MACE’s Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Vinegar Syndrome’ Project Begins

Our  project to save a collection of film suffering from the early stages of acetate film decay known as “vinegar syndrome” has begun. The name derives from the smell of the acetic acid emitted from the decaying film which, in its advanced stages becomes completely destroyed.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery, the project will sort through a collection of film made by the Wolverhampton based production company called Warners. They specialised in making promotional and information films for a wide variety of clients in the public and private sector during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

An advanced case of vinegar syndrome in acetate film © Screen Sound Australia

An advanced case of vinegar syndrome in acetate film
© Screen Sound Australia

To deliver the project MACE is delighted to welcome great new colleagues to work through and identify the best material from which to recreate digital copies of the film.

Sue Winn is taking on the twin part time roles of project curator and film technician. Sue has working experience in the past with the National Film and Television Archive at the BFI as well as in the commercial laboratory sector and at the British Universities Film and Video Council.

She is joined by Joanna White who will be working to recreate the films digitally. Joanna has a film making background with experience of archives too. She is additionally undertaking an MA at the University of Lincoln.

In the New Year we will be working with the Wolverhampton Archives to recruit volunteers to research the company and the films. Completed restored digital versions of the films in the collection will be held in the Wolverhampton Archives where a small exhibition will describe the project and the collection.

We will be regularly blogging about progress with the project which is due to run until the end of March 2015.

James Patterson, Director (MACE)


A Welcome to Lincoln from MACE’s director, and thanks for all those who helped along the way…

A message from MACE’s director, James Patterson:

James Patterson moving into his new office at the University of Lincoln

So here we are – finally installed in our new home at the University of Lincoln. After 11 years we have a purpose built home for the collections of the Midlands and for the team who look after them.

Inevitably we are concentrating on settling in and developing new ways of delivering the regional service from this new space. But before I come to that I want to just thank those who have supported us as we have developed towards this recent move.

When MACE was first established in 2000 our offices was at the Central Library in Birmingham. Though our sojourn there was relatively brief, the initial support we had from John Dolan and Nick Kingsley and subsequently from Brian Gambles, was crucial to our early survival.

In September 2000 MACE moved its office to the University of Nottingham with whom we had a productive relationship for 6 years and where we really grew from a good idea into a proper archive service. There were many at Nottingham who contributed and supported us but special thanks should go to Professors Douglas Tallack, Mark Jancovich, Judie Newman and Roberta Pearson in the School of American and Canadian Studies and to Chris Jagger, the University’s Head of Estates.

Leaving Nottingham for the University of Leicester was an upheaval but our time at Leicester allowed us to mature and develop a number of different activities. Thanks are due to Professor Richard Rodger (now at Edinburgh) who was instrumental in getting us to Leicester, to Professors Roey Sweet, Simon Gunn, Rob Colls and James Chapman for their support and encouragement and most especially to Christine Fyfe, Pro Vice Chancellor and University Librarian without whom it could not have happened.

And so to Lincoln and, we plan, a long and productive relationship.

The University has a rightly respected School of Media with whom we will be intimately engaged and much time in the coming year will be spent in developing the detailed nature of that engagement. But, of course, our first priority is to deliver a service to you, our users and we are working out strategies for improving the opportunity to engage with us. Certainly our relocation will not impact negatively. In fact we now have more staff out and about across the midlands rather than spending time in the office then ever before. And next year we will for the first time have a base in the West Midlands so that we will be able to improve the quality of our service there. But more news of that in due course.

If there is any way in which you think we can improve access to us our services or our collections do let us know.

James Patterson

‘The Public’ – launches Full Circle at an archive screening event in West Bromwich….

The Public, the digital arts centre in West Bromwich was the launch for Full Circle on 2nd April

On a lovely sunny evening in West Bromwich, local history groups came together to  help The Public launch the Full Circle project. The Public is supporting MACE in the search for films via the Full Circle project. Eventually these films will be screened at The Public in a big celebration event of our screen heritage.

Whats on at The Public.....

