Wanted: your old home movies

Crab manOne thing that will always reduce you to tears and make you smile at the same time is a good old home movie.

Film footage from the past is guaranteed to heighten the emotions of any audience and is a precious commodity that we need to protect.

An ambitious project underway in the Midlands is doing just that and is appealing to everyone to take a look in their attic or at the back of the cupboard for any old family films, photographs and memories.

They are especially interested in any film footage from Bolsover and Carr Vale, Derby, Ilkeston, Buxton and Mansfield.

The Past Lives Project is working with these communities to offer workshops in film editing and film music with the aim of producing a film from local home movies to be shown with an original live music soundtrack.

It’s a two-year project and the team behind it will work in each community for a few months.

They are starting in Bolsover and have just held (November 29 and 30) free events at the town’s Parish Church and Parish Rooms to explain their ideas and gather cine footage and memories from the residents.

There will be a final event at the Assembly Hall on February 8 which will include the film produced from newly donated footage and a showing of the Past Lives Film.

The project was originally the brainchild of Dave Sturt, a musician, who collaborated with visual artist Anthony Hatton. Dave, of Belper, had been producing music for silent films and wanted to take his work a step further by somehow producing the films as well.

He saw a poster created by the Media Archive for Central England at his local cinema – The Ritz. They were calling out for home movie footage to be donated so that it could be stored in temperature controlled conditions  and he figured they may be able to use the centre as a source of material.

Capturing events on film is commonplace nowadays, thanks to the arrival of mobile phones and pocket cameras but before the digital age it wasn’t quite so simple and it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that ordinary people were able to capture events on film using the 8mm and 16mm cameras.

They were used on high days and holidays and, of course, didn’t have sound.

Most of the grainy footage was consigned to the attic or packed off to the jumble sale once technology moved on.

The Media Archive has been set up to save and store film for future generations, but there are few funds available to digitise it and make it available to a wider audience.

“There was an awful lot of old cine film footage. Quite overwhelming. We decided we wanted to feature family events such as holidays wedding and birthdays and set about sorting through what was available,” explained Dave.

“There were some real gems in the archive – some of it must have taken an awful lot of effort. There is something really special about them. They capture real lives from the perspective of the people involved,” said Anthony who worked on putting the film together.

“There was quite a lot of footage from Mablethorpe, shots of trains, weddings and parties. People having fun,” he added.

Dave and fellow musician Theo Travis, who together have previously worked with the likes of Gong, Robert Fripp and David Sylvian, created the live soundtrack for the resulting film. They also involved string players Deirdre Benscik and Clare Bhabra from Sinfonia Viva. In 2012 they toured the Midlands showing the film, Past Lives, which included images from the 1930s to the 1970s, and performing the music live.

They met with rave reviews across the region as it clearly resonated with so many people of different ages and backgrounds.

Watch a trailer of the film here

It attracted the attention of Debbie Adele Cooper, an artist working as a participation curator at QUAD in Derby, who was so inspired she approached them suggesting they took the project a step further and involved the community in making more films.

“We got our heads together and formed a company called Freefall Arts specifically to create art and music from archives. We have been awarded funding from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund to work on it for two years,” said Dave.

So if you have any cine film or are interested in working with and editing antique footage, create new films or writing and performing music with film you need to look out for one of the project open days across the region in the next couple of years.

Keep up to date with what is going on at http://www.pastlivesproject.com