I realise this is off-topic but I had an interesting visitor this week; an archivist from the West Sussex Record Office. A few weeks ago, whilst clearing Dad’s workshop in Phase One of Project Atelier, I found some boxes of film from the 1920s and 30s. These were shot by my Great Uncle Harry Guermonprez, co-founder of the Bognor Regis Film Society.
I feel strongly about local history and preserving our heritage, possibly because the city I live in was mutilated first by bombing in the second world war and then by poor town planning. What was once a thriving, modern port, rich in historic buildings, is now a featureless 21st century city, much like any other, with docks that are really beginning to feel the squeeze of the economic downturn.
I’ve never been able to experience the old Southampton, except for the odd building or ruin which is all that’s left of the medieval city. I can appreciate the old photographs and films however, so I emailed Screen Archive South East which already has a few of the films made by the BRFS (see clips of them here: BRFS at Screen Archive South East). I was then contacted by Alan at the West Sussex Record Office who was quite excited by my news as he’s a bit of a fan of Uncle Harry’s apparently. He and a couple of colleagues have written a book about cinema in the region and had included a fairly comprehensive chapter on the BRFS (he brought me a copy – very interesting).
During his researches eighteen odd years ago, Alan had managed to track down what he thought was all that was left of the BRFS’s films to an ex-member of the society in Southport. Hearing that there were more (about eighty reels when I counted), he was quite keen to have them for the archives. I was also able to give him a couple of BRFS event programmes, one of Uncle Harry’s film projectors and one of his old cameras; the sort that has a sort of folding-out, concertina-type thing and takes photographs on glass plates. Please excuse my very untechnical description...
Alan and the team at Brighton University will digitise the films so that they are available for people to view as important records of social history. They may also make a short film about how the two collections came to light. Bonus.