BFI showcases cinema's lost gems at England's rail stations

Still from Terminus Image copyright BFI
Image caption Scenes from the award-winning film Terminus are being screened at stations across the country

A heaving seaside promenade harks back to Blackpool's heyday, while footage of a Victorian-era street scene features moustachioed men traipsing streets teeming with horses pulling carts. These are among the forgotten gems recently unearthed by the British Film Institute (BFI) being beamed on to the screens of some of England's busiest railway stations.

Newsreels, advertisements, home movies and forgotten TV programmes are now on show at stations across the country, including in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London, as part of the BFI's "Britain on Film" heritage project.

Image copyright BFI
Image caption A snapshot of London in the 1920s features scenes from the streets of Soho and the Limehouse district

The moving pictures depict vanished landscapes, urban and rural communities and people at work and play.

In one piece of archive footage from 1904, a pair of trams packed with holidaymakers pauses on Blackpool's promenade before cutting to a shot of the bustling Victoria Pier, where people in their Sunday best stare with curiosity into the camera's lens.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFilms will be played on purpose-built stands at the terminal in Leeds, including The Great Yorkshire Show (1902)

In another, a day in the life of Waterloo railway station is given the silver screen treatment by focusing on the hundreds of people that pound its platforms. The Bafta-winning Terminus (1961) features a cast of characters, from the station nurse swabbing a young boy's eye to a cluster of nuns boarding a train.

Robin Baker, head curator at the BFI, said cameras have been capturing almost every aspect of life in the UK for 120 years and it was time to share some cinematic gems with the public.

Image copyright BFI
Image caption Manchester's bustling Market Street features in a film from the turn of the 20th century

"We are transforming access to film and making them available, no matter where you live [and] what better way to celebrate this than by screening films at some of the busiest stations in the country?

"We hope that these films will whet people's appetites for more," he added.

Image copyright BFI
Image caption Throngs of people at rush hour at Waterloo Station are caught on a film made in 1970

While many of the films will feature at stations nationally, a number of films will be shown only in regional stations, including Look at Leeds '78 at the city's station.

The piece documents a year in the life of Leeds, showcasing the victorious rugby team raising the Challenge Cup in the air to cheering crowds, the infamous Quarry Hill flats being demolished and the seven week bus strike which left shoppers hitching rides on the back of lorries.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionManchester Street Scenes (1901) captures the bustling energy of Market Street

Also showing at Leeds station is The Great Yorkshire Show (1902), showing the well-dressed Edwardian ladies and gents of the county touring the annual agricultural show.

At Manchester Piccadilly there are screenings of Here is the News (1968), a centenary celebration of the Manchester Evening News, and Manchester Street Scenes (1901), which captures the bustling energy of Market Street before the city's first electric tram route was installed later the same year.

Image copyright BFI
Image caption Everyday life in the Peak District was the subject of a film named after the national park, made in 1951

Meanwhile, Bristol's heritage is thrust into the spotlight with broadcasts of Bristol, British City (1951), a post-war celebration of Bristol's heritage and culture, and Bristol (1920), a travelogue focusing on major landmarks.

Image copyright BFI
Image caption Birmingham was touted as a "workshop of the world" in this film from 1930

Further highlights include a short from 1930 called Workshop of the World, designed to encourage businesses to move to Birmingham, and Cosmopolitan London (1924) which looks at the rapidly expanding metropolis.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBristol, British City was a council-funded documentary made for the Festival of Britain in 1951 to celebrate the city's heritage

The project is being carried out in partnership with Network Rail as part of its own scheme to turn stations into destinations in their own right. It hopes to offer passengers a way to celebrate arts and culture while on the move.

Image copyright BFI
Image caption Blackpool's vivacious holidaymakers are captured in sunny Kodachrome colours in Holiday (1957)

The operator's director of retail, Hamish Kiernan, said: "Stations have been bringing people and communities together for hundreds of years and today more than ever, they are destinations in their own right.

"We want stations to be welcoming places for passengers and Britain on Film is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate British heritage, arts and culture."

To see more films visit the BFI website.

Where to catch the films:

Image copyright BFI
Image caption A travelogue called Open Road filmed in 1926 documented the journey from Land's End to John O'Groats

•Bristol (1920) - Bristol

•Bristol, British City (1951) - Bristol

•British Surfing Team in Newquay (1978) - Nationwide

•Enchanting Bournemouth (1961) - Nationwide

•Holiday (1957) - Nationwide

•Look at Leeds, '78 (1978) - Leeds

•Blackpool Victoria Pier (1904) - Nationwide

•Manchester Street Scenes (1901) - Manchester

•The Open Road (1926) - Nationwide

•Peak District (1954) - Nationwide

•Rush Hour (1970) - Paddington

•Terminus (1961) - Nationwide

•Cosmopolitan London (1924) - Paddington

•Workshop of the World: Birmingham (1930) - Birmingham

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites