The oldest tennis tournament in the world

One of London’s most legendary sporting events returns this July to thrill and entertain people from the city and beyond. The Championship has been played at the All England Club in Wimbledon since 1877, making it the oldest tennis tournament in the world.

To mark the 140th year of the event, we have selected an exciting film that reveals what Wimbledon was like nearly 80 years ago as our Film of the Month.

Shot in 1938 by an unknown filmmaker, the black and white silent film captures tennis players competing on Centre Court. It includes scenes of Queen Mary and the Royal Party arriving in their finery to watch Don Budge win his final match as an amateur. Budge went on to be World No. 1 for five years straight.

Crowds fill the venue and take their places, with those not lucky enough to get seats peering over hedges to catch a glimpse of the game.

Today’s tennis attire has come a long way from the all-white full-length trousers for men and full pleated skirts for women of the 1930s, but the more formal clothing seems to do little to restrict the players’ movement as they thwack the ball back and forth over the net.

The thrilling action sequences of players leaping to hit the ball demonstrate the athletic prowess and sheer determination necessary to win. The concentration on their faces is only matched by that of the captivated spectators, who watch on the edge of their seats and applaud the winners.

 

This Film of the Month blog was researched and written by Film London intern Francesca.

 

For the full LSA catalogue record of the film visit  https://www.londonsscreenarchives.org.uk/public/details.php?id=20469

The school at sea: the story of the SS Uganda

In the years 1968 to 1982, thousands of lucky British children boarded the SS Uganda for the school trip of a lifetime.

The Uganda served in the British-India Steam Navigation Company’s educational cruises fleet, along with its sister ship, the SS Nevasa. She embarked on her maiden voyage on 27th February 1968, leaving Southampton with nearly 800 students from Norfolk and Northumberland on board. After calling briefly at Plymouth, the first voyage sailed to Malaga, Piraeus, Istanbul, Heraklion and, finally, Genoa. A further 20 cruises were completed that first year alone.

The idea of school cruises was not entirely new; the scheme was inspired by the pre-WWII practice of using troopships for school trips instead of letting them go unused during the summer. When the Government decided to end trooping by sea in 1960, the British India Company seized the opportunity to continue the tradition by converting cruise ships for permanent use as an educational fleet.

Although this particular spate of school cruises became massively successful, it was not entirely novel. The scheme was inspired by a pre-WW2 practice of using troopships for school trips instead of letting them go unused during the summer. After the war, the British India Company seized the opportunity and followed up on the tradition by converting cruise ships for permanent use as its educational fleet.

At their peak, there were around 60 educational cruise trips a year. Most visited ports of the Mediterranean, but they also sailed the North and the Baltic Sea, and even as far as Leningrad, with an optional overnight train trip to Moscow.

The cruises allowed children to experience foreign travel, often for the first time, and included visits to sites of historic, geographic and natural interest, including the pyramids in Egypt, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens, glaciers in Norway, and the apes of Gibraltar. The trips also allowed students to learn about different languages, currencies, cultures and religions.

On-board activities included swimming and games on the deck, lectures, diary writing, and discos and cinema.

There was never a dull moment, as you can see below in this 1971 film from LSA partner Kingston Museum’s collection:

SS Uganda’s school sailing days ended with the outbreak of the Falklands War, when the ship was requisitioned by the government and went on to serve as a hospital ship in South Atlantic waters. She was sold off in 1986 and finally scrapped in 1992, 10 years after her last school cruise.

Over the years, SS Uganda built up a loyal following of passengers and crew. Nowadays, some of them are even reconnecting at reunion events and through a dedicated Facebook group for those looking to reminisce about their time on board.

Were you on any of the SS Uganda cruises, or perhaps on a different school trip that left a lasting impression? Let us know in the comments!

Find out more:

 

Fighting on the home front

The Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) was established in 1938 to help with wartime problems of air raids and rationing, later evolving into the largest voluntary organisation in British history1.

