Birmingham Post – Nov 21st, 2006


Archive film collection at the heart of Midlands

The University of Leicester has been chosen as the new home for a Midland-wide collection of the region’s film heritage.

The Media Archive for Central England has announced it is relocating to the university, bringing a collection of over 25,000 items dating from 1897 to the present day.

The move from Nottingham will add to the wealth of cultural heritage in Leicester and provide an important resource for researchers and educationalists from across the region.

The Media Archive for Central England, an independent charity, is the recognised public sector body responsible for collecting, preserving and making accessible the moving image heritage of the East and West Midlands.

MACE is part of a network of 12 public sector national and regional moving image archives that collectively care for the UK’s moving image heritage.

James Patterson, the 52-year-old director of the archive, said: ‘We are very proud to be moving to the University of Leicester, which has an international reputation. This presents us with a tremendous opportunity to work with academic colleagues in the school of Historical Studies and beyond.

‘What excites and interests us about our move to Leicester is that there is a very broad base of enthusiastic support from the academic community here.

‘As well as providing a public service across the Midlands we want to explore the use of the collection in an academic context – I see a real opportunity to make Leicester a real centre for the exploration of these sorts of collections.’

‘We will be working closely with the East Midlands Oral History Archive which is also based at the university.’

Mace has three staff – Mr Patterson, Richard Shenton, who is access archivist and Phil Leach, researcher and cataloguer. It is core funded by the UK Film Council through its regional bodies – EM Media and Screen West Midlands – as well as raising project funding from the Lottery distributors.

Mr Patterson said:  ‘We have items on film, tape and DVD – almost every conceivable kind of moving image format which are kept in a purpose-built film store.

‘MACE is determined to make its collections as accessible as possible to the widest range of people and is working in partnership with colleagues across the Midlands to achieve that goal.’

‘Our most significant holding is the complete film collection of ATV News dating from 1956-88. ATV in the Midlands was the first ITV company to introduce a regional news programme and did not dispose of any film. This means that we hold not only the earliest but the most complete of the regional news collections. A fantastic social document and research resource.’

But the archive also houses a wide range of interesting items donated by members of the public.

Mr Patterson added: ‘ A gentleman once approached me after a screening we had at Warwick Arts Centre and produced four reels of film from his pocket. They were films his father had obtained in the 1920s and which he remembered seeing as a boy.’

‘On examination, one of them turned out to be a reconstruction of an incident from the Boer War made by a great British cinema pioneer, Robert W Paul.  A complete 30 second film – which has as much as they could put in a camera those days – it shows a group of British soldiers being attacked and killed by Boers.

‘Filmed in North London only two and a half years after the invention of cinema, its discovery not only sheds light on the history of film exhibition in the Midlands but also demonstrates the value of having film archive specialists on hand in the region.

‘Discoveries of such early material occur rarely but every film has the potential to add to our understanding of the region and its life. We would appeal to people to let us know about any film or video material they have rather than throw it away. I have no doubt there are more gems like these out there.

‘Material retained by the archive relates in some way to the East and West Midlands and contributes to the understanding of the life of the region and people who live there.’

‘This might be film of domestic or working life, or maybe of going on holiday at home or abroad. We are interested in all aspects of the filmed life of the region and its people.’

The earliest film in the collection dates from 1897 and the most recent from 2006 – a copy of the feature film Confetti, which was produced by Screen West Midlands.

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