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04/03/2011

BBC Takes Bus Ride Through Cinema History

A restored 1960s mobile cinema is to star in a new BBC Two Daytime series on Britain’s film heritage.
The Vintage Mobile Cinema, which is shortly due to embark on a series of six screenings across North Devon, has been chosen by the BBC to provide the backdrop for a new series on archive film, The Reel History of Britain.
The mobile cinema has been touring villages across the region for the past year, following its painstaking restoration and subsequent involvement in a project backed by South West Screen and the UK Film Council.
Head of Creative and Audience Development at South West Screen, Sarah-Jane Meredith, commented: "We were immediately taken by the potential of the movie bus project and the dedication of the team to present archive film in a way that would really capture the imagination of audiences.
"The bus has surpassed all our expectations and, in addition to touring the isolated communities in North Devon, it has been found in London, Bristol and will now be part of the BBC series. The success of this project has been truly inspirational and we look forward to supporting other imaginative and exciting ideas."
After its forthcoming tour, the bus will accompany Melvyn Bragg as he travels across Britain filming the brand new series. Over the course of 20 episodes, Lord Bragg will retell the fascinating stories about how life in Britain used to be, through the film collections of the British Film Institute and regional film archives.
Bragg commented: "At the turn of the last century one invention changed the way we recall our history forever - the motion camera. Thanks to Britain's pioneering filmmakers, we can still glimpse a world long gone.
"Most of this unique footage has never been seen before but now, more than one hundred years later, we can share the many secrets of this forgotten archive. I'm going to explore some of the most remarkable events of British history as captured on camera. Reaching back into the 20th century, this is an absorbing and entertaining insight into how we became who we are."
The new documentary for BBC Two Daytime will trace the descendants of those featured in the films, as they come face-to-face with their ancestors to discover how they lived their lives. Along the way viewers will see how ordinary British people worked, lived and loved in the 20th century, as seen through social documentaries, tourist information films, newsreels, and government propaganda films.
For each of the 20 episodes, the production team and the mobile cinema will travel to a different location in Britain. It will also be used to screen some of the archive film footage.
Spokeswoman for the Vintage Mobile Cinema, Emma Giffard stated: "We’re incredibly excited about the series. Over the past year we have been taking archive film to remote communities, and the response has been overwhelming. We’re proud that we will now have the chance to share this experience with the rest of the country.
"We’ve visited many different places in this past year, screening all sorts of films, but it has been the archive film that has lit a real spark with our audiences. People are better able to understand the world we live in now through the lens of the past."
The unique 1967 cinema bus is the only surviving one of a fleet of seven that were built by the Government to showcase modern British production techniques. Five years ago, the bus was saved from following the other six into disrepair by owner, Ollie Halls, with the help of a small grant from the Transport Trust and assistance from Hill’s Body Works in Exeter. Seeing its potential, the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon came on board, applying to South West Screen for a £40,000 UK Film Council Digital Film Archive Fund grant to fund access to and digitization of archive film. Bus and film then came together under the Museum’s North Devon Movie Bus project, under which the restored vintage bus has spent the last year touring the local region, complete with a 22-seat fully tiered cinema, a high definition (HD) digital projection unit and Dolby 7:1 surround sound for the full cinema experience. Its incongruous appearance - part spacecraft and part luxury cinema - surprises and delights audiences at every screening.
The Vintage Mobile Cinema was launched in May 2010 and was used on a tour as part of the project based at the Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon.
The Reel History Of Britain will transmit later this year. See: moviebus.org.uk
(JG)
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