British Life on Film: History and the Film Archives

I love the BFI’s BRITAIN ON FILM website and all the fab material held in the regional archives which it showcases. So much so that I’m organising a little symposium about it, which invites folk who have discovered films there and gone on to do research on the films themselves or the events/people/organisations they depict, to come and present their findings. Propose a talk! Or just come along and listen. I’m hoping we’ll screen some of the films too! Here is the call for papers:

A symposium at King’s College London, 11th May 2019

In this one-day symposium we seek to make contact with researchers from any discipline, whose work has been informed by an encounter with archive films made available online.

Over the past ten years developments in digital online platforms have made moving-image evidence of life in Britain from 1895 onwards more accessible than ever before. Thanks to websites such as the BFI’s flagship ‘Britain on Film’ and the online catalogues of the network of national and regional film archives operating throughout the UK, a wealth of moving-image material is now available to professional historians, students, amateur and local historians, independent researchers, and interested members of the general public. This moving-image evidence of the past includes home movie and amateur footage, short documentaries or dramas, training and information films, political activist film-making, advertising and propaganda material, local television news segments and features, experimental, artistic and avant-garde productions.

  • Who is watching this newly accessible material and how are they using it in their everyday lives?
  • What impact has access to such material had on researchers of C20th British life?
  • What are the ethical and practical issues of online access for film and television archives – and for researchers?
  • How are these films being used by historians and other researchers, either as research evidence or as teaching tools?
  • What new directions of enquiry or methodology does such moving image material open up to researchers?
  • In what ways can local histories, and histories of specific communities and identity formations, be informed by this material?

We invite proposals for talks of 20 minutes which reflect on questions such as those above, or which report on research which has made use of film material from ‘Britain on Film’ and/or from the holdings of the regional media archives. We seek to encourage presenters from all backgrounds, including independent researchers. A small travel grant is available for those presenters who are unwaged and unaffiliated. Registration discounts will also be available for delegates without institutional affiliation.

Abstracts of no more than 150 words should be submitted to Closing date: 1st April 2019

This symposium is a collaboration between Lawrence Napper (King’s College London), Christine Grandy (University of Lincoln) and Chris O’Rourke (University of Lincoln). It has been funded through the KCL QR fund.

(NB the featured image comes from ‘Amateur Talkies’ a film from 1956 made by Sid Douglas)

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