National Media Museum blog

We’re back with our unique celebration of boundary-pushing technology and spectacular large format films from 15 to 18 October 2015, offering an unparalleled cinematic experience beyond the scope of ordinary cinema.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

This year’s festival brings together a host of films, speakers and special events combine to fuel the passion for the best in large format filmmaking and cinematic endeavour.  Highlights we hope you’ll enjoy include the marking of the 60th anniversary of the Todd-AO widescreen system with a showing of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s award-winning Oklahoma! – the first film made using Todd-AO,  a dazzling authentic print of How the West Was Won is presented in a three-projector screening and  the screening of the digitally restored Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

And it wouldn’t be Widescreen Weekend without our world-renowned Cinerama screen taking centre stage.  This year we present the European premiere of the digitally restored The…

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Wur Bradford

Posted: 27 May 2015 in Uncategorized

Jean McEwan

everybody is creative

Wur Bradfordis an art and social space in a market stall in Kirkgate Market to explore how we can make our city better through imagination and collective action.

wur bradford entrance

This project was inspired by two weeks I spent in Oastler Market last summer during which many unexpected acts of creativity and reciprocity happened: an impromptu gallery sprung up, which people visited daily to contribute artwork. People took images from, and added to the collage table. Endla, a 90 year old Slovakian lady, brought bags of food for the Bradford Metropolitan Foodbank donations box, which became full within days. Informal exchanges, collaborations and skill shares happened; Graeme, a self-described ‘outsider artist’ brought art books to share, Elaine stopped to show us how to make a triangle book, members of Grow Bradford ran a stall on food foraging; a JRF researcher came to share her social action research on loneliness, and people…

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You can learn a lot about a society by looking at how it treats its dead, says Mark Davis, Bradfordian, historian, author, photographer and guide for the evening’s Bradford Literature Festival tour of Undercliffe Cemetery.

Necropolis_DeathClassMark was again holding an event on home turf at Bradford Literature Festival, which is where I’d first seen him talk last year. Then it was in the ornate beauty of City Hall; tonight’s venture would be chillier, yes, but no way less ornate, beautiful or grand. Undercliffe Cemetery – Bradford’s Necropolis: City of the Dead. Necropolis_Promenade_9This post will be mainly photographic. I’ll forgo my usual verbosity because, well, it’s such a beautiful, wonderful, amazing, atmospheric, surprising, contrasting place, it stands alone without explanation. I’ll add in some snippets where I can but it was the views, the elegance, the opulence which stood out for me rather than the tales, as well told, interesting and filled with the human condition as they were. My photos, it must be said, are not a patch on those in Mark’s book and if you like these for free, his are worth every penny of the £15.99 price tag. Necropolis_Promenade_14The evening was glorious and gloriously timed: atmospheric clouds sailed across the sky; a cold wind chilled us but the rain stayed away; the sun set slowly filling the sky with purples, blues, oranges and reds; and Bradford went home for its tea, put its lights on and twinkled in darkness. Necropolis_Promenade_4Victorians didn’t let a little thing like death get in the way of class, was the perfect introduction to Undercliffe Cemetery. Walking along its paths, you’ll see the great and the good laid out, monuments reaching for the heavens they hoped for, along the promenade where, like Manningham Lane or next to Lister Park in their day, prices were as high as the obelisks. Necropolis_PromenadeHere lie the mill owners, the mayors, and the hoi polloi. Necropolis_Promenade_13The rich look down on the city they created: its mills and muck and smoke and wealth and slums… always looking down. Necropolis_Bradford_7Tucked away in the furthest recesses of the cemetery are the ‘company’ or paupers’ graves: cheap plots without the status, embellishment or a wide promenade to help visitors. Here lie the 54 men, women and children killed in the Newlands Mill disaster of 1883 (paid for (begrudgingly? and at the lowest possible cost) by the mill owners whose own plots must be much grander); alongside is Humbug Billy whose accidentally arsenic-laced lozenges killed 20 and made ill 200 more; and thousands more of the poor who could, just, afford a place in Bradford’s necropolis… but only just. Necropolis_6The cemetery, after nearly being dug up and developed in the 1980s, is now looked after by volunteers who fight a Forth rail bridge-esque battle with nature. Mark, and seasoned visitor, and one of the volunteers who’d come on the tour delighted in sharing how brand new graves, monuments, headstones and more could be uncovered, not seen in decades, but only last out in the open a while before thick, lush green reinters the tombs using the finest fertiliser below. Necropolis_Overgrown_9Vast swathes of it are impenetrable and graves lie hidden until the volunteers, only 7 in number, get round to that bit… but it’s only a short time before daylight is gone again. Necropolis_Overgrown_14The opulence is juxtaposed with the poverty not just in the siting of the graves and their headstones, but in the names and ages on the graves themselves. Families were large because children died so often. If you wanted to pass on your genes and your name and your money, having a single child and hoping wasn’t enough. Families often had 6, 8, 10 children knowing that many, often most, would be taken before adulthood. Necropolis_9Chief among these is the old station master of Midland Station, now Forster Square. In one single week, four of his children died: the sadness of the house is keenly felt by all those who see his densely carved headstone. Also, the Barmlow Memorial depicts well-to-do Anne who lays forever cradling her daughter, Elizabeth, who dies after just a few weeks’ life. Necropolis_15You can learn a lot about a society by looking at how it treats its dead, said Mark Davis. You can learn a lot about Bradford, Victorian life and yourself by visiting, just for a wander or on a guided tour, Bradford’s Necropolis – our city of the dead. Necropolis_Overgrown_14You can see all the photos I took here and buy a copy of Mark’s book, Necropolis: City of the Dead, here or from Waterstones in Bradford. Necropolis_Bradford

