Good news for UK archives

The following email about the DCMS’s substantial award for UK national archives was circulated to staff by the BFI press office today. It’s followed by a news release from the DCMS itself:

Colleagues –

I attach a (final draft) news release issued by the DCMS today announcing a £25 million investment to support the UK’s national and regional film archive strategy, as developed by the BFI with partners. This is part of the Government spending round announced last week.

This really is most welcome news and represents a huge vote of confidence in the BFI by Government. We are about to see probably the biggest ever single investment made in the BFI National Archive that will ensure the national collection can be safeguarded. Furthermore, and as part of the national archive strategy that was out to consultation during the summer, investment can also be made in regional archive infrastructure and digitisation, which will lead to people throughout the UK having much wider access to their film heritage wherever they are and regardless of where the material is held.

This announcement is testament to the hard work, commitment and achievements of everyone at the BFI over the past three years or more as we have restructured the Archive, highlighted the importance of the collections, launched many new access initiatives and led in the development of the national archive strategy.

Full detail on how the investment will be apportioned is yet to be announced but we’ll keep everyone posted. Hopefully, we will also have further good news to tell over the coming weeks, so again…watch this space!


BFI Press Office


James Purnell announces £25 million for national and regional film archives.

As the curtain opens on the Times BFI 51st London Film Festival, Culture Secretary James Purnell today announced that the UK Film Council (UKFC) has been awarded £25 million to safeguard the future of the UK’s national and regional film archives.

Mr Purnell revealed the funding package from the latest DCMS funding settlement settlement ahead of his attendance at tonight’s opening gala performance of David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises in Leicester Square.

This £25 million fund is in addition to £3 million from the UK Film Council for the UK Digital Film Archive Fund. It will enable the UK Film Council to implement the Screen Heritage Strategy to preserve the visual memory of the UK and ensure access for all.

Using the funds the UKFC will:

· preserve and restore the British Film Institute (BFI) national collection and the regional collections, some of which is deteriorating and in danger of being lost;
· ensure a joined up strategic approach to making the collections safe and overcome issues around rights, digitisation and skills investment;
· increase accessibility to the public; and
· enable archive material to be accessed around the regions.

The BFI National Archive is one of the world’s greatest collections of film and television and one of the most accessible.

The majority of the collection is British material but it also features a significant number of works from around the world. And it contains more than 60,000 fiction films, over 120,000 non-fiction titles and around 675,000 television programmes, which is well over 500,000 hours of material.

But a large amount of the contents of the archive is in danger of being lost and much needs to be restored. An estimated 30 per cent (123,000 cans) of the acetate collection is deteriorating.

Mr Purnell said:

‘The archive is a national treasure. It’s a visual history of Britain since the moving image began. From the earliest silent newsreels to CinemaScope to 3-D, the BFI archive is one of the greatest collections of film and TV in the world. It’s vital that we safeguard its future.

‘This additional £25 million will secure the future of the national and regional archives. It’s absolutely right that they should be safe and accessible for future generations.’

John Woodward, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Film Council said:

‘This is a fantastic boost for our nation’s screen heritage which brings to life the UK’s cultural, social, political and economic history. We are now in a position to take forward our plan for screen heritage in the UK which has been developed in partnership with the sector. This money, together with £3 million of UK Film Council funding to digitise film archives will mean that the regional and national archives can protect, preserve and showcase their amazing film collections for audiences across the UK to enjoy.’

Amanda Nevill, Director of the BFI said:

‘Through our emerging and nascent projects such as TV co-productions, online access activities and the Mediatheque, we have proved just how hungry the public is for archive and heritage film and how much they value it. This level of investment will mean we can once again set a world standard in conservation and preservation and bring into view so much more of our precious heritage captured on film and that the public is clamouring for.’

The national archive
Public interest in film heritage was demonstrated in the BBC TV series “The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon”, which showed everyday life in Edwardian Britain taken from the Mitchell and Kenyon Collection of 800 roles [sic] of early nitrate film, and attracted a television audience in excess of 4.5 million each week.

In schools, DVDs of the Mitchell and Kenyon Collection are a useful teaching tool in aspects of Key Stage 3 history.

The regional archives
The regional film archives actively search for, acquire, and then provide access to film and video material specifically relevant to their regions. Almost all of the collections are non-fiction (feature films being the remit of the BFI ), and they vary in size from one individual film to a collection of hundreds of titles. The films are often acquired because of their local interest, but in many instances these collections are much more significant and of national and international importance.

For example: one single reel of nitrate film was deposited with the Yorkshire Film Archive, by a member of the public who had been to an archive screening. The film shows unique moving images of Queen Victoria when she visited Sheffield to open the new Sheffield Town Hall on 21st May, 1897. A film found and made accessible through regional activity, but of national importance.

At the North West Film Archive, the Manchester Ship Canal Company donated 175 reels of professional industrial films, dating from 1908 to the 1970s recording the historical breadth and depth of the company?s domestic and maritime exploits.

On a larger scale still, the East Anglian Film Archive holds over 1,200 award winning films, dating from 1932, made by the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers – a collection of national and international interest. The IAC require frequent access to their collection, as it continues to be actively used, but their primary consideration was to deposit the collection with an Archive with a reputation for specialist small gauge film expertise.

Notes to editors
The £25 million archive allowance is in addition to the UK Film Council’s annual fund. This is still being decided following DCMS’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) settlement. The money will be split roughly evenly across 2 years.

For further details on DCMS’s settlement and the Departmental Strategic Objectives over the CSR07 period, please see The 2007 Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review: Meeting the aspirations of the British people, which can be found at

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