In the earliest years of the twentieth century, enterprising traveling showmen in the north of England hired pioneer filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon to shoot footage of local people going about their everyday activities. These films would be shown later at nearby fairgrounds, town halls and neighborhood theaters. Workers, school children, sports fans and seaside vacationers all flocked to see themselves miraculously captured on screen!
The astonishing discovery of the original Mitchell & Kenyon negatives in Blackburn, England in a basement about to be demolished has been described as films equivalent of Tutankhamens tomb. Preserved and restored by the bfi National Film and Television Archive in collaboration with the University of Sheffield National Fairground Archive and featuring a hauntingly beautiful score by In The Nursery, this treasure trove of extraordinary footage provides an unparalleled record of everyday life in the years before World War I. Mesmerizing scenes of trolley cars and crowded streets, soccer matches, temperance parades, throngs of workers leaving the factory and a myriad of simple pleasures transport us to another lost world. The effect is as if H.G. Wells marvelous time machine had come to life.
Originally aired as part of a British TV series about British Primitives, The Lost Films of Mitchell & Kenyon have been edited onto a DVD titled Electric Edwardians. This recently unearthed documentary footage provides a spooky glimpse into life during Britians Victorian Industrial Age. Filmed between 1900-1913 by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon for traveling cinema tours, several short movies constitute each over-arching, topically-titled film: "Youth and Education," "The Anglo-Boer War," "Workers," "High Days and Holidays," and "People and Places." In "People and Places," one rides past the obsolete Horse Ambulance shop. In "High Days and Holidays," women sporting elaborate, lacy hats march down cobblestone streets for a parade, defunct carousels spin kids around, and the Blackpool Victoria Pier is packed with people. In "Workers," Dickensian boys wander the streets in berets, and in one affecting segment, 20,000 workers file into a factory. The films of Eadward Muybridge, or of French Lumiere, George Méliés, provide similar fascinating looks into early cinema, but watching this documentary footage conjures up ghosts, as does Carnival of Souls. Music accompaniment by In The Nursery adds to the spirited ambience. These silent films manage to speak volumes about their subjects. Trinie Dalton
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