South Bank film centre again

This memo was circulated to BFI staff yesterday:

From Nick Mason Pearson to all BFI staff, 28th February 2008:


You will recall the press coverage two or so weeks ago around the leak of a draft consultation document that announced Government’s commitments to the Arts.

DCMS has now officially published its strategy that lays out plans for how it will provide support for the creative industries in Britain. A copy of the strategy document is available to be viewed online:

The Evening Standard covered the release of the document, stating that according to the Secretary of State the BFI’s plans to build a film centre ‘are not yet viable’. This is not what was said by the SoS at the launch of the strategy, nor is it stated in the document itself. What it says is that the Government, the UK Film Council and the BFI are working closely to ensure a number of conditions can be met before we proceed.

As you know, we have already prepared a robust business case for the centre that has been approved by the LDA. DCMS is rightly showing due diligence. They are writing to the BFI this week with some additional areas they want us to look at in more detail. Also, with Greg Dyke now appointed as our new chair, we are all keen that he is given a chance to go through the business plan to understand it thoroughly.

It is important to see this as a positive sign that Government is prepared to publicly give the film centre a thumbs up once we have satisfied a number of provisos and we’ll know what those are in detail shortly.

As soon as there is more to tell we will update you.


Note – Text from the Government’s report ‘Creative Britain’ (p.68):

“DCMS recently announced £25 million for the UK Film Council which will be used to support national and regional archive. The BFI’s proposal for the building of a new film centre on London’s Southbank will allow access to the archive, the library, exhibitions and cultural film in one place and has the potential to cement Britain’s place as a major international centre for film. This proposal is at an early stage and the Government is working with the UK Film Council and the BFI to determine whether the conditions can be met to attract significant funding from public and private sources to make this project a reality and bring enjoyment, celebration and film to London and the rest of the UK. Government support is conditional upon the BFI producing a viable business plan to address these conditions.”

Government backs BFI South Bank film centre?

This report on the government’s ‘Creative Britain’ culture Green Paper appeared on the London SE1 community website today:

Government offers lukewarm support for South Bank film centre
Wednesday 27 February 2008
London SE1 website team

The Government’s long-awaited culture green paper published last week has offered cautious support for the British Film Institute’s proposed Film Centre on the South Bank.

The green paper published by Andy Burnham says that the BFI has to make the economic case for the Film Centre.

For some years the British Film Institute – whose National Film Theatre was last year rebranded BFI Southbank – has wanted to build a new centre for the British film industry somewhere in SE1.

The BFI says that the 55-year-old NFT under Waterloo Bridge is nearing the end of its useful life and a new building on a new site is needed.

Its new Film Centre would have five screens (compared to three at the current BFI Southbank), an external screen for outdoor projections as well as enhanced exhbition and research spaces.

Sites considered and rejected include Potters Fields, the Shell Centre, the BFI IMAX site and Doon Street.

The BFI’s favoured site is the Hungerford Car Park between Jubilee Gardens and the Royal Festival Hall – a controversial choice with some local residents and campaign groups who believe the land should be used to extend Jubilee Gardens.

The notion that the car park should become a green space had cross-party support from candidates in Bishop’s Ward at the 2006 local elections. Indeed, the car park site is designated as Metropolitan Open Land in Lambeth Council’s unitary development plan.

Now the green paper – entitled Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy – published last week by culture secretary Andy Burnham – has offered conditional support for the BFI’s proposals.

“The BFI’s proposal for the building of a new film centre on London’s South Bank will allow access to the archive, the library, exhibitions and cultural film in one place and has the potential to cement Britain’s place as a major international centre for film.

“This proposal is at an early stage and the Government is working with the UK Film Council and the BFI to determine whether the conditions can be met to attract significant funding from public and private sources to make this project a reality and bring enjoyment, celebration and film to London and the rest of the UK.

“Government support is conditional upon the BFI producing a viable business plan to address these conditions.”

Meanwhile it has been confirmed that former BBC director-general Greg Dyke is to take over as chair of the British Film Institute on 1 March.

“This is an exciting moment to be joining the BFI,” says Greg Dyke. “My predecessor Anthony Minghella has done a brilliant job in refocusing the BFI in a new direction and my job is to take the BFI’s ambitious strategy to the next level in both the virtual and physical worlds, so that we have a centre that puts film right at the heart of cultural Britain and makes it the envy of the world.”

The Government’s comments on the Film Centre proposals were published in the same week that The Movieum of London – a new independently-funded movie attraction at County Hall – opened its doors to the public.