Now nearly 80 years on it is known as Royal Voluntary Service, and still provides help and support to those in need. More than three million women and men have volunteered and contributed to this worthy cause to date.

To recognise Women’s History Month we have selected a film from the archives which focuses on the less well-known WVS activities of the 1960s. The dedication and sacrifice of the volunteers, so crucial during WWII, was by then being channelled into helping isolated and lonely people, in particular the elderly, including efforts to provide ‘meals on wheels’.

Watch as the volunteers load up their van and deliver hot meals to an elderly couple, and provide much needed company and conversation to another lady in Dagenham.

Find out more about this film from the Barking & Dagenham Heritage and Archives Service collection.

A large-scale digitisation project called Hidden Histories of a Million Wartime Women is currently underway. Commemorating “the army that Hitler forgot”, you can keep up with the most recent updates here.

Community comments in focus

Archive films can trigger genuinely uplifting reminiscence, bringing back memories of events and situations long forgotten. The comments section on our website bears witness to this. Since its launch a year and a half ago, comments and memories have been flying in from far and wide.

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed so far, helping us tell London’s story through film.

Here are some recent highlights:

SharmanBernadette sent us a heart-warming comment about Miss Sharman’s Children’s Homes, Sydenham (1937):

“My mother was a child in this wonderful home and said it was a caring place with so many fond memories. She learnt great domestic skills, which served her well for the rest of her life. After watching this I felt I understood my mother more. Sadly she passed away 6 years ago, her name was Barbara Mary Ward born 1936. She shared such great memories of the staff matrons etc. with us and I’m truly grateful for her attending here as she passed on to her children such good morals and teachings.”

 

 

 
UxbridgeAfter watching Uxbridge Past and Present (1992), Geoff gave us a sneaky peek into construction work mishaps and Cold War emergency measures:

“I worked at the Stage 1 Uxbridge Central Area Redevelopment from 1968 to 1969 […]. We removed a road running from the high street back to the Catholic church and put a 4 ft 6 inch piling auger through the telephone connections running under the road. GPO engineers spent weeks putting the telephone wires together which ran through the ‘Golden Manhole’, it had that name. It apparently was part of the connection between Whitehall and High Wycombe where the government would go if nuclear war broke out between the US and the USSR. Happy days.”

 

 

carshalton carnivalAll the way from Australia, David shared his mother-in-law’s memories of the Carnival in Carshalton (1952):

“My mother-in-law Patricia Sandford was the Carnival Queen in this clip. She is quite ill after a fall and awaiting a hip operation here in Adelaide, South Australia. I have shown her this clip recently and she was so excited. Thanks to all your Archivers.”

 

 

 

 

On the Ferry

Thanks to the diligent research of our volunteer Zoe, many wonderful memories have also been recorded in the notes for S.E.18: Impressions of a London Suburb (1950s-1960s). We were pleased to hear that Facebook discussions about this particular film led to the re-union of two friends from the late 1950s who hadn’t met since they were children.

 

The community catalogue is also an opportunity for people to share their knowledge of the local area in relation to the films in our network’s archive. If you recognise a person or a place, the area or the buildings, we would love to hear from you!

Click here for our previous comments highlights.

Beekeeping and honey picnics in the 1920s

Happy Winnie the Pooh Day!

Wednesday 18 January 2017 marks an incredible 135 years since Pooh’s creator, A. A. Milne, was born in London. This is an anniversary we just couldn’t bear to miss!

Our Film of the Month takes us back to 1928, in what might be the earliest instructional film for apiarists.

Digitised as part of the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage project for Britain on Film, the film promotes a laid-back (and rather careless) approach to beekeeping that is unlikely to reflect current best practice. All ends well however, and the beekeeper is rewarded for her hard work with a honey-flavoured picnic for friends and family.

If urban bee-keeping isn’t quite your cup of tea, perhaps you’re interested in what the people of London got up to half a century ago. The films in this month’s gallery, Joan Littlewood – The need for Fun Palaces, look at a range of Londoners’ leisure activities in the 1960s, from drag acts to model planes.

