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


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.


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”.

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.

Reminiscence Screenings

Our London: A Bigger Picture project has developed a new and exciting initiative, with a series of special archive film programmes we’ve been screening for local dementia-friendly groups.

London: A Bigger Picture is running special Reminiscence Screenings for dementia groups, cafes and hubs around London.


The screening programme is divided into two short sections, covering topics such as childhood, sport and work, using archive films from each our partner 15 boroughs as well as iconic scenes from around London. We have activities and games to make this group interactive and engaging for all.

These screenings are free and an excellent opportunity for carers and people living with dementia to share stories and be entertained in a relaxed and safe environment.

Bring a screening to your local dementia group

Our screening events are a fabulous way of using London’s Screen Archives’ films and local archive’s resources to create a unique experience for dementia community groups.

Why not consider inviting us to your local dementia friendly gathering or event? We can tailor sections of our programme for your group and all events are relaxed, fun and entertaining.

If you’d like to hold an event or know of a dementia group that would be interested, please get in touch.

A Media Archivist in the making

My 10-week placement at London’s Screen Archives (part of Film London) has been exhilarating, interesting and rewarding. As part of the Media Archive Traineeship Programme, I worked on a variety of activities. These ranged from cataloguing, film handling with volunteers, working on film show programmes and KinoVan events for the London: A Bigger Picture Project. I also contributed to The Road to Rio gallery which celebrated Britain’s wonderful result at the Rio Olympics and curated a special Olympics trailer from archival footage between 1921 to 1965.

Developing an Olympics trailer to coincide with Team GB’s glittering success at Rio 2016 was thoroughly enjoyable. As I researched the catalogue for clips I was amazed at the range and scope of archive footage available through London’s Screen Archives and its partners.

Watch the trailer here:

If you enjoyed the Olympics trailer some of the films used feature in The Road to Rio gallery.

It was great to see the public’s appreciation for watching archive films that tell the story of London’s past. When I attended KinoVan screenings at Alexandra Palace and the Guild Hall, I engaged with the public and got to hear some of the stories they’d share first hand. It was lovely to see individuals reminisce with friends about the local films and remembering how areas used to look and how they have changed. The Alexandra Palace event was particularly successful, with sways of crowds enjoying the programme in the sunshine.


Another interesting element of my placement was working with volunteers at film handling sessions where we evaluated films for digitisation. I really enjoyed teaming up with the volunteers – their contribution to London’s Screen Archives is invaluable and they receive excellent teaching and hands-on experience in a film archive. If you are interested in heritage, film and keeping screen heritage alive for London I would definitely recommend volunteering with LSA.  Sign up to our newsletter or email David to find out more.

It was also a privilege to handle and assess amateur films that have been kindly donated by members of the public to the archive. Under the excellent tutelage of David (our Archives and Volunteers Coordinator), I developed the confidence to identify the more technical aspects of film, as well as appreciate the diversity of amateur footage. London’s Screen Archives are always looking for donations so if you have any home movies gathering dust in the attic, get them out and get in touch!

I’m really sad to be leaving the team at Film London – they have been so supportive and helpful, it has been a rewarding experience and I am proud of the contributions I have made during my time here. I have learnt a lot and developed my skills in film archiving. As part of the overall course, I will move onto another ten-week placement and my experiences at London’s Screen Archives has given me a solid foundation for the future placement and further opportunities I hope will come my way!

Why run when you can race walk

There are serious, respected athletics disciplines – high jumps, pole vaulting and javelin to name a few – and then there is race walking. Admittedly, the feverish wiggle of contestants along the track looks rather comical, and has previously been compared to a desperate dash to the loo, amongst other things. But do not be fooled; the rules are strict and technique takes a long time to master. Rule 230 of the International Association of Athletics Federations specifies that the discipline:

“… is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground, so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs. The advancing leg shall be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.” 