The Public digital arts centre is already becoming part of community life, and once the shopping centre building works are complete it will become an integral part of the community. There was an Indian wedding going on when I was there – lots of lovely food smells…..

The two friendly staff at reception - On the night were short film screenings of archive footage from the Sandwell archives, Oldbury History Society collection, 1960s ITV news items. As well as a short film made by a local film-maker Billy Dosanhjh "Miracle in West Bromwich".

Entrance to one of the many screening rooms at The Public with the Full Circle bannerFilms are part of our screen  heritage and The Public and MACE are working together to collect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy. Films and moving images have the capacity to reveal life over the last 100 years – like no other record.

Keith Hodgkins and members of the Tipton Civic Society came to support the launch and watch some archive footage of the local area

Audience members were from local history groups in the area who are helping to search for films and moving images

Members of Tipton Civic Society and Tipton Harriers Athletic Club

MACE has recently supplied the Tipton Harriers Athletic Club with copies of  some of their old films to help them celebrate their centenary anniversary earlier in the year.

Roxie and Chris of "Stirchley Happenings" an active local group in the area who also put on film screenings of archive footage supplied by MACE

Phil Leach, Curator at MACE put together some 1960s footage from the ITV news archive

This screening was a special event to celebrate and share rare and unique images of The Black Country. It was jointly hosted by us (MACE) and The Public. We are looking for groups to join us in the search for film to help unearth some  hidden treasures of our screen heritage.

JP our friendly audio-visual technician did a fantastic job on the night! Thank you

Keith Hodgkins brought along some films for the Full Circle project - these will be assessed and then relevant footage will be copied onto DVD for the local groups to enable them to share the films by giving a community screening

Graham Peet, Exhibitions Manager of The Public who not only gave an interesting talk on The Value of collecting Media, but also gave a tour of the Publics facilities. Graham can be contacted on: 0121 533 7161 For more details of the Full Circle Project have a look at the Full Circle section of this website or contact Kay Ogilvie Senior Curator Full Circle

Screen Heritage and the Big Society…the challenge for the public film archives

Screen Heritage and the Big Society…the challenge for the public film archives

by James Patterson, MACE Director

The Media Archive for Central England Film Store

(This is an edited version of a paper delivered to “Film Heritage, Digital Future”, a conference held at Birmingham City University 4/3/11.) 

The last time I wrote about how I saw the challenges for the film archive sector was nearly 2 years ago. It was not the first time I had written about the subject.

 I’m writing about it again and I suspect that it won’t be the last time.

 And why would it be the last time? The film archiving itself is always challenging, the approaches we take as archivists are always developing and the context in which we operate – the political context with a small p, and in consequence the funding context, is always in flux. So the challenges we face are always changing. What is unchanging is our responsibility to develop a service which meets the needs of the community and realizes all the potential in the collections we develop and care for.

 I must preface my remarks by saying that my views on the matter are my own – borne out of nearly 32 years working in the film archives in the public sector and the last 20 of those at a senior level in both a national and regional context. I am not suggesting that I am representing anyone else’s views.

 I am limiting my remarks to the film archives in the public sector and the challenges faced there because this is the sector I know. It is not in any way to ignore the important work done for the survival of our moving image culture by other organizations. In fact, I think it is really important that we begin to develop appropriate and closer working relationships across the whole sector as soon as we can.

 I’ve called this piece Screen Heritage and the Big Society not because I want to discourse on how we can develop community action in support of our sector – though I may touch on this – but more as a shorthand for the wider current context of our services.

 And what is that context? What is the current challenge?

 The public film archive services are currently delivered by 2 UK wide archives (BFI National Archive and IWM); there are services for Scotland and Wales delivered from departments of their respective National Libraries; and there are 9 small archive services operating in the English regions.

 All of these archives are independent of each other – the relationships between them and the way the funding works are complex and have been made more complicated in the past few years – partly by devolution of responsibility to the nations, partly by a lack of a clear strategic and shared overall vision for the services in England.

 “The current political context is one of decreasing public funds and of being told to do more with less.”

 The drive from the current government to reduce the perceived unnecessary bureaucracies has impacted as much in the film world as elsewhere.

