The familiar understanding of the concept of commemoration, and the focus for this theme, is when is it used to describe events associated with celebration and memorialisation. Films of this kind are associated usually with public acts of commemoration and as such could be an event that represents an individual, place or subject. These staged activities, such as historical pageants and those produced for Armistice Day, Royal Jubilees, coronations, express for their organisers, participants and audiences a collective identity that shares a common understanding of history. The film of such an event becomes a record of a commemorative act and, when screened, it itself becomes part of that commemoration.
One of the earliest commemorative films in Screen Archive South East collection is Funeral Procession of the Woman Who Dared (4 June 1913; 14 June 1913), a newsreel item produced by the Warwick Trading Company of the funeral procession for Emily Davison (1872-1913). She joined the ‘Women's Social and Political Union’ in 1906 and become actively involved in its campaign for votes for women. Over the next few years she was arrested, imprisoned and force-fed a number of times because of her political work. She became convinced that the suffragette campaign needed a martyr if women were going to succeed in winning the franchise. She attended the Derby at Epsom on 4h of June 1913 and stepped onto the track during the race. She was hit by the King’s horse, Anmer, and died of her injuries. There is a debate as to whether she had intended to either die through this action or to just stop the race by waving a suffragette banner. The film is of her funeral procession on 13h of June in London preceeding her burial at Morpeth, Northumberland, The procession was a significant event for the suffragette movement because Davison became, whatever the circumstances of her death, a martyr to this cause. Women of all ages march solemnly in front and behind of the funeral carriage and carry banners with such cries as, “Fight on and God will give the Victory”. As a film, it commemorates her life, the suffragette movement and its prominent place within British political history.
The Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary held on the 6th of May 1935 provided an opportunity for communities across the nation to celebrate the King’s reign and display, in public, their patriotism. The Screen Archive South East collection has many films from the region that depict the events that were staged on this day. Indicative of these is the film of the events in Chichester. The film is in black & white and Dufaycolor, an additive colour process first introduced in 1934, and provides a portrait of this day from the morning’s parade, the afternoon sports, the carnival with dressed floats and vehicles and, in the evening, to grand firework display with the message “God Bless Our King and Queen”. It conveys the sense that at this moment the whole city was unified in its celebration of the monarchy. Contemporary commentators saw the King and his Jubilee as representing the nation’s greatest strength. Harold Nicolson wrote, “Reverence in the thought that in the Crown we possessed a symbol of patriotism, a focus of unison, an emblem of continuity in a rapidly dissolving world. Satisfaction in feeling that the sovereign stood above all class animosities, all political ambitions, all sectional interests. Comfort in the realisation that he was a strong, benevolent patriarch, personifying the highest standards of the race.” (1)
Eric Hobsbawm refers to an “invented tradition” as, “a process of formalisation and ritualisation, characterised by reference to the past.” (2) This concept is very valuable to analyses of films of Jubilees and other commemorative activities as it focuses attention on the constructed nature of these public events and their historical and cultural context. The Chichester Jubilee film, for example, was the outcome of the careful planning of a day’s worth of events involving many organisations and the design of the parades, floats, street decorations and costumes. How this day relates the ideological nature of Britain and Europe in the 1930s is a subject that requires proper attention. When commemorative films are drawn from different historical moments and viewed together, such as those of the Jubilees of 1935, 1977 and 2002, they can serve as a barometer for the changing nature of public commemoration. Jubilee films, therefore, can be used to explore the evolving relationships between communities, the nation, the monarchy and history.
Alongside public commemorations, there are also films of private commemorations. Family films, for instance, record such rituals as birthdays, weddings, Christmases and activities such as holidays. These are private acts of commemoration that capture those moments, as deemed by the film-maker and the participants, to be of a ‘special’ time. Their natural analogue is the family photograph album. Films of this kind are introduced within the Family Life theme.
It also possible to discern more generalised acts of commemoration by considering the nature of particular non-fiction films and the work of film archives. Works of non-fiction that are designed to represent individuals, places and activities, usually have either explicit or implicit commemorative characteristics. They tend to have a focused, sustained and usually sympathetic engagement with a particular subject. For example, many of our rural films from the 1930s document a horse-drawn non-mechanised world. These films, such as The Wheat Harvest (1935), celebrate traditional agricultural practices that were beginning to disappear with the arrival of the tractor. This broader sense of commemoration is also amplified by the passage of time and by the work of film archives. When made, a film may not have been seen as a specific act of commemoration but it can acquire a commemorative character in the future because it can become a rare and unique record of a distinctive aspect of the past. This status is usually conferred if a film becomes ‘archived’. Through the process of acquisition, documentation, preservation and historicisation, it acquires this new connotation.
1. quoted by David Cannadine, "The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the ‘Invention of Tradition’, c. 1820 - 1977", in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge University Press, 1983, p. 152.
