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Thursday 9th July 2015

BFI Launches Britain on Film: Our Lives, Our Stores

Britain on Film is a ground breaking project that for the first time brings together material from the BFI National Archive, regional and national archives and rights holder collections across the UK. It is part of the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage programme (2013-17).

Unlocking film heritage for everyone in the UK to enjoy is a key strategic priority for the BFI and Britain on Film is the public launch of a vast programme of work, which has been ongoing for over three years. Working in partnership with regional and national archives across the UK and bringing together material from rights holder collections. 

From 7th July, anyone in the UK can search the BFI Player for their personal histories from 1,000s of film and television titles spanning almost a century, from the 1890s to the 1980s. There will be a host of other UK-wide activity including partnerships with British Airways, Heathrow Airport, Luna Cinema, Ocean Outdoor, Café Nero and a Facebook campaign that sees 60 films released over 60 days. 


From Britain on Film available at BFI Player

For over a century cameras have captured almost every aspect of life in the UK on film, but too often these captivating images have been inaccessible to all but the most determined researchers. Through Britain on Film, and in partnership with the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA), a dazzling mosaic of British life across the South West of England will be revealed that captures the people, places and history of the area.

There is a wealth of material in the collection from the British Surfing Team riding the waves in Newquay to the early morning bathers diving of the pier in Plymouth Sound; from footage of Helston’s famous Flora Festival to a fashionista introducing the latest 70s trends from London to Truro. This is an extraordinary opportunity to unlock the past and to discover the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of your local area, share memories and reflect on how previous generations have shaped the world we live in today.

Highlights in the South West of England include:

• The British Surfing Team in Newquay (1978), pioneers of the Cornish surfing scene Nigel Semmens and Steve Daniel ride the waves and are interviewed about being the best of British in their chosen sport. * Both Nigel and Steve are available for interview

• Helston’s famous Flora Festival features in This England - Cornwall: Helston Furry Dance and Villages (1934), and Born of the Sea (1949), a charming portrait of a small coastal community in Coverack.

• Plymouth Flying Boats (1927), filmed by amateur photographer and local butcher, Claude Redvers Endicott, captures the fleets of seaplanes that flew in to land on Plymouth Sound.

• Seven o’clock Regulars Swimming Club (1929), early morning bathers dive off the pier and swim in Plymouth Sound.

• Primitive Potteries in Dorset (1915), a remarkable early tinted and toned colour film of Verwood potters at work.

• Dorchester Brewery centenary (1937) celebrates 100 years’ of this much-loved brewing house in Dorset. The brewery produced a coronation beer in honour of HM King George VI, some of which still exists to this day.

• Olympic-style sailing competition in Weymouth and Portland from May 1976, held a few months prior to the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Weymouth and Portland became the sailing venue for the 2012 London Olympics.

• Footage of one of the very first horse-drawn barge trips along the Grand Western Canal in Tiverton that has been transporting passengers through the idyllic mid-Devon countryside since 1974.

• Fashionista John Anthony Thornhill Lumley-Savile, 4th Baron Savile introduces the latest 1970s fashions from London to Truro.

Britain on Film will feature an unprecedented 10,000 titles available on the BFI Player with films featuring people and places from all over the country. This content can be discovered via a ground-breaking new interactive map that enables people to search for their own film histories by location and dig deeper into subject matter and date to create share-able bespoke archive packages. The BFI National Archive and the UK’s national and regional screen archives and rights holders have joined forces to bring these films to a much wider audience with a major programme of digitisation that started in 2012 and continues until the end of 2017.

There will be a rich, compelling and eclectic mixture of content available to view - a number of which have been unseen since they were first filmed – which offer surprising insights into British life in the 20th century. Film and television titles include features, newsreels, promotional films, documentaries, films by government departments and amateur movies. You’ll be able to see vanished landscapes, urban and rural communities, historical events and traditions, people at work and at play, and home movies which paint a moving and intimate portrait of British family life. It adds up to a visual encyclopaedia of British history, its manners and morals, fads and fashions, giving a thrilling sensation of being back in the past.

Further regional activity

Britain on Film will be reaching the British public through many different channels this summer. Luna Cinema is launching a summer screening programme in extraordinary and stunning National Trust locations throughout the UK (ADD South West venues & DETAIL). Regionally specific highlights will be shown on outdoor screens throughout major cities in the UK including Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and London with 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 July and featuring Britain on Film footage. Heathrow Airport will also be featuring footage from the project in xx xx. Café Nero is providing pods to view the footage in its retail outlets from August alongside specially commissioned coffee cups etc.

SWFTA's mini BoF launch

SWFTA will be holding a private mini launch of BoF in Plymouth on the 10th July 2015 to complement the national launch in London. This will be attended by SWFTA volunteers and Trustees, representatives from SWFTA's wider partnerships including those from the Plymouth History Centre Project. Cllr Pete Smith will also be in attendance along with members of the press. 

Join the conversation at #BritainOnFilm