 The UK Film Council (UKFC) is being closed with all public support for film activity transferring the BFI. The regional screen agencies (independent, though closely tied to UKFC) are working out how they will become (or engage with) a new body to support screen related creative and cultural industry activity outside the capital. That body is called Creative England. The proposal is that it should have three hubs North, Central and South.

 Creative England is now working with the BFI on defining their relationship so that strategic priorities and delivery paths for the range of areas in which they have some responsibility can be achieved.

 These discussions are ongoing and will be resolved during the coming year (2011).

 Creative England is currently consulting on an interim strategy document which covers the financial year 2011/12. Driven by even further reducing funds, it is clear from the consultation documents that there are expectations of a structural change of the regional film archives in England.

 The nature of the change is currently defined only in the sentence ‘there is an immediate need to develop a more cost effective/aggregated out of London network of RFAs…’.

 There is an old story about a man who, travelling in Ireland, stopped and asked a farmer for directions to Dublin. “If I was going to Dublin”, the farmer replied “I would not be starting from here”. The circumstances we find ourselves in seem to me to resonate with that. The starting point for our journey is one that we might not have chosen.

 But matters are further complicated by not having great clarity at this stage about the destination. Indeed, some of the sector like the place we are in and want to stay. But we have been and are being told that we must travel and some of the sector feel the need to travel and that a journey would be beneficial in many ways, but the problem we face is that the necessity to travel is not, at the moment, being combined with a clear destination. At best we have a sense that – to stretch the metaphor towards breaking point – we know that we should probably head towards Dublin because Dublin is where we probably ought to be. We hope to be engaged in a conversation in which we agree that Dublin is our destination. But our worst fears are that that conversation may take place without us and we might end up being sent to Cork.! (a place I am very fond of by the way but which must for the purposes of the metaphor represent an inappropriate destination).

 The public film archive sector in the English regions is currently perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being fragmentary and as needlessly and inefficiently duplicating resources, activities and facilities. Because it is seen this way there is a sense that the aggregation of the sector will reduce costs.

 This is our starting point. And in the current climate where strategic bodies which have served the English regions are being reduced typically from nine to three, where regionalism is out and where the public purse is too stretched to cover the kind of more peripheral public service activity that we represent, we are not, in my view, in a good place to make the case for the retention of the status quo.

 “So change is the order of the day.”

 Is there anything else we can glean from the Creative England document?

 I am greatly comforted by a recognition that, at least in this transition year, CE have made the whole area of broader film culture (which includes the heritage sector) one of their three priorities. I am equally comforted by the their desire not to undo or damage the benefit we have managed to accrue from the very welcome investment of capital into the sector which led to the Screen Heritage UK programme which is currently in train.

 I know that not all my colleagues concur, but I for one think that there is a strong case for the aggregation of elements of our work. I have been advocating this approach for some time…not because I think it will save money, but because I think it may be possible to improve the services we offer by taking a different approach.

 And in all of our consideration of these challenges the service…what we do and how well we achieve it must lie at the heart.

 So what is our role?

 I have moved away from defining the archive in terms of “collection”. I see the role of the regional film archive as being about engaging people with screen heritage to achieve positive benefit.

 Now clearly a key part of that is the core work of uncovering the region’s screen heritage, ensuring that it is secure now and for future generations and available now and for future generations. And there are particular and specialist archive facilities, functions and expertises that need to be made available to do that work.

 Some of these things have to be located in the region in order for the organization to work effectively in delivering a regional service, some of them – the more backroom functions – can be shared and provided more remotely.

Steenbeck and view of Store

Our responsibility is to make sure that things are done to the right and proper standard to achieve the outcome…not necessarily to do all of them ourselves.

 “But each part of the country has its own identity and has its own priorities and imperatives. Each part of the country presents different opportunities for engagement – and if we are to work effectively at a local level in engaging people with the very remarkable resources we are developing, then we have to be alive to the variety of the opportunities and potential partnerships – and that means working on the ground locally and having the right capacity to facilitate that.”

