BFI set to tell the Story of London as seen on film

BFI set to tell the Story of London as seen on film
By Erica Roberts
The BFI is delighted to be involved in the Story of London season – an exciting month of events that celebrates the history and identity of our wonderful capital city. Organised by Mayor Boris Johnson, this key initiative gives us a great opportunity to showcase London through film.
Throughout the month of June, the BFI will be showing London at its finest – through the fantastic archive film and TV about the city carefully preserved in the BFI National Archive, and through a month-long partnership celebrating the 50th anniversary of the legendary London jazz club Ronnie Scott’s.
The BFI National Archive houses the world’s largest collection of film about London, and we have found many ways to make these wonderful films available for everyone to enjoy.
Visitors will be able to come to the Mediatheque at BFI Southbank and watch, completely for free, hundreds of these archive films. Our London Calling collection has over 300 films featuring the city, with new titles being added all the time. Titles range from pioneer film-maker R.W. Paul’s Blackfriars Bridge (1896) to What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day (2006), co-produced by band Saint Etienne and featuring the Olympic site before the bulldozers moved in.
In June, we are augmenting this city-wide collection with 50 titles from across last century, presenting a fascinating window on life in Lambeth and Southwark. Highlights will include Alexandra Day in Peckham (1913) and The Spirit of Lambeth (1962).
People all over London will be able to enjoy our touring Mediatheque programme The Big Smoke: Journeys through a Lost London, 1896-1945. Highlights include Old London Street Scenes (1903), where the traffic chaos seems strangely familiar, while sci-fi short The Fugitive Futurist (1924) sees an oddball inventor startle Londoners with a glimpse of their great city’s future. This programme will tour many of the capital’s community centres, libraries and arts centres.
From 12 to 14 June the BFI Jazz and Film Weekender in partnership with ‘Ronnie Scott’s at 50’ will be a celebration from morning till night, with the focus on London’s links with jazz. There will be something for everyone and for all ages as audiences enjoy screenings and live music, jazz brunches, children’s workshops, debates and dancing. Watch out for rare archive footage of major jazz musicians in performance – from American divas like Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone (filmed live at Ronnie’s), to home-grown talent like Stan Tracey, Courtney Pine, Humphrey Lyttleton and John Dankworth.
Dankworth’s talents as a composer can also be heard on the soundtracks of three classic movies that screen over the Weekender – The Criminal, The Servant, and Accident – directed by Joseph Losey. A complete retrospective of Losey’s films will be playing at BFI Southbank throughout June and July. Three other Losey movies with a jazz theme or soundtrack and which play over the Weekender are The Intimate Stranger, The Sleeping Tiger, and Blind Date (with a score composed by Richard Rodney Bennett). Scenes set in the capital abound in these movies (with even the Oxford-set Accident boasting a memorable trip to the capital involving the BBC and a night of adultery), with locations ranging from Chelsea and Kensington, King’s Cross and Heathrow, to Merton Park Studios and Wandsworth Prison.
Eddie Berg, Artistic Director of BFI Southbank, said: “The BFI National Archive is brimming with wonderful moving images of the capital. We are very excited to have this opportunity to open it up so that the people of London can see their great city over the past century or more as seen through the eyes of filmmakers. Archive film is so important – by looking at footage of our ancestors and the landmarks of yesterday, we can learn so much about who we are today.”

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