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Monday 7th October 2013

This is your South West Life: Celebrating 20 years of SWFTA with our new Patron

Westward TV began transmission on the 29th April 1961. As TSW, the last broadcast was at midnight on the 31st December 1992, featuring Ruth Langsford and Ian Stirling. SWFTA Volunteer Jill Husband, who worked at TSW recalls the time with marked emotion as she remembers the “historic occasion” and the pride that came from being part of a special close-knit “family”. 

Formerly the TSW Film and Television Archive, SWFTA was set up following the closure of the studio and today is the official regional film archive for the South West of England. Funded in part by the British Film Institute, with essential Grant in Aid contributions from Plymouth University and Plymouth City Council, SWFTA is now the largest regional film archive in the UK and is recognised as one of the UK’s most significant screen heritage collections. Moving image material in all formats is acquired and kept for the future as a record of the South West and its film makers. In addition to the core television archive, SWFTA holds around 900 growing amateur and local film-maker collections dating back to the early 1900s.

Access and Technical Officer Mike Brewis holds the mantle as the longest serving member of the SWFTA team having transitioned across from TSW following it's closure where he had worked as an Archive Librarian.

A private reception will be held on Monday to mark twenty years of the archive. Hosted by the Royal William Yard’s Le Vignoble - which is close to where the archive is based - SWFTA’s Trustees, Officers and growing army of Volunteers will be joined by the Archive’s new Patron, Angela Rippon, who started her career with Westward in 1969.

Invited guests will have the opportunity to find out about the strong relationships the archive has forged in the City and nationally with educational and heritage bodies and the wider film archive network. They will also be introduced to the various local and regional projects the archive is currently involved with, including the Weekly Calendar App. initiative, a collaborative project with the wider film archive network, and a major Volunteer Project which SWFTA has been developing this year and which will result in a cohort of lead volunteers to help sustain the core work of the archive. Key partners from the local heritage, business and cultural communities are also attending the event, including representatives from the South West Image Bank, Plymouth University, the BBC, and Plymouth City Council, amongst others.

Stacey Dyer, SWFTA’s Archive Director says – “SWFTA has grown from strength to strength in recent years and has become a notable heritage asset for the City. We are delighted to be a key partner in plans for a combined History Centre. Relocation into a single space alongside the City’s archives, library and Museum collections will serve to strengthen collaborative partnerships with wider cultural and heritage communities whilst facilitating greater public access to our growing resources.”

Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader for Plymouth City Council, says: "On a personal note, I have very fond memories of some of the characters and programmes from Westward TV and TSW, so I'm really pleased to be a part of the 20th anniversary celebrations. Looking at the bigger city-wide picture, this collection is very important to preserving and paying tribute to the history and development of our city and region's popular culture. It really is incredible what information can be gleaned about history and culture by watching TV programmes and footage - the prizes won on game shows, the outfits worn by presenters and the language used give such a great insight into different times in our lives. SWFTA is rare treasure indeed and we are thrilled they will be part of the History Centre with other exceptionally valuable, interesting and unique collections and archives from Plymouth."

SWFTA is also delighted to be working with the Plymouth Barbican Trust’s South West Image Bank as they plan for the inclusion of their collections within the Plymouth History Centre project. SWFTA’s Trustees and Archive Director - who served as the founding Archivist for SWiB between 2007-2012 - recognises the considerable similarities between the two organisations and is working more closely with SWiB’s Archive Manager and Board of Trustees to explore mutually beneficial opportunities for collaborative engagement.

Speaking on behalf of the PBT, Richard Bayly says – "Increasingly Cultural assets are gaining recognition as part of the infrastructure which drives our economy. And archives like SWFTA and SWIB remind us of the communities we are and the journeys we have made to where we are now. So they have social and economic impact. SWFTA was a pioneer in recognising this and in establishing a model for conserving and expanding access to and use of film and television records. This has inspired others, like SWIB, and has transformed awareness of the opportunity these archives hold."

Alison Seabeck, MP offered her good wishes for the SWFTA team: "20 years is quite and achievement and all your staff, supporters and the veritable small army of volunteers should be very pleased indeed to have reached this milestone. You have gone from strength to strength despite the constraints placed upon you of funding and, at times, appropriate space. You are the holder of some priceless archive material and without you some of it would undoubtedly have been lost. So thank you all very much and I wish you well for the next 20 years."

As thoughts return to the reception on Monday, David Beadel, Chairman of SWFTA says - “The celebration is in honour of the archive, and of the contribution made by its supporters, staff and volunteers, over the past 20 years. The Westward Television, TSW and many privately donated film collections in SWFTA's care are a jewel in the historical records of Plymouth and the South West Region – telling the remarkable story of the region and of the people of the South West.”

Image: Still of Angela Rippon, SWFTA Patron, taken from SWFTA's Robert Lenkiewicz DVD