100 Objects

In 1958, J.B. Priestley revisited his home city, Bradford, to make Lost City, a documentary for the BBC.

Telegram from Richard Cawston to Mavis Dean congratulating her on Lost City PRI19_9 Telegram from Richard Cawston to Mavis Dean congratulating her on Lost City (archive ref PRI19/9)

Here we see details from a telegram sent by the producer, Richard Cawston, to Mavis Dean, a local journalist and musician who accompanies Priestley in the film as he revisits his old haunts.

Arriving at Forster Square railway station, Priestley tells journalists gathered to speak to this returning celebrity, “You might say that, to me, it’s a lost city and perhaps I’ve come here to find it.”  We see his teenage home in Saltburn Place, where he wrote the juvenilia, and the Swan Arcade, where he worked as a clerk in a wool office.  We encounter the bandstand in Lister Park, theatre and music-hall, plus a  glimpse of modern teenagers dancing at St George’s Hall.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 14.32.22Slipping further into a quagmire of political understanding, socialism and a love for the work of JB Priestley, I wandered into Bradford for The Enduring Appeal of ‘An Inspector Calls’, a Bradford Literature Festival event. As with any happening in Bradford city centre, the full episode must include the event and the experience of the city itself; if you would like to understand the term ‘juxtaposition’, walk through Bradford for half an hour.

I was disappointed at being the incorrectly early for the ‘The Enduring Appeal of JB Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’’: too early to go in yet too early to spend some time in the Games Lounge of the National Media Museum. However, it did give me a chance to sample the delights of the Pavilion Café Bar overlooking the spectacular City Park. Sat in its large windows, sipping a vanilla latte, I watched the fountains spray higher and higher, wondering if they really did have a whimsical, even naughty, side as they dipped down until someone dared attempt the middle passage and then sprayed higher and faster and gushier than before, the spray catching in the wind causing girls to scream and run, and boys to continue walking steadily desperate to keep up their nonchalantly masculine pretence as City Park’s fountains showered down. I smiled. I’d just walked past Priestley standing outside the Media Museum. He loved fountains – “fountains – more and more fountains – higher and higher fountains – like wine, like blue and green fire” – and I always think it’s sad that, when building City Park, they didn’t twist him round a bit so that he’s looking at the fountains flourishing, foaming, delighting in his city, rather than the slow demolishing of The Tyrels and the slow building of 1 City Park. He’d’ve liked the fountains more.

IMG_1939So, delighted, I walked off to City Hall. The event was delayed so, back out, I sat in City Park and smoked cigarettes and watched rugby league on the big screen. Fountains and fanciness are one face of Bradford, but there’s no replacing good, old fashioned, masculine, brutal violence: the men who built this city – not the architects and owners and artisans, but the workers whose daily toil in filth and grime brought money hand over fist to the mucky town – the men who really built this city were made for rugby league: uncompromising strength, raw power, naked desire, and an unbroken will. It was from knowing such men of simple, brutal honesty that Priestley found his simple, brutal, honest, beautiful writing.

Bradford’s City Hall, grade 1 listed built in the 1870s with British monarchs (unusually including Crowell) staring down, rises from the modernity of City Park, reminding us of Bradford’s plush history as a centre of Empire and commerce, and a centre too of politics, particularly politics of the left. Today, it is covered in scaffolding. I can’t remember the last time I saw it without.

