Local Learning is very excited to be working with three Bristol primary schools and their local communities as part of a city-wide National Lottery Heritage funded project coordinated by Bristol Ideas. Opening up the Magic Box celebrates Bristol’s film-making past and marks the centenary of the death of Bristolian inventor William Friese-Greene (1855-1921) and pioneer of early motion picture film-making.

Image courtesy of Science Museum Group, objects 1994-5014/6

The late Bristol photographer, Reece Winstone, campaigned to save the birth place (12 College Street, behind today’s City Hall) of Friese-Greene as a museum of cinematography. All that remains of this aspiration is a plaque to Friese-Greene’s memory on the rear of City Hall.

At the time of Friese-Greene’s death in 1921 there were over 30 cinemas operating in many neighbourhoods across the city. Cinema history is a recurring theme in many of our local learning projects and people’s memories of going to the local flicks is a popular subject. Local Learning and Compass Presents together with Tom McDonagh are working with a team of UWE Masters Architecture and 3rd year History students to co-curate an outdoor cinema heritage trail in Castle Park in early December celebrating 100 years of cinema in Bristol. Remembering the city’s lost cinemas will be a small attempt to bring Reece Winstone’s aspiration to fruition.

Drawing on recollections from local residents of smuggling in popcorn and a stray dog, of plush red velvet seats and hazy smoke-filled auditoriums Year 5 pupils at Christ the King Primary in Filwood collectively composed a poem with City Poet, Caleb Parkin.

As part of the outdoor heritage cinema trail, Year 6 pupils from Cabot Primary in St Pauls will be creating lanterns drawing on shared memories about the lost cinemas of Castle Park and beyond.

As well as recollections from local communities, lantern designs will also build on the Lost Cinemas of Castle Park app co-curated by Dr Charlotte Crofts and Pete Insole.

Queen’s Hall, Peter Street (now part of Castle Park), Bristol Culture, Hartley Collection

Year 6 children from St Barnabas Primary in Montpelier are producing Top Trump cards for all the cinemas screening in Bristol in 1921, the year of Friese Greene’s death. They will also be working with Jane Coulter from Into Film and UWE 3rd year film making students utilising film archive and some of the BFI’s regional collection to produce their own silent films exploring early film techniques.

Filmmaker, Michael Jenkins (8th Sense Media) will document the activities in the three schools and their communities, capturing the atmosphere at the final heritage trail and bringing the project together into a short film that we are very much looking forward to sharing.

Banner image, Interior of the Orpheus Cinema at Henleaze, Bristol Culture, Hartley Collection, 263599