London has been without a museum of film and television since the Museum of the Moving Image closed its doors in 1999.

More on Movieum of London

The Times Online carried this story about the new Movieum on London’s South Bank today:

Opening scene for new museum of the cinema
Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

The original sets from Star Wars, costumes from Superman and the iconic Rank gong are all part of an ambitious new museum devoted to cinematic history.

The “Movieum” will open today in a sprawling 30,000 sq ft (1,860 sq m) space in County Hall, London.

Visitors will be taken behind the scenes of the British film industry with a display of more than 4,000 original props and sets from films such as Gladiator, Thunderbirds and Elizabeth, as well as classics made in Britain in earlier decades.

The exhibits will trace the history of Pinewood Studios – where Dirk Bogarde, Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier and David Lean made some of their finest films – as well as bring to life the specialist departments working behind the camera, such as special effects, make-up and wardrobe.

The organisers are expecting between 250,000 and 500,000 visitors a year, to judge from the success they had with an earlier County Hall exhibition on Star Wars, which attracted about 200,000 people over eight months.

The opening comes almost a decade after the British Film Institute closed the doors of the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI), primarily because of rising costs. A BFI spokesman expressed interest in the new museum, particularly as MOMI’s collection is languishing in a storeroom. It is believed that some of the objects could now be lent to the Movieum.

Jonathan Sands, one of the Movieum’s directors, said that he had the lease on the County Hall space for 25 years. “The Star Wars exhibition proved to us the fact that that location could work,” he said.

Exhibits draw on film props and sets owned by Weird & Wonderful, Mr Sands’s production company, which claims to own one of the largest such collections in the industry, hiring some of them out to other productions for film and television.

Many more exhibits are being lent by artists who were involved with making them, as well as the studios. Although films such as Star Wars and Batman were made possible by Hollywood studios, they feature in the Movieum because they were made in England.

Mr Sands said: “We want to illustrate the ‘Bet you didn’t know this was made in England’ angle . . . The American industry is actually produced by British talent “This is an exhibition about the industry by the industry. There’s nothing like this.”

The museum’s emphasis is on interactivity. Mr Sands said that visitors would have a chance to make a mock film and actors would help people to take their own screen test.

The original throne from Elizabeth, which starred Cate Blanchett as the monarch, will be displayed for visitors to sit on within a setting of the sumptuous palace that they saw on screen.

The technology that allowed Superman to fly over London will be adapted for the 250 different film titles in which visitors to the Movieum can choose to star.

Mr Sands said: “It puts the visitor in the actual film using special effects.”

He added: “The display will trace how a film is made from A to B, from the concept of an idea and the script to editing and the distribution of a film, the special effects and the model-making.”

Movie museum opens on the South Bank

This story about the new Movieum of London, a permanent exhibition located in County Hall on the South Bank, appeared in Design Week:

Weird & Wonderful launches London movie museum attraction

* Source: Magazine
* Publication date: 13 February 2008 12:00 AM

The events design group behind last year’s Star Wars exhibition at County Hall in London’s Westminster will next week launch what it hopes will be the UK’s leading movie museum attraction.

Film, theatre and production design group Weird & Wonderful is set to launch Movieum, a ‘low-cost’ visitor attraction aimed at children and families, located on the site of the former Saatchi Gallery in County Hall.

The venture is Weird & Wonderful managing director Jonathan Sands’ own concept and creation, while the naming, branding and exhibition design has been devised in collaboration with director Bob Keen, production designer Martin Hitchcock and Weird & Wonderful’s design team.

The permanent exhibition, which Sands has ambitions to travel with, will feature at least nine rooms, including a mock sound stage, a history of film studios, real-life film sets, prop art, animatronics and modelmaking, as well as costumes and make-up, each with the aim of exploring various aspects of filmmaking.

The emphasis of the attraction, according to Sands, will be on interactivity and engaging with the audience. His idea for the exhibition design has been to move ‘beyond the glass’ by creating areas where visitors can produce their own projects, be it putting together their own film, or creating their own animation.

‘We wanted to create pockets or zones that focus on interaction or live demonstrations, as opposed to walking around a load of glass cabinets,’ says Sands. ‘One of the biggest challenges we’ve had so far in creating the exhibition has been clearance of copyright and distribution, but the reaction has generally been sympathetic since we’re showcasing the British film industry.’

Weird & Wonderful started out as a film prop hire and publicity company, but has since evolved into filmmaking and events, as well as theatre and production design.