Inside, its beauty flourishes, with arches and adornments and carvings in every spare corner; the family silver – glittering, shining, sparkling with memories of bygone splendour and wealth – lights a path to the council chamber and further delights beyond, all festooned with artistic gems. What a wonderful place to discuss the city’s most famous social commenter.

A large banner stand proudly told me this was a Bradford Literature Festival event.

“Have I got time to go the loo?” I asked.

“Good luck finding it.”

Apologies from the hosts: council or festival to blame for cock up. Video now working; sound now not. Gather close, more informal – and you’ll be able to hear.

Closer… closer… close.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 14.42.41The promised video of a conversation between Tom Priestley (JB’s son and president of the JB Priestley Society) and Ken Cranham (veteran Inspector of London & New York performances) partially came to fruition: after further apologies, Cranham couldn’t make it so Priestley jnr sat alone and talked to the camera – quietly… but, boy, was it enlightening? Discussion, to be continued, about the end-of-the-war camaraderie and joy coupled with the cross-continental friendship with the Soviets led to two productions of ‘An Inspector Calls’ opening before a British version – with the problem over translating ‘inspector’ being overcome by changing the names to “He Calls” in Moscow and “So You Will Not Forget” in Leningrad… with the former ominously opening on the day they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

9780719072864img01Discussion moved to the live portion with Lee Hanson, chairman of the JB Priestley Society and editor of the ‘Rediscovering Priestley’ series, in discussion with John Baxendale, cultural historian and author of ‘Priestley’s England’.

Quotes from the play were interspersed with quotes from his other writing, contextualising his work and giving understanding to how world events formed his politics, his viewpoints and his view of England, Empire and the world.

One snipet, from where I can’t remember, stuck in my head: Priestley spoke of the wonder and joy of the summer of 1940 when we had a common enemy, a common purpose and a common goal, and all worked, to the best of each person’s ability, towards that one goal; I found it surprising and shocking that, in the nation’s and world’s bleakest hour, he should find such happiness and fulfillment. However, during the discussion, an audience member spoke of her recollections of being a war child: they echoed Priestley’s, with the adults’ sense of purposefulness dripping down to ensure that everyone got on with it with a sense of pleasurable duty. It made me think that, even with the honours lauded upon them, maybe we still underestimate our greatest generation. I also wondered, this time aloud, if Priestley was hankering for an Orwellian (Priestlian, I was corrected, though I’m not sure why) dystopia of perpetual war giving us a perpetual sense of belonging and community so we would never let each other down by going against the greater communal super-ego.

As an English teacher, I enjoyed and will steal Lee Hanson’s activity of using some pictures of and quotes from Priestley about his life: a young lad playing football with his mates; an older lad getting into scraps with the same friends; the realisation on returning to Bradford after World War I that only he and one other of his gang survived. The brutality of his words and starkness of the photographs demonstrated why Priestley left the city that had made him and was never to return: loss.

Discussion moved to the play in performance and why it is so successful. Being performed around the globe since its Soviet openings in 1945, the An Inspector Calls most are familiar with is the Stephen Daldry version which has toured numerous times since he revived the play in a response to Thatcherism and the brutal individualism of the greed-is-good generation; indeed, what play could riposte, denounce and dispose of Thatcher’s belief that “there is no such thing as society” better than ‘An Inspector Calls’?

We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.

As an English teacher, I’m tired of the interference of politicians… but I’d put this play as a core text for every Tory minister.

Discussion of money-flight to Harrogate and Ilkley, leaving Bradford owned by non-doms and don’t-cares – and the demise of its architecture opitomised by an audience member remembering being in ‘Lost City’ with Priestley as they walked and talked in the Swan Arcade, a building I don’t remember but which is brought up with every proposed carbuncle and imagined monstrosity and mill burning down. It’s available in the Media Museum – and I couldn’t remember it’s name until reminded by the wonderful Alison Cullingford who writes the Bradford Uni Special Collections blog, and who wrote about the ‘Lost City’, which is on my list next time I’m in town.

More discussion; more questions; more, more, more – so much more I can’t remember: politics, life, love, family.

And then we were done.

I watched the end of the rugby on the big screen. Leigh beat Wakefield in the Challenge Cup; I wondered if JB followed Bradford Northern and thought about how much and how little Bradford had changed – and how much change had been negative and how much positive change was needed. I wondered where we’d get another Priestley – I wondered if we could handle another Priestley.

