The South West Film and Television Archive is the regional film archive for the South West of England. It is one of the largest regional film archives in the UK, a member of the Film Archives UK (FAUK) and recognised as one of the UK’s significant screen heritage collections. SWFTA is a member of the British Film Institute's Film Audience Network (FAN) in the Film Hub SW and West Midlands and will become part of The Box, Plymouth combining the resources of Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives under one roof due to open its doors to the public in 2020. The inauguration of The Box will coincide with Mayflower 400 celebrations and give the city of Plymouth a new contemporary space for culture. 

SWFTA was established in 1993 following the closure of the TSW Studios in Plymouth. The collection comprises the catalogues of former ITV franchises, Westward Television (1961-1981) and Television South West (1982-1993). SWFTA is the main repository in the region for film and moving image dating back to the 1890s. It also holds paper records, photos and legacy equipment either donated or retained from the broadcast days. Film and TV reports, documentaries, public and corporate films and videos and amateur donated collections cover an area from the Isles of Scilly in the west to Bournemouth in the east and as far north as Gloucestershire, and includes all the county and unitary authorities in the South West.

SWFTA is an independent registered charity and a non-profit making company limited by guarantee. It is governed by a board of directors who are also trustees of the charity. The archive is managed by a team of ex-Television professionals and volunteers.

What we do:

SWFTA's activities include, acquiring, preserving and providing access to the region's visual moving image heritage, providing footage for media professionals, broadcast, web and marketing clients and public exhibitors and museums. SWFTA hosts and supports public heritage screenings, from community projects to large cultural, arts and heritage exhibitions including the British Film Institute's Britain on Film. SWFTA inhouse produces and sells DVDs, shares Video on Demand for streaming and works with filmmakers, broadcasters, visual artists and partners from other regional and national film archives. SWFTA operates digitisation services for professionals, cultural organisations and members of the public.

How we are funded:

Our funding comes in the form of the BFI's Regional Investment Fund applied for annually and accompanied by a three-year business plan. Plymouth City Council (2012-present) and Plymouth University (2013-present) provide matched funding. SWFTA supports expenditure through the development of commercial income which includes footage sales, DVDs, film shows, licensing and re-licensing. Commercial income and charity donations help support curation of the collections.

SWFTA digitised over 750 titles for the BFI’s Britain on Film under Film Forever. New digitisation awards are available under BFI 2022 now called Heritage 2022. SWFTA has an ongoing film digitisation programme.

Current key projects and partnerships:

The BFI’s FAN (2013-present): SWFTA is an active partner in the Film Hub SW and West Midlands run by Watershed Bristol working with cultural organisations and independent cinema venues across the region in the delivery of innovative and creative programmes designed to engage new audiences. Key regional partnerships developed through this scheme include: Watershed, Awen, C-Cylm, Cornwall Film Festival, St Ives Archive, Curzon, Peninsula Arts, Plymouth Arts Centre, Strode Theatre, Exeter Phoenix, the Watermark Ivybridge and Somerset Film.

The BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage Project (2013-2016): SWFTA contributed over 750 titles to BFIPlayer. The material digitised for this project will create an accessible moving image bank. 

SWFTA will become part of The Box in 2020 which will house the collections of SWFTA, the South West Image Bank, Plymouth Museums and Galleries and the Record Office. 

SWFTA was a part of the Strength in Numbers Project or SiN (2012-2016) working in partnership with the Regions and Nations' Archives to develop common approaches to content management and efficient access to resources. Partnerships include: Media Archive for Central England (MACE), London Screen Archives and East Anglan Film Archive (EAFA). Meetings to discuss a common agenda are hosted by FAUK.

Our key audiences: 

Commercial Broadcast companies such as ITV, BBC and independent Production Companies including the Discovery Channel, God TV, Point of View Productions, Cornish Living TV, CBTV, Passion Pictures, Hat Trick, Japan TV, and Channel 4. SWFTA has built good relationships with the broadcast community and archive footage is licensed regularly for programmes, documentaries films and visual artworks. SWFTA hosts the regional BBC film archive.

Cultural Heritage: SWFTA provides material for community screenings and exhibitions across the region as well as nationally and internationally. Succesful Projects include: The Heritage Lottery-funded (HLF) Villages in Action and Unearth Projects in Devon (2017-8), the HLF Tre Project (2009-2013), the North Devon Movie Bus Project (2010-2014), Plymouth Pictured, a City through a Lens (2011) and Cinematic City (2011), Young Explainers (2012), Resurgam (2013), Take a Part (2013), the River Tamar Project (2013), Three Towns in Focus (2014) and Foto Then and Now (2015).

Academia: An Agreement with the University of Plymouth allows the resource to be used in innovative ways, supporting the development of individual learning programmes and the implementation of creative partnerships. 

Peninsula Arts Film Commission www.plymouth.ac.uk/your-university/peninsula-arts/peninsula-arts-film-commission has seen new productions of inspiring films including Frances Scott's 'Diviner' (2017) and Bryony Gillard's 'A cap, like water, transparent, fluid yet with definite body,' (2017). 

Katy Richardson's 'Relic' at the Plymouth Art Weekender in 2016 plymouthartweekender.com/project/relic-katy-richardson-imperfect-orchestra/ was a sensitive work by the visual artist. This collaboration with Imperfect Orchestra came from a collection of documents and artefacts from the artist’s grandmother Dilys Richardson (nee Tully) who was born in 1922 and re-created for audiences Dilys' imagined and real life in sound and image also tackling Dilys' failing memory as she succumbed to dementia.



Film: From amateur film collections @ SWFTA

See also:

Meet the Trustees
Meet the Staff
Meet the Volunteers
Meet our Funders

Download and print our SWFTA FACTSHEET here