Britain on Film: Coast and Sea launched

Date: 23/06/2017 13:54

Explore our relationship with the coast and sea through archive film.

Last year Britain on Film took a closer look at rural life across the UK. Now the BFI has launched Britain on Film: Coast and Sea, an online collection of over 600 newly digitised films, ranging from 1898 to 2000, from the BFI National Archive and the UK’s national and regional film and TV archives, with content spanning the whole of the UK, available (mostly) for free on BFI Player via an interactive map. Coast and Sea highlights in Northern Ireland include morris dancing in Portrush, the strange world of local filmmakers the Spence Brothers, and a spiritual maritime adventure from the shores of Derry to Iona, captured by two films which haven’t been seen in decades.

Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive said, “Britain on Film has been a transformative project for the BFI and our partner archives. It has demonstrated that millions of people across the UK want to engage with their film heritage?. Comprising over a century of filmmaking, Britain on Film has highlighted some of the lesser-known films from our collections, some of which not even curators had seen before, and provided them with audiences that are often bigger than on their first release. There are over 600 newly added films, contextualised by curators, exploring lives led and holidays enjoyed around the UK coast. As such there are now even greater opportunities for people to while away hours watching and making discoveries about British film heritage.”

Norhern Ireland Screen's Britain on Film curators have again found extraordinary footage of ordinary people and places, to shed a fascinating insight into our shared cultural and social history on film. This treasure trove of rarely seen archive footage reveals the truly eclectic pastimes along Northern Ireland’s coastline over the last 60 years. 

Morris Dancers at Portrush, filmed in 1977, discovers Northern Ireland’s only Morris Dancing Group. They began performing as a support act for the Chieftains, before going on to dance across Ireland, France and England. 

In Bonamargy Ghost, these UTV news rushes tell tales of Julia McQuillan, a mysterious prophet and a recluse who chose to live alone among the ruins of Bonamargy after the Friary fell out of use in the 17th century. Some believe that Julia was murdered on the steps leading to the upper floor of the Friary, others say she fell off the thirteenth step and bad luck will befall anyone who sets one’s foot there.

Boating on the Bann (1960) takes a journey along the Bann, the longest river in Northern Ireland; and join the Logan family to reminisce and you might find their holiday in Portrush leads to Many Happy Returns (1956).

Northern Ireland’s coastal heritage has also provided fresh inspiration for local artists. Poets Ross Thompson and Olive Broderick were commissioned to respond to archive content in the creation of new works. Their spoken word contributions have been set alongside edited archive films by TACA and new soundtrack compositions by Dáithí McGibbon.

There is also an exciting nationwide programme in partnership with the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) offering audiences ways to discover, explore and engage with the coast and sea relating to local stories in their own area. Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive has programmed a mix of screenings, exhibitions and performances, including a new commission by local musician Malojian and filmmaker Colm Laverty, who have curated a collection of coastal-themed archive film for Malojian’s new video single, Some New Bones.

Francis Jones, Archive Education officer, Northern Ireland Screen Digital Film Archive said, “Britain on Film is a fantastic celebration of the UK’s history on film. Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive is delighted to be taking part again this year following on from the success of last year’s Rural programme. This year’s theme of Coastal and Sea is a perfect fit to Northern Ireland’s maritime and costal heritage. We are excited by the programme of events we have been able to put together with our partners and look forward to showing the public glimpses of Northern Ireland’s history.”

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