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London Screen Study Collection

Battle of Trafalgar 1913

As part of the Bread and Roses Film Festival celebrations, we will be travelling back in time with some films of the London Screen Study Collection newly discovered and digitised moving image archive. Our selection offers a ‘panorama’ of people, places and activities in a time of continuos transition. Some films were consciously made to record what was disappearing, others have become ‘time capsules’ , showing how Londoners behaved while protesting, celebrating and shaping collective life. A mesmerising panorama of archive film which will give us the sense of who we were and who we are.

Click here to book FREE tickets to screening and talk by Ian Christie, London Screen Study Collection, Birbeck College. Sunday 2.00pm, May 6th

We are united (1951), 10min
‘May Day has been celebrated as marking the boundary between Winter and Spring since ancient times, but became particularly associated with the trades unions and socialist movement in the later 19th century. During the 1920s and the 30s, Communist-affiliated organisations in many countries took a lead in making May Day the focus of political demonstration, often with a emphasis on peace and frienship with USSR. The tradition was revived after the Second World War, and the array of groups marching in London on May Day 1951 in this film vividly records the British ‘broad left’ at the height of the Cold war, with a musical narration by Ewan McColl that combines English and American radical traditions. McColl (1915-89), a Lancashire-born actor, playwright and founding member of Theatre Workshop with his first wife Joan Littlewood, had at this time emerged as a leading figure in the British folksong movement, and had recently released his first single ‘The Asphalter’s Song’, under the influence of the American folksong collector Alan Lomax, when he sang for this film. Among the cameraman listed is Charles Cooper, founder of the important distribution company Contemporary Films, from whose archive this film comes.’
(London Screen Study Collection/from ‘London Rediscovered’)

March to Aldermaston (1959) 4 mins.
Opposition to the stockpiling of nuclear weapons began during the 1950s. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was launched in February 1958 and its first major demons-tration was a protest march that Easter from central London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire. The march attracted thousands, and began with a rally in Trafalgar Square before making its way to Aldermaston over the following three days. The march was filmed by a diverse group and teh resulting film released by Contemporary Films in the following year as a contribution to building the anti-nuclear and peace movement. Although it carried no detailed credits, a number of well-known film-makers and many others participated, including Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz. The extract shows the opening Trafalgar Square speeches and the march moving off, passing a rival pro-nuclear demonstration led by Church of England figures.
(London Screen Study Collection/from ‘London Rediscovered’)

Bow Bells (1951), 13 mins.
Anthony Simmons’ first independent short, Sunday by the Sea (1951) showed Londoners at play at the seaside, and won an award at the Venice Film Festival after being entered without his knowledge by Leon Clore. This portrait of London’s traditional East End uses the same structure of observational footage cut to recordings of music hall songs, to show the East Enders that Simmon had grown up with in their native habitat. The film opens with a ship gliding down the Thames, shows us Billingsgate market, the East Enders at home, scrubbing steps, groeing vegetables, and playing games in cramped backyards, before heading off to the greyhounds and bike races.. Click here for an interview with Simmon.
(London Screen Study Collection/from ‘London Rediscovered’)

Trafalgar Square Riots (1913) 1:14 min
A suffragette procession in Trafalgar Square led by Sylvia Pankhurst results in a riot in Whitehall. Policemen are seen escorting Miss Pankhurst away. The scenes here do not look so very different from the more recent Poll Tax riots (1990) or the May Day riots of 2000.

Pettycoat Lane (1903) 2:32 silent 
Sunday morning in the East End market. This fascinating film provides an authentic view of London’s East End from over a hundred years ago. Flat-capped men flow in a Sunday morning tide down Middlesex Street – better known by its unofficial name, Petticoat Lane – just as they have for generations. This most Cockney of London markets caters to the second clothes trade: at the time when this film was made, the market was dominated by the East End street sellers and the Jewish rag trade. As the camera pans across the market, we see the traders raised above the general level, barking at the crowd. The few women in the picture are stall-holders, selling patched-up trousers and restored boots, while a nearby card sharp tempts the punters.


In collaboration with London Screen Study Collection, Birbeck College.

Thanks to Ian Christie and Angela English, Birbeck College.

Selection will be presented by Ian Christie, Birkbeck College.

Selection curated by Ludovica Fales, Kitchen Sink Collection.