Evening Standard article

The following article was published in the Evening Standard yesterday:

BFI demands £34m to save `the world’s finest film archives’
by Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent

Evening Standard 21 June 2007

The British Film Institute is to demand £34 million upfront and another £6 million a year to save the nation’s disintegrating film and television archive.

Four years after the BFI was condemned by the National Audit Office for leaving historic pieces of film to rot, it has produced its first costed strategy for tackling the problem.

Its report says there is an urgent need for funds to stop a “substantial percentage” of the National Film and Television Archive at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, being lost. In addition, money is needed for mass digitisation of archive film for public access, the document claims.

The BFI stresses that its current funding will not cover this. It receives £16 million a year of which £3.5 million is for the National Archive.

This contains 50,000 fiction films, more than 100,000 non-fiction titles, including
The Open Road, a 1924 Land’s End to John O’Groats travelogue which features an experimental colour process, and about 625,000 TV programmes.

There are also many other archives in the regions and museums for which the BFI is taking strategic responsibility as head of the new UK Film Heritage Group.

The biggest bill would be £25 million for new storage facilities. The National Audit Office found flammable nitrate film in storage that lacked humidity and temperature controls.

The document points out that digitising a 90-minute film from an original colour negative – one of the BFI’s more complex tasks – can cost £8,000.

Amanda Nevill, director of the BFI, said it was a historic move for the BFI National Archive to join with regional archives to present a single vision.

She said: “In this country, we have the greatest collections of film in the world. Our film and television heritage is unparalleled. The public appetite for archive film has never been greater but with much of the sector in a critical condition it desperately needs investment.”

The BFI plans to put its strategy out to consultation until 7 September before presenting a finished version to the Government. It may find it harder to secure funding given Olympic demands. Potential sources such as the Heritage Lottery Fund are having budgets cut.

To access the BFI statement referred to in the article, click here:

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