For all Pooh fans as well as novice apiarists, make sure there’s at least a smackerel of honey on the menu today, and leave your favourite honey-inspired recipe in the comments below.

 

Amateur Bee-Keeping

Watch Amateur Bee-Keeping (1928, BFI National Archive)

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Wrap up warm for this trailer of carefully-selected archive films spanning decades of Christmases and winters in London. It showcases the highlights of the specially-curated Christmas programme that recently toured the streets in our KinoVan, bringing a bit of on-screen snow and archival Christmas cheer to Londoners.

The films show families having fun, children playing with presents (and in some cases, the wrapping paper), crisp snowy scenes and Christmas parties for young and old.

Travel back in time to take part in a Christmas soiree at the Brandon Estate or see the frozen fountains of Trafalgar Square. There’s also newsreel footage from the 1920s showing Cossack ice skaters and excited children in hospital receiving visits from a Christmas fairy.

All the archive films used were sourced from LSA’s partner archives and show the range of film formats in the collection, from home movie shot on standard 8mm and 16mm film, to 35mm newsreel footage. These films show different and varied views of the festive season, and how generations of Londoners have enjoyed themselves in the winter.

These clips were edited by a Creative Skillset Media Archive Trainee who worked with us at LSA recently. Kristy said of her experience “I have had the opportunity to learn many new skills including film inspection, assessment and cataloguing. But the most creative part of my role was producing the Christmas programme, which is a film show I have had the opportunity to curate and edit from archive films in the London’s Screen Archives’ partner collections. With lots of help and guidance from the LSA team during the editing process, I finalised the project by selecting suitable music and researching fun trivia to accompany the clips.”

Shared Pasts Symposium

Last week, on Tuesday 6 and Thursday 8 December, London’s Screen Archives hosted two events: Digital Futures Symposium and Shared Pasts Symposium. The former was focused on the digital preservation and presentation of screen heritage. The latter was an opportunity to discuss the importance of engaging communities with screen heritage and the arts, with a focus on dementia-friendly screenings and archive-based reminiscence sessions. Here we report on the events of the day at the Shared Past Symposium.

Emma Bould from the Alzheimer’s Society explained the need for the arts sector to address the growing number of people now living with Dementia, and their support networks and carers. What is more, there is a business case for venues and exhibitors to look at the opportunities surrounding art therapy and dementia screenings. With Dementia Friends training now available from the Alzheimer’s Society free of charge to institutions and individuals nationwide, now is the time to tap into a cinema audience who will benefit from attending screenings, and give something back to the community.

Shared Pasts Symposium

Malcolm Jones from Age Exchange gave insight into the different types of reminiscence sessions and art therapy projects that they have been running for a number of years. Film can work in many ways, particularly as a trigger for reminiscence, and Malcolm encouraged exhibitors and venues to run both intergenerational and age-specific events to bring communities together. Like Emma, Malcolm introduced a range of training that is available for venue staff and the wider community, in particular reminiscence based activities and tailored training programmes.

Jake Berger from BBC Archives joined the Symposium to introduce BBC RemArc, the impressive digital resource of archival film, images and audio recordings that is currently available free to use for all non-commercial purposes across the UK. This fantastic resource was described by Jake as a cultural and social memory bank of the UK and it includes footage spanning the last century which can be incorporated into a wide range of reminiscence-lead activities and workshops. The new version will be launching in January 2017, and will be an open-source system that operates on all platforms.Shared Pasts Symposium

London’s Screen Archives’ current project London: A Bigger Picture, has enabled us to reach groups in thirteen of London’s Outer Boroughs with special reminiscence screenings using archive film. Storm Patterson from Film London, shared some of her key learnings and experiences from the scheme, such as curatorial considerations in editing, using open questions to encourage a relaxed safe space for discussion and incorporating related ephemera to accompany the screenings, often with support from LSA’s network of partner archives.

