Thursday, 4 June 2015


As the art of film-making entered the Edwardian era what was viewed on screen soon became far more sophisticated than we might imagine it to have been.

Morecambe Sea Front is an 'actual' - a popular sort of early everyday documentary that would have been made in a busy location, where the locals or visitors about would then be caught on moving film. 

During the filming they would have been made aware (perhaps by people shouting the news, or by a poster being carried at the front and behind the camera man) that the film would be shown at a future date - often the same night or the following day - when they could then pay to go along to a theatre or other suitable venue and see themselves appear on screen. In this case the film was shown at the Morecambe Winter Gardens.

These actuals were often then distributed to be shown in other parts of the country, or even abroad, to give an idea of life elsewhere. And now, some wonderful examples have been restored and digitised by the British Film Institute so that we can do our own version of time travelling - seeing the people and places of the past so vividly restored to life.

While researching my latest novel which is set in the Edwardian era I have found these films to be an invaluable historical resource. In the case of Morecambe Sea Front, I could watch this film over and over again, seeing the faces caught on film as vividly as if they were here today. The nonchalant cabmen staring back. The dapper gentleman swinging his umbrella around while he walks. The women - some more Victorian in look, still in the black of mourning for the Queen who had recently died - others in their crisp white shirts and straight black skirts who are facing the future, not the past. The children excitedly running along to keep up with the camera (placed on the top of a horse drawn tram), who are twirling their caps and handkerchiefs. 

And yet, how sad it is to think that so many of these cheering boys would all too soon be growing up to enter the hell of The First World War. That is a knowledge they didn't have - but we do. And it gets me every time.

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