I’m so glad we have a literature festival, like we’re acting like a proper city again. I was delighted and annoyed that it didn’t go smoothly; I was delighted and annoyed there were only 40 people there. Bradford Literature Festival brings the best of world literature to our door, and we cock it up a bit and get it wrong – and we do it with humility and charm; we could get stuff right like (as Bradfordians we believe) everyone else does with such ease. It’d make people think more of us; but we’d also lose out, doing the same things in the same as everyone else, becoming an identikit city devoid of personality, wonder and individual delight… like Leeds. If it was a choice between getting stuff right and keeping our identity, which would you choose? If getting stuff right meant talk of riots and poverty and division being forgone in favour of money and wealth and power, which would you choose? If doing stuff right means losing who we are, do we polish up our Bratfud accents and gentrify or crack on with how we’ve allus done it? Or can we be Bradford and successful again? Can we lead, prosper, conquer, and be benevolent Bradfordians – is it one or the other?

Spinning in juxtaposition, I walked through our city and past our fountains and past our JB again… and I gave him a smile.


Who put the B. in J.B.?

Posted: 28 April 2015 in Uncategorized

Special Collections - University of Bradford

We’re often asked about J.B. Priestley’s middle initial, so we thought we’d share our knowledge.

B is for BOYNTON!

Priestley, JB Chapman of Rhymes tp cr 2

Young John Priestley, known as Jack to his friends and family, adopted the B and the Boynton in his teens, growing up in Bradford before the First World War.  J. Boynton Priestley, 5 Saltburn Place, Bradford, Yorks was “added hopefully” to his juvenilia: scribbling books of closely-written poems, stories and essays and neat typescripts typed up for him by kind girls.

PRI7_6_10juvenilia3So why did Jack decide to use this extra name?  Partly to distinguish himself from other John Priestleys (not an unusual name in his family or the region.  His grandfather was John, his father,  Jonathan).   The addition also gave him a more suitable, interesting, distinctive name for a writer.

So why did he choose “Boynton”?  We don’t actually know.  There is a village of that name in the…

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cartwrighthall1904 The Cartwight Hall in 1904

The Cartwight Hall Art Gallery in Bradford is one of the great Edwardian art galleries. It was designed by Simpson & Allen (whose other works included the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, 1901) and named in honour of the inventor Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power loom and the combing machine, both of which had played a huge part in Bradford’s prosperous textile industry. The building was funded largely by Samuel Lister, a local industrialist, and opened in 1904, during Bradford’s exhibition of Art and Industry. The opening exhibition was a survey of British art which culminated in the work of local artists such as William Rothenstein, William Shackleton and Ernest Sichel.

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National Media Museum blog

Throughout this month, we’ve been counting down to our 30th birthday and now it’s finally here! Our Head of Museum, Jo Quinton-Tulloch, is looking forward to a weekend of celebration…

Our 30th birthday weekend has arrived and we’re very excited to be celebrating this momentous occasion.

Our big birthday bash in Bradford

Over the next couple of days, we’re putting on a big birthday celebration, with something for every one of our visitors to get involved in – from showcasing the stars of the Collection, to a 30 objects in 30 minutes beat-the-clock behind the scenes tour.

We’ll have live performances from Punk Science, and our Learning team have put together a brand new show, Reel to Real.

Amongst the great selection of new films showing this weekend, you might have heard that we’ll be screening To Fly!, the very first IMAX film that was shown here…

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Bradford Baked Zines

What The Folk? bring you an afternoon of acoustic music at Bradford Baked Zines:

13 Market Street, Saturday 18th May, 4.30pm – 7pm


Betsy and the Writer

Betsy and The Writer

Tess Connor-Kavanagh

Tess Conor- Kavanagh

Jack Winn

Jack Winn

and Calvin Jarvis

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imageA trip to The Alhambra is always special. Walking across Bradford on a cold night, the darkness of Hall Ings and The Tyrells gives way to the bright splendour of warm, welcoming glass and joyous, illuminated domes. A visit to The Alhambra takes you back to a time when Bradford’s and Britain’s fortunes were as bountiful and as luminescent as the theatre’s facade; it swells the heart and the mere act of walking to The Alhambra gives you a spring in your step and a expectant smile on your face. This coerced voyage dans le temps was simply perfect, as it usually is, for ‘The Woman in Black’.

I’d watched, and enjoyed, the recent film wherein Harry Potter bounded about the north country being chased by the spectre in widow’s weaves. I’d enjoyed it but hadn’t loved it. At the time, I’d asked, knowing that it was a play, how on earth such a tale could be told on stage. The performance answered me; with laughter and gasps, amusement and fear, engrossment and terror, it answered me.