To ensure the two basic criteria are adhered to by the contestants, race judges are positioned alongside the track and keep a close watch, handing out red cards to the perceived rule-breakers (not too dissimilar from football) Three red cards from three different judges in one race and you’re out, no questions asked. Being disqualified is not as uncommon as you may think, check out Ken Belson’s piece for the New York Times for some of the heart-breaking stories of aspiring gold medalists at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Race walking as a standalone event was first introduced at the 1908 Olympic Games held in London. That year, both the 3500m and 10-mile event were dominated by Team GB, with Brits Edward Spencer, Ernest Webb and George Larner claiming bronze, silver and gold in the latter. The Olympic race distances as well as the nationalities of record holders have changed over the years, and Russia and China are now at the top particularly amongst female race walkers. To appreciate the breathtaking pace these athletes compete at, one only needs to imagine Yohann Diniz and his 2014 record-smashing 50km walk that took just over 3.5 hours!

Has this race-walk-through of the sport piqued your interest so much that you just cannot wait to watch the Rio finals? Then check out the films below for some early examples of race walking competitions taking place around London.

So, with a bit of history and some archival visual aids under your belt, I dare you to try it. Shake those hips!


Explore this month’s Gallery for other athletics achievements and carnival entertainment.


Want to share a memory sparked by one of our featured films? Share it in the comments!


Further reading:

Collage – The London Picture Archive

A unique set of photographs of the construction of Tower Bridge, images of the Great Fire of 1666 and a set of compelling photos of Victorian street life feature in a new website which provides free access to over a quarter of a million images of London dating from 1450 to the present day.

The maps, prints, paintings, photographs and films which are available to view on Collage – The London Picture Archive are drawn from the collections at London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery, collectively the largest collection of images of the capital in the world, including over 150,000 historical pictures of London streets.

Launching on Thursday 21 July, the new version of the Collage website presents a fascinating glimpse of nearly 600 years of life in the capital. Among the new features of the site, short film clips will feature for the first time, offering location or event specific footage. Watch people shelling peas at Covent Garden Market in 1929 or a remarkable ski jump built on Hampstead Heath in 1951.

The London Picture Map provides a unique way to access images of buildings and places which no longer exist, presenting a searchable vision of a lost London which allows Collage users to view pictures of their neighbourhood from bygone days.

On Thursday 21st July the KinoVan will be at Guildhall 10am – 2pm promoting the launch of Collage – The London Picture Archive.

National Gardening Week

Beauty in the Borough
Official Opening of Hollywood Gardens by Alfred J.C. Hollywood
Colourful London No. 1

This month we are springing into National Gardening Week!

National Gardening Week runs from April 11 – 17, and will see some of London’s most beautiful gardens open to the public for free. To celebrate, dig in to our gallery of the most colourful gardens on film from our collection.

We will also be at Valentines Mansion on Sunday 17 April to showcase some of these green gems with the KinoVan – we hope to see you there!

Valentines Mansion & Gardens, Redbridge
National Gardening Week
Sun 17 Apr 2016 11:00 – 15:00
Emerson Rd, Ilford, Essex IG1 4XA, United Kingdom


International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, we released three films of the month in one day. Watch them all here!

Do you have any favourite archive film featuring women that we have missed out? Tell us about it in the comments.

Want to see more? Find out about our Women on Film touring programming that is travelling all over London in March.

Women on Film

We kick off March with an inspirational programme which turns the focus onto women lives in front of and behind the lens in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

Women on Film is a package of archive clips that highlights and celebrates the portrayal of women in London, with a range of footage from the early 1920’s to the late 20th century.

Continue reading

Film of the Month – February

The Library at Work (1922)

Saturday 6th February marks National Libraries Day. To celebrate London Screen Archives have delved into the archives and discovered this gem: The Library at Work.

Featured libraries include the British Museum, the Central Library for Students on Galen Place, Islington Central Library, the National Library for the Blind and Croydon Library. Though as “books know no frontiers nor garrisoned forts” we also catch a glimpse of travelling rural libraries and a seafarer’s library.

The film is a joyous celebration of libraries and their services; “libraries are living things and each has a life of its own.” How are you celebrating National Libraries day? Comment below or tweet us!

A travelling rural library

A travelling rural library

Seafarer's library

Seafarer’s library

National Library for the Blind

National Library for the Blind

Staff at Work in Islington

Staff at Work in Islington


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