The way we were

Film found in hole in Blackburn, Lancashire.

by Jennie Kermode

Last summer the charity Child Action Northwest became one of the latest recipients of Heritage Lottery Fund money to support the development and preservation of its archives. This week the ensuing project produced unexpected rewards when old film was found hidden in the basement of a former children's home, providing a snapshot of life in the Forties.

Blackburn Orphanage, since redeveloped and now serving as a village hall, played a pivotal role in its local community in the aftermath of the Second World War. The recovered footage, which shows everyday life gradually returning to normal, is being screened locally and can now be digitally transferred for preservation in a national network of archives. The development has been welcomed by Chld Action Northwest, which recently lost a large amount of government funding and is keen to raise its profile with potential donors.

Heritage lottery funding is increasingly focused on film, with Film London receiving a £27k grant last month to help identify and preserve moving image records of London's outer boroughs. The London Screen Archives are dedicated to helping people connect with their history and have a good track record of connecting with communities not otherwise active in relation to the arts. Similar organisations across the country are increasingly working together, but the race is on to locate and transfer old film before it corrodes with the effects of age. There is also a problem with identifying the incidents represented in amateur film as those who originally recorded it die.

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