A fascinating case study was presented by Jonny Tull from Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, who took us through their pioneering journey to become a fully dementia-friendly venue. Their project, which has now received funding for another three years, has seen the venue adapted to suit visitors with a range of different needs, and run fortnightly dementia-friendly screenings.Shared Pasts Symposium

The Shared Pasts Symposium was an opportunity for members from the care, heritage, arts and film cultural sectors to come together to share ideas and experiences and inspire the next wave of initiatives. Thank you to our event supporters: Creative Skillset, R3:store Studios and The National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund.

Phoenix from the Ashes: The Alexandra Palace Restoration Project

Rumour has it that during the great 1980 fire at Alexandra Palace, sad wailing could be heard coming from the Grand Willis organ pipes in the Great Hall. It’s almost as if the building’s ghosts were mourning its passing.

The disastrous blaze that claimed the Great Hall and most of the western part of the building in 1980 was actually the second unfortunate incident to strike the People’s Palace. In 1873, a mere fortnight after it first opened, a fire destroyed the building completely; it was promptly rebuilt and reopened in 1875. The second time around it took eight years, and although the fire left the East Wing mostly unharmed, it has long since been in a sad state of disrepair.

But its guardian ghosts can now finally be at peace. Supported through the Heritage Lottery Fund, London Borough of Haringey and much-needed public donations, a large and ambitious project is underway to restore the East Wing to its former glory. The high brick walls, which currently conceal a disused Victorian theatre and the former BBC studios, will play host to events as well as a new multimedia visitor attraction drawing on the building’s crucial role in the history of broadcasting and entertainment.


The Palace has undergone several transformations and served many different purposes over the years, including a refugee and later an internee camp during World War One. The majestic building dominating the North London skyline was also the site of groundbreaking technological progress – on 2 November 1936, the world’s first regular high-definition live TV service was beamed from here.

The plan is to honour this aspect of its heritage and create an interactive visitor experience in the former BBC studios, using modern digital devices and wealth of materials from the Alexandra Palace and BBC archives.

The LSA team were very fortunate to get a backstage look, and we’re now counting down the days to Spring 2018 and the grand re-opening!

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Read more about the project

Find out about the early days of television at Alexandra Palace

Saving the Sights and the Sounds

“Moving images, with sound recordings, are […] essential to identity and belonging. This is why they must be preserved and shared as part of our common heritage. The stories told by this heritage are powerful expressions of culture and place, weaving together personal and collective experience, reflecting the search for meaning shared by all. This heritage provides an anchor in a world of change, especially for local communities, providing records of cultural activities, reflecting the great diversity of expressions.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

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One of technological wonders of the 20th century, audiovisual documents have come to play an important part in human history by complementing the traditional written record and offering new ways of seeing the past. Yet we easily forget how vulnerable they are.

Deliberate destruction and technological obsolescence are some of the major threats endangering our moving image heritage, but it can take something as simple as the natural passage of time to damage these important records of our history.

UNESCO recognised this in 2005 by declaring October 27 the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue and help prevent further “impoverishing the memory of mankind”.

This year’s theme of ‘It’s your story – don’t lose it’ brings a personal touch to the preservation of AV heritage. LSA is celebrating the occasion with a focus on amateur films and home movies, which tell personal stories whilst simultaneously capturing a shared social past.

Here is a short retrospective of amateur films which have been digitised thanks to the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage project:

Head over to the BFI Player to watch other Amateur Auteurs in action

Check out this month’s gallery for more LSA home movies

Get in touch if you own moving image stories you don’t want to lose

Archive adventures of the Silent Screen in Italy

Film London and its London’s Screen Archives is leading the training of the next generation of media archivists. In October, as part of the Media Archive Traineeships course, LSA organised for this year’s group of 16 trainees to participate in the student Collegium at the world renowned archival Italian silent film festival: ‘Le Giornate del Cinema Muto’.

pordenone-03Trainee Victoria Baker said, “The festival has been inspirational and seeing so many people leading in their fields from all around the world gives me hope for the future of my career as an archivist”.

