives.”

      Anyone who thought the Edwardians stuffy and polite will be relieved to hear researchers found at least four examples of young boys giving the camera V-signsThere are very serious subjects with unexpected humour. The 1970s mother who lives in one of Britain’s worse slums, in Birmingham’s Balsall Heath, being interviewed holding her baby cheerfully playing with a screwdriver in one hand and plug in the other.

      Many of the films are bewildering to 21st century eyes; for example, a 1967 film called Paper Fashion declaring you can get almost anything in paper – paper shoes, dresses, bikinis, bedsheets, jewellery, plates, cups, underwear – and what a great thing that is. When you’ve used it, just throw it away!

      The film concludes reassuringly with paper dresses: “As long as the untreated inflammable ones don’t end up in smoke they should end up with the 218,000 tonnes of household tissue alone which was added to our waste heaps last year.”

      One of the more surprising films is one chronicling the visit of film star Danny Kaye to the idyllic country village home, in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, of George Bernard Shaw. “Naturally after so many years connection with the stage, he [GBS] has unlimited amusing anecdotes to tell and the teatime audience revels in the stories.”

      It even ends up as GBS-Kaye comedy improv, although comedy in the loosest sense of the word since it involves the bearded playwright creeping up on the unaware movie star.

      Baker said the project’s aim was to provide as good a geographic spread as possible and people will, inevitably, search for films from where they grew up. Could that be granny in the 1945 Clacton-on-Sea bathing beauties contest? Is that your dad’s grandad being arrested for illegal betting?

      There was a “wonderful surprise” moment for the BFI’s creative director, Heather Stewart, who came across her great grandmother, grandmother and mother together on film in scenes from Children’s Excursion (1952), featuring the villagers of Moniaive in Dumfries and Galloway.

      “The emotional power of film is huge and Britain on film has the ability to touch everyone in the UK,” she said.

      The films have been digitised thanks to National Lottery money and the aim is to have 10,000 available within three years.
      Comment: With literally thousands of hours of video being uploaded to YouTube alone every day now, it might be hard for many of us to think of a time when cameras, let alone cine cameras, were not a common sight. Such footage is not common. You may be surprised with some of the footage.

      Here's one for those who have been or are going on holiday to Looe in Cornwall....

      Watch Looe's new fire engine 1930 — BFI Player


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      Re: Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time

      Interesting, hope more gets added.
      Seen the Charlotte Street cine film in 1977 before.
      Shame they are using that player, its a bit clunky to use and the search is poor. Would be so much better up on youtube.
      It needs some work though, a Croydon video listed under Portsmouth!

      Not sure what the rest of that site is all about, seems to be films and dramas to be paid for.

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      Re: Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time

      Sure a lot of the results are not always correct, but I guess that it does give you an opportunity to look around for something that may be of interest to you by accident too.

      By hosting this content on their own servers, the can retain full control of the content. It is also ad-free, something a lot of the large firms tend to ignore on YouTube.

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