London Moves Me at the BFI London Film Festival

18 10 2009

At the moment the 53rd British Film Institute London Film Festival is on…

Particularly interesting to Londoners, Londonographers, Londonophiles, Londonists and Londonologists is ‘London Moves Me’:

Under the watchful gaze of Horatio Nelson, the London Film Festival’s annual free screening of short films from the BFI National Archive and London’s Screen Archives once again takes place in Trafalgar Square.

Almost all Londoners enjoy – or endure – a daily commute, and even the earliest filmmakers liked to record our trips across the city. London Moves Me is a celebration of transport in London – a whistle-stop tour from 1896 to 2009 with more than 20 films. With live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand, we invite you to cross the capital by the usual trains, buses and bicycles, but for the more adventurous we offer the odd skateboard, airship and canoe.

Victorian ladies skilfully negotiate the art of cycling in long skirts in Hyde Park Cycling Scene (1896) while Edwardian Ealing is revealed in Panorama of Ealing from a Moving Tram (1901). Tower Bridge Boats on Thames (1905) shows the river as a place of work rather than pleasure, but the younger generation is allowed a spot of aquatic fun on Clapham Common in Paddle Your Own Canoe (1922). In Barging Through London (1924) a horse-towed barge makes its journey along the Regent’s Canal – from Limehouse, under Mile End Road, through Hackney to Kings Cross, Kentish Town, Camden and on to Paddington Basin.

Unimpeded by concerns for the environment, the early colour film pioneer Claude Friese-Greene filmed the sights of London from his sporty Vauxhall D-type as seen in The Open Road (1925). Scenes at Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Corner Underground Stations (1931) is captivating amateur footage – possibly shot by a London Underground worker – that captures the almost ethereal beauty of the tube in the early Thirties. Our journey comes right up to date with Project One (Yohan Forbes, 2009), following a young skateboarder’s odyssey from the Thames Barrier to the South Bank.

Total running time c90min

Continuing our theme of transport in London, this year’s Archive Gala screening is Anthony Asquith’s classic, Underground (1928), a tale of love, treachery and murder on the tube.

Screenings commence at 18:30 and are free and open to all.

Another interesting BFI film about London is ‘London in the Raw’, which is an amazing portrait of London in the early sixties:

‘The World’s greatest city laid bare! Thrill to its gay excitement, its bright lights, but be shocked by the sin in its shadows!’ Following on from his Take Off Your Clothes and Live, and influenced by the world-wide success of Italian ‘Mondo’ movies, which combined documentary footage with staged sequences of salacious effect, legendary British low budget movie mogul Arnold Miller concocted this fascinating exploitation-style documentary. Peering voyeuristically behind the grimy net-curtains of London life into seedy bars and clubs for beatnik ‘art lovers’, and burrowing beneath the glittering facade of the capital’s glamorous cocktail lounges and casinos, London in the Raw provides a cynical, sometimes startling vision of life on and off the rain-spattered streets of 1960s London.

Belly Dancer at the Omar Khayyam Club from Arnold Louis Miller's London in the Raw (1964)


East Looks West – Destination London

15 10 2009

Destination London: Writing Cities from Eastern Europe, 19 October to 7 November 2009

UCL’s School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies is organising an interesting sounding series of public events organized around the East Looks West travel writing project. The public events draw on the popular appeal of travel writing to address both a wide general audience and members of London’s east European communities. You can find out more about the launch event on the 22nd of October and other events at the link above.  

East Looks West: East European Travel Writing on European Identities and Divisions, 1550 – 2000

East Looks West is a major research project examining the meanings and uses of the concept of ‘Europe’ through the medium of east European travel texts. Some ten years in development and execution, the project, conceived and directed by Dr Wendy Bracewell (UCL SSEES), brought together a team of more than 20 scholars in ten counties to collate and analyse an enormous corpus of travel accounts, written in over 20 languages and published over a period of four and a half centuries.

At a time when European identities are increasingly in flux, and social, cultural and political fissures within Europe constitute a major intellectual and political concern, the East Looks West project has provided new perspectives on the history of Europe’s limits and divisions – and on their consequences for East and West.

For further information, contact the project director, Dr. Wendy Bracewell.

Coding Opportunity

13 10 2009

Natasha Warikoo, who is an assistant professor at the School of Education at Harvard University is looking to hire a research assistant to do some coding with ATLASti for a project in which she has interviewed undergraduates at an elite British university about diversity and multiculturalism.

If you are interested you can e-mail her here.

Kingsway Tram Tunnel

10 10 2009

On Friday I went to visit the Kingsway Tram Tunnel in Holborn, where an artist called Conrad Shawcross in collaboration with an arts organisation called Measure have installed an intriguing site specific art installation.

The Kingsway Tram Tunnel was built to take trams from Holborn to Embankment in the 19th century. Now part of it has been turned into a road tunnel and part has been abandoned or used as a storage space by Camden Council. You can find out more about the history of the tunnel here. Further information about Kingsway Tram Subway can also be found on the Subterranea Britannica website. They have an annual conference coming up very soon on October the 17th.  

The entrance to the tunnel with single decker tram

Conrad Shawcross has constructed some wooden rails running along a section of the tunnel, along which two huge machine slowly move away from each other as their arms rotate, spinning a thick muti-coloured, multi-stranded rope. After being let in through a locked gate in the middle of Kingsway we descended into the tunnel to an old station, where we paused to look at the old tiles, advertising hoardings and tracks. After walking further along the tunnel further we came to the machine, and admired its arms turning slowly…

Tickets are available on line and are free! Book them here.

Thanks to Ian Visits on who’s excellent blog I found out about this event.