2. Eric Hobsbawm, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions", in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge University Press, 1983, p. 4.
Films in this theme:
Showing 46 to 60 of 169 results.
[Rottingdean Windmill Reconstruction]
This intertitled amateur newsreel style film by FJ Williams, documents a series of local events in the seaside town of Rottingdean. The film shows stormy weather and a beached whale, the opening of the new Public Hall by the Mayor and Mayoress and the restoration of Rottingdean Windmill by several tradesman.
Canterbury 1936 Part 2
|Date||Saturday June 20th - Sunday August 9th||ID||11560|
This is part 2 of Sydney Bligh's newsreel, filmed in June, July and August 1936. The film shows various religious and military parades through the Cathedral grounds, the costumed cast from the play 'Cranmer of Canterbury', the burial service of Lady Davidson of Lambeth in the Cloisters, the Kent County Agricultural Show, a children's carnival and a male gymnastic display.
Coronation Celebrations in Horley
This fast-paced amateur film captures celebrations in Horley during the coronation year of 1937. A parade moves through the town including a marching band, decorated floats and a fire engine. In a field, children take part in organised races, exercises and marching.
Sunday Afternoon Interlude
|Date||1937 - 1938||ID||1102|
A compilation of short fiction and non-fiction films made by Ernest A. "Spot" Botting, including footage of the 1938 Egerton May Festival.
[Coronation of HM The King George VI,1937]
|Date||12 May 1937||ID||3086|
Huge crowds line the streets of London, watching as a parade of armed forces from across the Empire and of numerous VIPs leads the Golden Coach carrying HM King George VI on his Coronation Day.
[Coronation Naval Review; Holiday; Hay Farm]
This film features a Royal Naval Review at Spithead, Southampton to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. The Reed family view the display aboard a pleasure craft. The second part of the film provides scenes from the family's visit to Instow in Devon, that includes a trip to the beach and a working farm.
[King George VI Coronation Celebrations at Rottingdean]
|Date||12 May 1937; 20 May 1937||ID||8594|
This film by amateur film-maker Francis Williams records celebrations marking the coronation of King George VI. The first section contains street scenes of Rottingdean during Coronation week. The second section shows some of the ships that took part in the Coronation Naval Fleet Review at Portsmouth. These include the German battleship 'Graf Spee' and the Royal Yacht 'HMY Victoria and Albert III'.
[King George VI Coronation and May Day Demonstration]
This black and white intertitled film shows the Coronation celebrations for King George VI at St Paul's Cathedral. This is followed by a tour of Central London in a car which includes views of a May Day Socialist demonstration march at Hyde Park. This film concludes with a family group watching the coronation procession from a building on The Strand.
[Spithead Review and Regatta]
This film shows faded colour scenes of the Naval Review at Spithead, Southampton for the Coronation of King George VI in 1937.
|Date||12 May 1937||ID||10041|
This black and white and colour edited film opens with a Movietone News film with added edited family footage of mixed military bands parading with the Royal Gold Coach along Oxford Street. The film-maker has also added views of Buckingham Palace, the Canada Gates and the Victoria Memorial to the second part of the film. The film ends with a British Movietone News end slate. [The Movietone news film is not included in the online clip]
Dinard and Paris Exhibition
This colour and black and white film shows a family holiday to France, visiting Dinard, St Malo and Le Mont Saint-Michel. The second film shows highlights of the International Exposition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life with the German and Soviet Union Pavilions adjacent to the Eiffel Tower along with gardens and street scenes and several Parisian landmarks.
[Coronation; Chelsea Flower Show; West Country]
This colour film depicts the Coronation celebrations for HM The King George VI in London, together with scenes from the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show, and views of the rural and coastal environs of the West Country.
Canterbury 1937 Part 3
|Date||2 July 1937 - 14 July 1937||ID||11572|
Part 3 of a newsreel made by Sydney Bligh showing the key occasions and ceremonies in Canterbury and the surrounding area during July 1937. The film includes Presentation of Colours to the Kent Branch of the British Red Cross, Conservative Garden Meeting, Pageant in Deanery Garden, Roman Catholic Pilgrimage to Canterbury, Opening of the new Hospital and a visit to the Kent County Agricultural Show.
Canterbury 1937 Part 4
|Date||25th July 1937- 11th November 1937||ID||11573|
This is part 4 of a newsreel made by Sydney Bligh to show the key occasions, festivals and ceremonies in Canterbury and the surrounding area from July to November 1937.
[Exit from Church; Rosenmontag Floats]
|Date||28 February 1938||ID||9316|
This film begins by showing a congregation leaving a church in a rural village. The next sequence shows scenes at a 'Rosenmontag' street carnival in 1938, with parade floats and marching bands. The film has intertitles throughout.
Showing 46 to 60 of 169 results.