Launch of Britain on Film at the BFI 7 July 2015


At a most interesting launch, the British Film Institute introduced us to Britain on Film, a new project that reveals hidden histories and forgotten stories of people and places from the UK’s key film and TV archives.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director, BFI, introduced the programme which shows short non-fiction films as well as longer unseen films. Britain on Film will be shown in many different ways this summer all over the UK:

The BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) will be staging 85 screening events in 46 locations from Belfast to Canterbury and southern Wales to Inverness. Further UK-wide partnerships and other activity include:

  • Luna Cinema and the BFI are launching a screening programme of feature films and bespoke Britain on Film packages in stunning National Trust locations throughout the UK from late August to October.
  • Highlights of each city will be shown on large, digital out of home screens in the key city centres of Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, London, Liverpool and Leeds throughout August, thanks to a new partnership with Ocean Outdoor.
  • Those arriving or departing the UK by air will be inspired by Britain as it once was, with a new BFI channel on British Airways in-flight entertainment launching this month and featuring Britain on Film footage.
  • From August, Cafè Nero will have viewing pods in 10 coffee houses across the UK for customers to kick back and view the footage, as well as providing Britain on Film branded coffee cups.
  • From 10-13 September, the BFI National Archive in Berkhamsted, East Anglia Archive and North West Archive will be opening their doors to the public as part of the National Trust’s Heritage Open Days
  • In London, BFI Southbank is currently featuring London on Film, a three-month programme of over 200 films, on-stage interviews and special weekenders focusing on Soho, East End, and Waterloo and South Bank.
  • London Live will be broadcasting a series based on London on Film gems as part of London Live’s special new BFI London strand. Ranging from We Are The Lambeth Boys and the original Royal Festival of Britain, through to a young Jude Law appearing in The Crane, the titles will be aired in a regular early evening weekend slot throughout the summer, starting in July.

The archives are now available on digital on BFI Player, giving everybody in the UK free access to 1,000s of film and TV titles featuring where they live, grew up, went to school, holidayed as a child, or any place of interest in Britain. By 2017, thanks to National Lottery funding and the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to the present day will be digitised.

The audience was addressed by Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI who said “For 120 years cameras have captured almost every aspect of life in the UK on film, but too often these have been inaccessible to all but the most determined researchers. Now, Britain on Film is transforming access to films from the UK’s archives and giving new life to them by making them available, no matter where you live.” Britain on Film is the result of the BFI National Archive and the UK’s national and regional film archives and rights holders joining forces to bring these films together with a major programme of curation and digitisation that started in 2012 and continues until the end of 2017.”

He added that home movies form a major part of the collection.  They have been digitalised and give a good picture of life as it was lived at the time. For example: The Passmore Family Collection – the world’s earliest known surviving home movies (1902) feature 10 films of the family on holiday in Bognor Regis and The Isle of Wight and at home in Streatham, London.

Another interesting film made in 1949 shows Danny Kaye talking to George Bernard Shaw when he was 93.

After the launch we were able to use tablets to access some of the films.  I found film of the area in London where I lived in the 60s – it was fascinating to see inside homes and on the streets.  The women wearing hats and gloves and their clothes astonished the young woman sitting next to me.

Carlie Newman / #BritainOnFilm

Carlie Newman

Author: Carlie Newman

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