(Some spoilers follow – please scroll down to next brackets)
We sat and, immediately, just how the tale which spanned England and a number of locations, including several moving trains, traps and trips across the sea, could be told was revealed. The playwright’s (Stephen Mallatratt) conceit is that this is a story retold, with Arthur Kipps’ tale of terror, which has haunted him for decades, is to be exorcised in the telling. The actor, who advises him on how to share his story, begins with directions on how to captivate an audience before turning the dry, wordy epic into a short, snappy and engaging play. Kipps’ incredulity as to how such a story could be told on stage echoed mine, and was rebuffed with an excellent speech on how they, as actors, should believe they were travelling across country, drinking in busy pubs and walking through eerie graveyards; and how we, the audience, should also believe; and, if we all pretend we believe, so it shall be.

And so, The Actor played Kipps as a young man, sent to the north to tidy up the business affairs of a recently deceased widow, who encounters the most awful, fearful chilling apparition, a ghost which haunts him as it haunted the townsfolk, which followed him as it followed death, and from which he desperately tries escape for 40 years or more. Kipps, his initial inability to speak clearly, never mind act, is soon overcome and he takes on the role of every other character in the play… bar one.

The story unfolds with the characters: Kipps’ tale develops with his acting abilities and The Actor’s submerging into the role of Kipps. The audience, it seemed, believed every bit as much as they did, and we were swept along with them: swept north; swept into town; swept across the causeway; and swept into… that room, that room, where fear and hate and horror live on.

(End of most spoilers – small sections may refer to minor parts of the plot but I won’t give them game away)

I loved this play. I loved it.

The front of stage, spartan barring a theatrical relic here and a clothes rail there, was perfect, allowing our imaginations free reign, just as was asked, to devise and create the scenes of which we were told. But behind the curtain, which could be aptly called a safety curtain, terror reigned, horror lurked and something vile lived and loathed – never quite close enough to touch, but often near enough to hear and see and terrify us.

Anthony Eden (The Actor) was great. He, in juxtaposition to Kipps’ theatrical reluctance, was the epitome of what we expect the actor types to be: head shaking, overt diction, hands flying from side to side and floor to ceiling. But, as the play unfolded, he became, quickly, the young Kipps: an excitable lad driven by youthful exuberance, utterly the opposite of the Kipps to whom we are first introduced, demonstrating the ravages the years of bottling up his told have taken. I felt his excitement; I felt his fear; I felt his terror.

Arthur Kipps’ part was played superbly by Julian Forsyth. An old man, desperate to rid himself of a ghost which has haunted him for years, finally plucks up the courage to write his story and ready himself to tell it. Reluctantly, he takes The Actor’s advice, little by little, before, suddenly and wonderfully, he transforms: from Arthur Kipps reading some lines into an actor, a fine actor, who plays a myriad of roles in taking us from the theatre to the country, from Bradford to the sea, from a packed house to an abandoned mansion, and from a comfy chair to abject terror.

At the start of Woman in Black, you’ll laugh, you really will. The actors drag you into their world and the playwright’s use of dramatic irony and clever, enchanting language sucks you in immediately. You’ll laugh. Then, as the play proceeds, you’ll laugh less; the mood will darken; after the first time you’ve jumped out of your seat, gasped loudly, gripped the arm rest (or your wife), tensed every muscle in your body, you might laugh again… a nervous laugh; a mocking laugh; a laugh that tells you you’ve not been made to jump like that for a long, long time, and probably never before in a theatre. The next jump elicits a scream or a whimper from some… and the laugh is a titter, a seepage of relief that it wasn’t you.

And then you don’t laugh anymore.

You sit, gripped, apprehensive, terrified, as she becomes clearer, her figure becomes clearer, he motives and malevolence becomes clearer… until she is upon you. You don’t laugh, you just hope: hope he doesn’t open that door; hope he doesn’t search for the source of that sound; hope the telling will lay her ghost to rest.

And then, relieved, drained, thoroughly entertained, you’re back out on the streets of Bradford, back in 21st Century, back in the comfort of the mortal world you know… and yet she’s come with you, just for a bit, a follows you along Quebec St, up Morley Street, just behind you or just ahead, hidden in the shadows, masked by darkness, shrouded by the night.

But then you get to Cyrus Mediterranean Restaurant, where they don’t allow spooks or spectres, and you can enjoy dissecting the play as you dissect some wonderful Greek grub over a Mythos or three. It was the first time I’d been and it’ll definitely be my choice for the next post-theatre suppers we enjoy.