One of the collections of film found in the Midlands during the HLF funded Full Circle Project

 And working out how best to develop individual and shared responsibilities for the film archive sector must be an inclusive conversation. A conversation in which all the partners, national and regional, come to the table and, recognizing the value and the complementary nature of their different services, their different approaches and the different kinds of contexts in which they work, sort out a genuinely strategic network of service.

 The film archives do not exist in a vacuum. They are part of the wider cultural offer – they are part of the broad cultural landscape and have the potential to impact across a very wide range of cultural partnerships. We need to build on existing relationships nationally and regionally and locally and take care not to damage it in the changes which lie ahead.

 And if all of the changes that lie ahead of us are driven by the need to reduce the amount which we see from the public purse, then developing a new business model and one which is sustainable is probably our biggest challenge.

 To create a new model to deliver a sensible and engaged service to over 40 million people outside London with a Treasury settlement of less than the £290,000 which is, this year, shared between the 9 English regional Film Archives is very challenging indeed.

 It would be quite wrong of me to suggest that £290,000 is all the support we have because for all of us this is only part of a much larger basket of Lottery and other project funding and institutional and in kind support which we have very successfully each developed over the years around this central plank. But it is the central plank and is of considerable importance.

 That the sector has managed to deliver as much as it has with such a small core platform gives me some encouragement for the road ahead. Clearly there are entrepreneurial people working in the sector. But we need to be open to ideas which challenge the received wisdom about how we develop income to cover our costs.

 Sacrilegious maybe, but we must examine again what our ‘public service’ remit means in the current climate.

I believe, and have done for some time, that we must make a contribution, and a more considerable one, to covering our overheads.

We are “not for profit” organizations but that does not mean that we are “not for income”.

The more we can generate, the more we can deliver. We must invest time and energy into the development of innovative ways and means of getting our resources into use and to generating income from that use.

 We must argue for the retention of a core funding platform – without that we can do nothing. We must continue to make the case for that core platform to be set at a level which is realistic – but we must expect to deliver a responsible level of financial return ourselves – just as we must continue to raise funds from Lottery and other project sources and through partnership working. We must at the same time take care to make sure that our development plans and our core activity is not unduly skewed by chasing funds with inappropriate priorities.

 And yes, we must engage community help – we must respond to the so called Big Society.

 It’s not that all of these things mean we must suddenly start to do things which are different. We must simply adapt to the times and the circumstances – as we always have.

 The sector faces some hard decisions and there are many things that will discomfort us in the months ahead.

 But actually at heart I’m optimistic. I think that, challenging as the coming period is likely to be, there is also opportunity – and I, for one, though not without some anxiety, am looking forward to it and believe that, with an appropriate attitude and a spirit of collaboration, the coming changes could just develop into something very good.

 James Patterson

Director, MACE, March 2011

‘Bloggings’ from our Director, James Patterson

As the metaphorical sun sets on 2010 and as we all prepare for the annual seasonal excesses, I thought it might be a moment to jot something for the blog. I don’t do this as often as I should, I know.

2010 has been a momentous year for MACE.

Lots of growth and lots of change and, though all of it is really positive it would be wrong to suggest that there are no growing pains!

So I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the team here. The success of any organisation rests in its staff and, in this regard, MACE is fortunate indeed.

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Regulars at the blog will need no introduction to the Heritage Lottery funded Full Circle project which has already hugely exceeded all of my expectations. Huge credit for the success must go to the Full Circle team of Kay and Lucie, who many of you will know, but also, and no less importantly, to our project technician Andrew and cataloguer Catherine who are beavering away with the fabulous material which is being found.

But Full Circle is not everything we do by any means. A glance through the blog will reveal many of the other activities that have been developed and delivered particularly by Emma, Richard and Phil. A wealth of knowledge and experience is allied to fantastic enthusiasm and dedication in these three colleagues – MACE would be nowhere without them.

I also want to thank Sandy whose work has been and continues to be to get so much information into our catalogue and Kayla who is making sure the films themselves are physically in the best conditions we can give them.  

