150 UNSEEN FILMS ABOUT LIFE IN WALES REVEALED FOR THE FIRST TIME
BRITAIN ON FILM LAUNCHES ON BFI PLAYER!
The BFI launched Britain on Film on July 7 2015. A new project that reveals hidden histories and forgotten stories of people and places from the UK’s key film and TV archives.
The archives went digital on BFI Player, giving everybody in the UK free access to 1,000’s 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 public could get involved with the project via Twitter and Facebook, with a launch campaign that saw 60 films from all over the UK released over 60 days, and special screenings and events.
Through the project, Britain on Film curators have found extraordinary footage of ordinary people and places from across the collections.
Dulais Valley – carnivals, wedding, playground, swimming, majorettes – Community events in Onllwyn and area filmed in colour from the 1950s-70s. There are carnivals with floats, majorettes, women dressed up as Charlie Chaplins and Diddy Men, and an accordion player in action, and there are colliery playgrounds and pools at Seven Sisters and Onllywn.
Home from Home (1976) – Yousaf Ali, who came to Newport from Pakistan at the age of 16, works as a bus driver in Cardiff, attends mosque in a YMCA, braves a multicultural church social that offers Iraqi coffee, Welsh songs, the hokey-cokey and snooker and reflects on the big questions of life: security, freedom and belonging. He has come to the conclusion that people are very much the same despite their different origins.
‘White Rose Laundry’ (1936) –The days of detachable collars generated a lot of work for the women in the laundry, each collar going through a number of different processes. Then there was the ironing of bed linen and clothes, using a variety of different irons and equipment, including a twin-armed device for pressing shirts. Men kept to the wet area of the laundry – filling and emptying the washers with enormous loads of garments and bedding, including that collected from the notorious local Lord Tredegar.
‘July 9th 1953 – Coronation Visit of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II & H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh’ – Newport is the first stop for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh on the post-Coronation tour of Wales which was also to include visits to Cardiff, Pontypridd, Caernarfon, Rhyl, Wrexham and Llangollen. Newport turns out in their thousands to welcome them. Police control the crowd, congested at some points. A car that breaks down is speedily moved on. Nothing spoils the smooth running of the day – even the rain just about keeps off.
Swansea Reconstruction (1950) – Photos of Swansea before and after the blitz are shown, which would make anyone wonder how life could ever be the same again for the inhabitants of the city. But wonderful things can happen when communities come together and everyone helps each other. The city was rebuilt from the rubble, and people are seen working hard to make Swansea what it used to be with a modern twist.
Wales v Ireland at Wrexham (1906) – In what may be the earliest International football match recorded on film, Wales play Ireland in a Home Championship fixture at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. Wales (in the darker kit) are cheered on by a lively home crowd. Two cameras cover the action, with edited shots showing the build up to two of the Welsh goals and drama in the penalty area. This was a high-scoring game, ending in a 4-4 draw.
The Minera ‘Mineral’ (1965) – The daily journey of empty ‘mineral’ wagons (used to carry mine products e.g. coal, ores) from Brymbo Steelworks, Wrexham to Minera (limestone) Quarry via Coedpoeth. It was shot during November 1965 and edited to convey a single trip. The route had 8 gated crossings all of which, by 1965, had to be opened and closed by the train crew. It was recorded for posterity by Brian Cowlishaw, a life-long train enthusiast who was born within sight of the railway lines at Shrewsbury.
Wrexham Co-op Society Procession (1912) – Co-operators’ Day – a summertime celebration and promotion of the Co-operative Society – dawns cold and wet and the society’s members turn out for the annual parade with their umbrellas. But the event is being filmed for screening at the local cinema – The Glynn – and brollies will spoil the picture so the cameraman’s assistant urges people to brave the rain and show their faces.
Wrexham Local Events (1940) – Change was on the cards in Wrexham 1938-40. The Cobden Flour Mill chimney was demolished along with the historic Town Hall and adjoining Hand Inn which sold Wrexham Lager on draught; the Grove Park Amateur Dramatic Society built a shed (headquarters), learning the value of spades; gas masks were distributed, as war approached, and white lines were painted on roads, pavements and car bonnets in preparation for black-outs.
Men Against Death (1933) – the first sound film ever to have been made and set in Wales featuring Dorothea Quarry and its slateworkers who are “poised between heaven and earth”
Tryweryn – The Story of a Valley (1969) – a documentary filmed by schoolchildren of the events up to and the flooding of Capel Celyn, including the last ever day at the village school.
Letter from Wales (1953) – a charming Welsh language drama produced for the Children’s Film Foundation, set in and around Llandwrog featuring a happy blend of children, animals and indulgent adults.
Tiger Bay and the Rainbow Club (1960) – silent film showing life in Tiger Bay, a diverse community celebrating weddings and children enjoying trips and activities at the local Rainbow Club.
Time of Change (1967) – a tale of two employees at the Anglo Celtic Watch Company in Ystradgynlais, otherwise known as ‘The Tick Tock’.
Babs’ Recovery (1969) – a Ministry of Defence film showing the excavation of Babs the racing car from Pendine Sands after it crashed and killed Wrexham’s John Godfrey Parry Thomas in 1927 as he attempted to beat the land speed record.
This newly accessible film and TV presents a Britain that is vibrant, diverse and eccentric, whilst shining a light on issues and situations that affect every generation. Many of these films have never, or rarely, been seen since their first appearance and can now be searched for by specific UK locations through BFI Player’s ground-breaking new Film and TV Map of the UK, which also enables people to share films with their family, friends and communities.
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.
The Screen and Sound Archive of Wales has teamed up with the BFI and Film Hub Wales on the Britain on Film project.
Film development officer Iola Baines said: “There are some incredible pieces of Welsh film, rarely seen until now, which tell us so much about our shared history and our communities. Britain on Film has enabled us to unlock film heritage and to share this compelling footage with the wider public. Now we can all explore the landscapes and streets where we grew up, the communities of a previous generation and cultures and traditions that are now long gone.”
SCREENINGS AND EVENTS IN WALES
Film Hub Wales organised a series of Made in Wales (Made in my Town) screenings to share Britain on Film’s archive shorts with cinema audiences in January 2016.
Screenings and events are that took place included:
Gwyn Hall, Neath Port Talbot
On 16th January, Gwyn Hall screened archive footage of Neath and the Dulais Valley featuring carnivals, weddings, playgrounds and majorettes from the 1950s – 1970’s. You can watch the screening accompanied with live choir here. The archive film was followed by a screening of the locally filmed hit movie Pride.
Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
Taliesin Arts Centre screened archive footage of the Swansea Reconstruction from the 1950s, looking at Swansea before and afer the Blitz and showing how communities coming together help to rebuild the city, making Swansea the city it once was but with a modern twist. The footage was followed by a showing of Little White Lies.
The Riverfront, Newport
On 16th January, The Riverfront celebrated life and culture in Newport, with curated Britain on Film archive film and work with local history groups. The films shown were Home from Home, White Rose Laundry and Coronation visit of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh.
Wrexham Library and Arts (BFI Mediatheque)
On 25th January, Wrexham Library and Arts Centre screened five archive titles alongside discussions on the history of the area. These included Minera Mineral, Wales v. Ireland (1906), Wrexham Co-op Society Procession, Wrexham Local Events and England v. Wales (1912).
Read more about ‘Britain on Film’ and ‘Unlocking Film Heritage’ here.
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