Now in its 35th year, the festival showcases new archival restorations and prints from leading archives around the world, such as the BFI’s National Archive and the EYE Filmmuseum. This edition included a special screening of Photoplay Productions’ restoration of the epic fantasy feature The Thief of Bagdad (1924) starring idol of the silver screen Douglas Fairbanks.

Thief was shown as part of the retrospective of the films of William Cameron Menzies who, according to Martin Scorsese, was “the man who more or less invented the idea of production design in movies”. Featuring sumptuous sets and dazzling costume designs, the screening was enhanced by live orchestral accompaniment under the direction of maestro Mark Fitz-Gerald who had skilfully reconstructed the original, revolutionary Mortimer Wilson score.


“I had never seen a silent feature-length film in a cinema with musical accompaniment before […] I don’t think I would have had this opportunity without LSA” – Layla, MAT Trainee.

As well as enjoying early Westerns and Cowgirl films, Japanese animations and mysterious cases from the American Pathé crime series Who’s Guilty?, the trainees attended the daily student Collegium discussions lead by experts in the fields of film restoration and silent cinema, learning about the complex processes involved in researching and bringing these first works of the cinematic art to contemporary audiences.

Owen, a trainee, said, “As a festival, it is such a hub of activity. You can come out of a screening and bump into a leading scholar in the topic of that film – the space and opportunity for discussion is amazing!”

Thanks to support from Festival Director Jay Weissberg – in the first year of his tenure alongside Chaplin biographer and Director Emeritus David Robinson – the trainees were invited to the regional Cineteca del Friuli, in effect the birthplace of the Giornate festival. Following a major earthquake in 1982, locals organised film screenings to bring the community back together and campaigned to reconstruct their cinema. The Giornate was born out of this passion for cinema and the inspiration of individuals such as founder Livio Jacob, whose personal collection was the seed of the archive’s holdings.

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Visit to the Cineteca del Friuli

Trainees also had the opportunity to attend masterclasses for aspiring piano accompanists which gave a rare glimpse into the not-so-silent aspects of contemporary screenings of early cinema, as trainee Lucy pointed out: “Neil Brand’s masterclass made me realise how amazingly skilled the musicians are and how they read the films”.

The strand of ‘rediscoveries’ brought to the fore the Famous Players-Lasky British film Three Live Ghosts (1922). Recently discovered in the Gosfilmofond Russian archive, eminent Hitchcock scholar Prof. Charles Barr explained that this was one of the earliest films worked on by Alfred Hitchcock. Other rediscoveries included two films produced by pioneer British filmmaker R.W. Paul; LSA collaborator Prof. Ian Christie was on hand to talk about The Fatal Hand (1907), a chase film of particular interest for Londoners which features a four-fingered “homicidal lunatic” on the run with exterior shots of Coney Hatch Lane.

Festival highlights included the rare opportunity to see a 35mm print of the spy thriller The Mysterious Lady (1928) starring the incandescent Greta Garbo, here accompanied by the Pordenone’s Orchestra San Marco and directed by maestro Carl Davis. The screening of prints alongside digital projections reflects the developing practices of film archives; as archive trainee Claire pointed out, “Seeing 35mm prints and DCP projections one after the other has improved my skills and really honed my understanding and training”.

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Pordenone Silent

“One of the most important goals of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival is to expose new generations to silent cinema and archive film and the Media Archive Trainees added a great deal to this year’s edition. Their enthusiasm, curiosity and hunger for seeing more and knowing more was a terrific boon. The trainees took advantage of the presence of established archivists and scholars to discuss their work, furthering their understanding of where they want to go with their studies and careers; the camaraderie was palpable!” – Jay Weissberg Festival Director

The MAT programme is delivered by Film London’s London’s Screen Archives in partnership with Creative Skillset and FOCAL International.