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How to run an archive film event

'Britain on Film' and how to screen local archive film at your community cinema.

  • Children participating in an egg and spoon race.
    Children from Great Hucklow, a small village in Derbyshire, celebrate King George's V's Silver Jubilee.

In July 2015 BFI launched Britain on Film – hidden histories and forgotten stories of people and places from the UK’s key film and TV archives. With over 2,500 films from 120 years of cinema across the UK (and more being added all the time), it’s a unique way to explore the country and view films from places you know.

If you’ve already booked your film programme for the season, then find an archive short film or clip of your local area to play before your main feature. Take footage or photos of how your town or village looks now to do a 'then and now' compilation.

Alternatively, make an evening of it and have a 'Vintage Film Night' screening a mixture of archive features, shorts and footage celebrating a particular place, theme, or era. Get your audience to dress up in vintage clothes and have the evening catered using recipes from that era.

Find out more about the film and introduce it before the screening, or find a local expert to provide more background. If there’s a local history group or community archive group in your area, invite them along – it might be a good way to find new members for your cinema too!

How to find films

The films on the Britain on Film map are licensed for online viewing only, but in some cases films will be available to screen for free or a small cost.  If there are any in particular you are interested in, please contact britain-on-film@bfi.org.uk.

As part of Britain on Film several feature films are available to BFI Neighbourhood Cinema members to screen for free if booked through BFI. Contact britain-on-film@bfi.org.uk for more details. Films include:

Alternatively, find some archive footage that is in the Public Domain, i.e. the rights on the material have expired. There are some great archive films to download at the British Council Film Collection or if you want to go further afield, the Prelinger Archive is one of many great resources of films at the Internet Archive.

Get the younger generation involved

The BFI, BBC Learning, British Council and Into Film are collaborating on a great project, Make Film: Greatest Generation, to enable school children to create and share their own documentaries using archive footage alongside their own interviews. Get in touch with your local school to see if they’re taking part. Screening their films would be a great way to engage young people in your community cinema.

Finally, take photos and video footage of your event, and start your own community cinema archive!