The Movieum opens on 22 February.

Greg Dyke is new Chair of BFI

The UK Press Association issued this statement today:

Ex-BBC chief to head film institute

Greg Dyke, the former Director-General of the BBC, is taking over from Anthony Minghella as chairman of the British Film Institute (BFI), it has been announced.

Dyke, 60, who lost his job at the BBC in 2004 following the publication of the Hutton report into the death of Dr David Kelly, will take up the four-year post next month.

The BFI was created in 1933 and is home to the world’s most significant film and TV archive, comprising more than 230,000 movies from 1895 to the present day, 675,000 TV programmes and over four million film stills.

It also has plans for a film centre – as yet unfunded – to house the archive, galleries and show films.

The BFI, which will receive £16 million annual funding from the UK Film Council for the next three years, runs the London Film Festival and holds film and TV screenings at London’s Southbank.

Minghella, 54, the Oscar-winning director of The English Patient, has been chairman of the Institute for five years and is stepping down to focus on his own film-making and opera.

Dyke, who started in the TV industry as a researcher for LWT, wants to use the internet to increase access to the films in the renowned archive.

He said: “The BFI has probably got the best film archive in the world. What I believe is essential is that not only are its films preserved but also made available to as wide an audience as possible.

“At a time when the whole world is being changed by the digital revolution, we have a unique opportunity to make content available online to the whole of the education sector and, if we have the rights, to the public at large.

“I started something similar in my time at the BBC and I hope we can expand in this area at the BFI.”

Government plans for the South Bank

This article appeared in the Evening Standard today:

Brown’s plan to make Britannia cool again

Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor

London will get a national film centre and a permanent home for its fashion week under Gordon Brown’s plans to revive the “Cool Britannia” spirit of new Labour.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham will publish a detailed list of commitments to the arts next week as he sets out a blueprint to turn the UK into the “world’s creative hub”.

A leaked draft of the Green Paper today revealed that Mr Burnham and the Prime Minister are determined to see London outperform other European capitals and reap the economic benefits of the creative industries.

Projects include a new £200 million national film centre on the South Bank, a permanent home for London Fashion Week and a global arts and finance conference styled on the Davos World Economic Forum.

But after recent cuts in Arts Council grants to theatres and other bodies, critics already warn that the proposals risk sounding like a diversionary “gimmick” or a “Stalinist Five-Year Plan”.

It is also unclear, given recent tight budgets at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, where the money for some of the projects would come from.

A mix of public and private cash could be used for the £200 million film centre but it is uncertain how much the film industry would stump up.

The Green Paper also hints at taking a more active role including a review of the “health” impact of the fashion industry’s use of skinny models and forcing the subsidised arts to hire more ethnic minorities.

However, parts of the arts world will be delighted if the list of more than 20 schemes drawn up by ministers gets the final go-ahead. The British Film Institute, which is housed in a temporary building under Waterloo Bridge, has been lobbying hard for a national centre on the South Bank.

Similarly, the fashion industry has argued that a permanent site for London Fashion Week would help it plan events and provide a focus for the London College of Fashion, British Fashion Council and others.

The global arts conference, called the “world creative economy forum”, would be set up in co-ordination with the West Coast of America, linking London with not only Los Angeles but also San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Mr Burnham was an aide to former Culture Secretary Chris Smith, the man who drove Tony Blair’s original “Cool Britannia” push in 1997 and 1998 and Mr Brown is keen to maintain Britain’s edge in billion-pound arts industries.

Mr Burnham and Children’s Secretary Ed Balls are also due to announce plans to link the arts much more closely to schools. Children will have the right to spend five hours a week on activities such as visiting galleries and museums, attending theatre performances and learning a musical instrument.

The right to “five hours of culture a week” will become the responsibility of a new Youth Culture Trust, with a £10 million trial in 10 areas of England and Wales, beginning this year, and will focus on those from disadvantaged backgrounds and children who display a particular talent. The Government also said it recognises that important music venues are under threat, including the Hammersmith Palais – closed last year to be redeveloped as an office complex – and the Astoria – under threat from Crossrail – and will discuss with the Mayor of London how these venues can be preserved. Ed Vaizey, the Conservative arts frontbencher, said: “This reads more like a Stalinist Five-Year Plan than a vision for creative industries. What makes it so depressing is that we have waited more than a year for this paper and it’s little more than a series of reheated policies or absurd micromanagement.”