The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon


Here’s a wonderful thing. In 1994 a stack of negatives was found in a cellar by workmen demolishing a shop. The prints turned out to be the largest surviving collection of actuality films anywhere in the world, and their restoration is almost certainly the best window on to life in Edwardian England.

Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon made “Local Films For Local People” from 1899 to 1907. This meant traveling to different towns, filming real-life scenes, of people in the streets, sports matches and public events, then screening the films the same evening. Members of the public could come and see themselves projected onto the big screen.

There are two DVD collections of the films I’ve acquired. The first has full films, unedited, and is utterly fascinating, but the second, the DVD release of a BBC series, is perhaps better, offering in-depth historical analysis and even tracking down descendants of the people featured.

Research for this project is never a chore, but this is one of those things that I suspect I’d be watching even if I wasn’t researching the era.

Here is the first part of the BBC series – the other two parts can also be found on Youtube.

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