Britain on Film on Tour
A partnership between the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) and the BFI bringing unprecedented access to the UK’s history on film. Our Cornwall Galleries and bar will be open and the films will be introduced by Mark Douglas, Senior Lecturer in Film at Falmouth University.
Wednesday 14 February – LGBT Britain
Britain’s LGBT history is the inspiring subject of this Britain on Film on Tour programme. With films spanning 1909 to 1994, it documents a century in which homosexuality went from crime to Pride, via decades of profoundly courageous activism, and the shifting attitudes to LGBT people and their rights across the board throughout a time of explosive social change.
Including some of the earliest known representations of LGBT people on screen, the collection includes a 1925 film on ‘Cutie Cattaro’, a boxer more interested in flirting than fighting and a drag queen, ‘Percy’ competing for a prize in 1909. Exploring the struggles and identity politics of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the films cover early AIDS victims recounting their painful experiences; the formation of the Gay Black Group, an early instance of intersectional thinking; and the 1980 fight for transgender rights in the European Court.
It’s a moving and fascinating collection, a social document encompassing both the collective public fight for basic rights and equality and more personal, intimate and psychological ones: the shedding of shame and the ability to be open about one’s most private self; the claiming of the right to love and to say publicly, proudly: this is who I am.
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Wednesday 18 April – Railways
Travel back to the golden age of the railways, when trains ran on time and came complete with fluffed pillows, silverware and three course meals. Railways on Film charts the history of the UK’s railways in a major new collection of rare archive films, from 1898 to the final steam train of 1968. Return to the romance and glamour of early train travel and be swept away by the freedom of travelling through the past and breadth of the UK. Sourced from the BFI National Archive and newly digitised with a newly commissioned soundtrack, Railways on Film revels in nostalgia for the lost glories of train travel, while documenting the rapidly changing social, economic and political climate of the UK from the tracks.
Wednesday 20 June – Coast & Sea
Let’s go to the seaside! Travel round our gorgeous, varied coast, filmed throughout the 20th century from 1901 to 1978 with Britain on Film: Coast and Sea. Take a nostalgic promenade to classic British holiday resorts including Weston-super-Mare, Morecambe and Skegness, a visit to Butlin’s in Brighton and 1930s surfing in Newquay, while a 1947 information film cleverly undercuts travel clichés by showing how Dover, a traditional tourist town, is remaking itself after heavy bombings during WWII. Enjoy a lush travelogue around the coast via Claude Friese-Greene’s wonderfully re-coloured footage, as eloquent as a painting. Learn about lifeboats via the RNLI’s brisk, engaging promotional film; the private life of seabirds in Julian Huxley’s pioneering, Oscar-winning short film, a triumph of early environmentalism and explore the world of shipbuilding with the construction of the SS Olympic. All the while, in the background: the shimmering sea.
Wednesday 17 October – Black Britain on Film
Explore the history of the UK through the eyes and voices of black Britons throughout the 20th century. Bringing together films spanning 1901 to 1985 and taken from many different regions of the UK, it offers incredibly rare, little-seen and valuable depictions of black British life on screen. Watch miners in the collieries of Edwardian Lancashire and Yorkshire; and soldiers from across the Empire joining the services to fight for King and ‘mother country’ in World War I. See rare colour footage of multi-racial Cardiff in 1957, a Nigerian wedding in Cornwall in 1964, and touching interviews with black school leavers in 1965; witness growing racial tensions on a Liverpool housing estate and in New Cross, London; communities in search of their roots and partying on the streets of Notting Hill during Carnival.
Revealing new voices from across a century of vast and turbulent social change in the UK, Britain on Film: Black Britain is not just an important way to understand our collective history – offering audiences the chance to explore stories of migration, community and the struggle against inequality – but also an opportunity to celebrate vivid black British life and culture on screen.
Wednesday 14 November – Rural Life
Britain on Film: Rural Life takes audiences down the country lanes of the past, meandering through the dwindling customs of another era. Relive the work of the local blacksmith preparing shoes for the horses that will plough the fields, and the shepherd’s trials as he protects his flock from an encroaching storm. Be swept up in the homemade entertainment and giggles of children at the country fair and the joyful freedoms of the dance in the village hall.
Touching on all the technological, industrial and social changes that affected our countryside throughout the 20th century, these films evoke and encourage not only nostalgia, but also broader and more meaningful reflections on the nature of rural life and village communities in the UK today.