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Britain on Film

Britain on Film is a nationwide project, launched in 2015 by the BFI, that uses archive film to shine a light on the hidden stories and secret histories of our country.

As part of the project, the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) staged 85 screening events in 46 locations across the nation, from Belfast to Canterbury, Southern Wales to Inverness. The programme was themed around three categories, Urban, Rural and Coast and Sea. Below is a roundup of some of the key activity in Scotland.

Britain on Film: Urban

In 2015/16 Film Hub Scotland worked with independent producer Shona Thompson A Kind of Seeing  to organise Made in My Toun, a Scotland wide tour of archive film screenings and Q&As exploring what our towns and cities mean to us today. 

Each stop on the nine date tour was presented with a unique selection of archive film relating to their area, followed by a Q&A with local speakers such as historians, academics and filmmakers.

Another project that came within the Britain on Film: Urban programme was City as a Movie Screen, a cinematic celebration of the film heritage of Glasgow. Taking place in September 2015 at The Barras Arts and Design, the event featured looping archive footage on multiple screens placed around the space, providing a fun opportunity for audiences to experience archive film in a uniquely Glaswegian environment. The films ranged from nostalgic images of 60s ballroom in Dancing at Barrowlands, to everyday landscapes of the city in Out & About: Glasgow, with all the films capturing the unique charm of the city. The event was made all the more immersive with live music from a jazz band and actors around the space to interact with the audience.

Made in Edinburgh was a programme made up of 4 screenings of feature films set in the city organised by Morvern Cunningham of Leith Late. All screenings were accompanied by music videos and experimental shorts shot in and around the streets of Leith. Feature films chosen were Shallow Grave, Acid House, Restless Natives, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Britain on Film: Rural 

Made On Our Land was a tour of archive film screenings which toured from the Outer Hebrides to the Scottish Borders, following on from the success of Made in My Toun.

Credit Chris Scott

Again curated by A Kind of Seeing, the project consisted of an eight-date tour featuring films which invoked the spirit of Scotland’s strong rural cinema going traditions, touring to Scotland’s mobile cinema Screen Machine and community venues in the Film Mobile network.

Specially curated programmes explored the rural lives and landscapes of Scotland and the tour locations continuing the format of programme notes and a post-screening blether to invite engaged audience discussions. The tour also featured new silent film commissions from performers including science writer Emily Dodds and renowned composer and pianist Jane Gardner. 

Alongside these screenings came Sensing Place, a pilot action research project using archive film and storytelling to explore the power of place. The aim was to identify new and existing models of creative participation specifically in places often perceived as remote or rural. Experienced cultural project leads Drew Wylie Projects and A Kind of Seeing partnered with national cultural institutions and community partners in three areas of Scotland.  The partnership commissioned three artists from oral and cinematic storytelling disciplines to deliver a series of community workshops and events across Southern Scotland during 2016. Workshops took place in Kilmarnock, New Galloway and Hawick.

Coast and Sea 
An exciting programme of archive film events brought Scotland’s coastal heritage to life in Summer 2017 for Britain on Film: Coast and Sea. 

On 1 July 2017, New Media Scotland organised Atmosphere: The Edge of the World at the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility in Edinburgh. This featured an 80th anniversary screening of Michael Powell’s debut feature film, which was shown alongside alongside Oliver Pikes 1908 documentary St Kilda, It’s Birds and People, which featured a new score by Alex Menzies.

Produced in collaboration with the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the University of Edinburgh, the event made the most of the unique location. The FloWave tank contains 2.4 million litres of water and 168 wave makers designed to mimic the many different seascapes found around the British coast. Normally used for research, here the facility was transformed into a unique cinema experience, with films projected above the tank while undulating waves, ripples and splashes reflected the high seas depicted onscreen, growing in intensity at particularly dramatic moments. The film screened twice to sell out audiences.

Also part of the Britain on Film: Coast and Sea season was Made By The Sea, a tour of archive films from independent producer Shona Thomson (A Kind of Seeing). Inspired by the success of the previous urban and rural tours, Made By the Sea featured screenings at six locations across Scotland, including stops at the Johnshaven Fish Festival, the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy and in Scotland’s mobile cinema, The Screen Machine. Each location was shown a specially curated selection of archive shorts, followed by the customary post screening blether.

Following the Fleet: DRIFTERS in Leith featured Composer and Beatboxer Jason Singh performing an astonishing live vocal score to John Grierson’s ground-breaking 1929 documentary. The screening also featured archive shorts accompanied by a score from Davno, an all female collective who perform choral music in the tradition of Poland, Russia and Ukraine. From August to September 2017 Drifters toured with Singh’s performance accompanied by new local support acts at each stop, retracing the historic journeys of men and women in pursuit of herring shoals across the UK East coast from the North Sea to the Baltic.


All the Britain on Film events are supported by Film Hub Scotland in association with the BFI.

Made on Our Land Photos Credit Chris Scott
Made in Edinburgh Photos Credit Kat Gollock

Sept 2015 - Sept 2017

Programme Notes

Find out more about Britain On Film.

Website for A Kind of Seeing.

Case Studies for Sensing Place.

Find out more about Following the Fleet: Drifters.

Find out more about Made in My Toun.

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