BFI – Unlocking Film Heritage

Sussex People's Scrapbook 1938


The Unlocking Film Heritage Digitisation Fund was launched in 2013 as part of the British Film Institute (BFI) forward plan for 2013-17 Film Forever. The goal of the programme is to enable access to 10,000 titles within the BFI and other significant regional collections by investing in preservation, digitisation, interpretation and access. SASE is leading the South East of England’s submission and has delivered content from both our collection and from our colleague archive the Wessex Film & Sound Archive. Phases 1, 2 and 3 comprise 476 titles, 396 of which are from Screen Archive South East; 80 are from Wessex Film and Sound Archive.

BFI Unlocking Film Heritage logoThe material is a mixture of publicity films, amateur films, local news films, films originally designed as public records, industrial films, advertisements, short fiction and animation and were selected to fit within the BFI’s themes.


Phase 1

124 titles that fall into the themes: China on Film, What’s that Film – Oddities and Enigmas, ‘Film of the Day’, Never Mind the Ballots and Britain on Film Towns & Cities.

Highlights of this selection are the Simpson Family film collection featuring China in the 1920s and 30s and the Ernie Trory film collection depicting local communist party activities in the 1930s.

[Home Front and Home Guard] (ca.1938-1943)

Phase 2

145 titles fitting the curatorial themes: Football on Film, Home Front (ARP control rooms, Home Guard training films, Auxiliary Fire Service demos), Railways on Film (with particular emphasis on heritage railways, defunct lines, and steam trains), Britain on Film Rural and LOVE. Our Rural titles present this region’s distinctive landscapes, changing seasons and rural practices through the agricultural year. Films highlights include Country Rhapsody a cine-poem; With the Gypsies in Kent; The School Farm set-up to instruct children on agricultural practices in Rye 1949; Traction Engines and Cultivators filmed by Kathleen Arrowsmith showing agricultural farm life in Berkshire.

Joce and Gill at Home (1936-1940)

Phase 3

207 titles for the themes ‘Britain on Film – Coast and Towns & Cities’, ‘Tennis on Film’, ‘Public Information’ (both serious and parodic), ‘What’s That Film’ (including a crazed scientist, some husband-hunting, and a weird dream), ‘Cricket on film’, ‘Industrial Britain – Textiles’, ‘Disability on Film’, ‘Olympics on Film’, ‘Advertising’, ‘Jewish Britain on Film’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Home Movies’, ‘Animals on Film’. Our Coast submission forms the largest submission to date, covering all aspects of seaside culture from holidays to entertainments to fishing through the 20th Century as recorded by amateur film-makers, and serves to represent a very distinctive portrait of British life by the sea. Highlights include: At the Seaside, 1935, showing Blackpool filmed by the architect Joseph Emberton; Selsey Lifeboat, in 1968; Westgate Holidays, 1938 showing Margate’s Dreamland and The Royal Eagle steamer; The Last Chord 1947, the fictionalised account of a shipwrecked seaman’s rescue; and Uncle Mack’s Minstrel Seaside Show in Broadstairs in the late 1920s and 1930s.