And we must not forget our volunteers Catherine, Gill, Julie, Sarah and Zoe. Thanks to them too for everything they have done for us this year.

The great start to the Full Circle project and our ability to continue to develop a fantastic collection for people to enjoy and use and to do all our other work is because of the enthusiasm and commitment of all of our many partners in the community – and so my thanks to all of you. We look forward to working with even more of you in the future.

We are really excited by the release of our first DVD and 2011 should see lots more to join that catalogue…so keep an eye out and buy them all as they are released!  They will reveal some of the great material that has been placed in our care over the past few years. And the income will help to keep us going too!

These are difficult times for small cultural organisations like MACE. Our funding is always both limited and uncertain and the current economic situation invites further uncertainty. A huge thank you therefore to the University of Leicester who have been providing us with a stable home since 2006 and to EM Media and Screen WM whose continuing support is invaluable. And last, but absolutely not least, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting us too.

2010 has seen a huge expansion in our work. 2011 will see further major developments which will allow us to deliver an even better service for everyone. And after all, that’s why we are here – to deliver a service for you, the community at large.

We are very excited by the prospect of the changes in 2011….but more of that as the developments come forward…we have the Christmas break to get through first!

James Patterson

Happy 10th Birthday, MACE!!

10 years…together

On Feb. 14th 2000 I travelled to Birmingham to meet with Nick Kingsley, then City Archivist and a MACE Board member, on what was MACE’s first day.

MACE was registered as a company in 1995 but dormant until that day. And like all relationships – even those started on Valentine’s Day – we have had our ups and downs together since then!

But we are still together and are about to embark on what might just be our most exciting year during which we hope will see the establishment, finally, of a permanent location for the staff, the service and the collections.

So it’s a happy 10th birthday to MACE.

Whatever happens I am sure MACE will be a pillar of the cultural resources of the Midlands long after my own relationship with it ends…and I’m not looking for that day just yet!


Seasonal Greetings…

As another year approaches its end (and a happy couple of weeks away beckon for the director!) my thoughts are already turning to the challenges of the year ahead.

The impact of the financial crisis on the funded sector is likely to be profound. A 20% cut in regional funding for the coming year has already been signalled by UK Film Council and we are waiting to see how this will translate in the archive sector in the Midlands. The proposed merger of Film Council and the British Film Institute is also likely to affect our work one way or the other.

But I have always believed that any challenge presents an opportunity. So whatever the outcome for MACE, we will be seeking ways of organising and delivering our services to meet the challenges that lie ahead. And as always, you, the people who use our services, will be central to the decisions we make.

MACE reaches its 10th birthday in mid February – a birthday which I hope will mark the start of a new and bright chapter for the screen heritage of the regions.

I’ll be keeping this blog up to date with any new developments in the New Year. But for now I send you seasonal greetings (and less washing up than I’m likely to have!).

Phoenix Square Opening

To the opening of Leicester’s Phoenix Square last night – a fantastic new addition to the developing cultural quarter of the city.

Leicester has recently seemed the poor relation in cultural provision in the East Midlands what with the new QUAD arts centre in Derby and Broadway Media Centre and the new Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery in Nottingham.

But in Leicester’s own quiet way a small cultural revolution has taken place in the formerly run down St George’s area of the city. Firstly with the LCB Depot, a hotbed of creative businesses, then with the amazing new theatre, Curve, tucked away close to the city centre – and now a brilliant new cinema and digital arts facility.

More fantastic opportunities for MACE to work with to bring out and showcase the extraordinarily rich screen heritage of the region…

MACE Speaking At Conference Events

On 28th August MACE Director James Patterson will deliver a paper at the Open the Door: And Here Are the People conference at the East Midlands Conference Centre based at the University of Nottingham.

The title of his paper will be “The Regional Film Archive: A Serious Research Resource or the Dustbin of History?”, an evaluation of the need for regional film archives. The entire event lasts from Friday to Monday and more information can be found here

James will also present at the West Midlands Archive Users Conference at Birmingham City University, School of Art and Design on the 26th September. His paper will concern the recent successful Worcestershire on Film project undertaken by MACE.