Bradford City of Film director highlights an 'amazing visual record' of bygone times

Children crossing the stone steps at Bolton Abbey

Children crossing the stone steps at Bolton Abbey

David Wilson

The Ibberson family at Filey Beach

Food stall at Bradford Mela

Lord Mayor of Bradford Paul Hockney in Lord Mayor's Parade

Lord Mayor of Bradford Paul Hockney in Lord Mayor's Parade

First published in News

CROWDS of families queue for the Shipley Glen Tramway, as a group of lads kick a football around and children are lifted up for donkey rides. They could be scenes from any summer afternoon - but they were filmed more than 100 years ago.

The charming footage, shot in 1912, appears on one of thousands of films in the Yorkshire Film Archive collection depicting local life over the 20th century.

The Shipley Glen film is one of six selected by David Wilson, director of Bradford City of Film, in his role as Guest Curator for the Yorkshire Film Archive from August to September. His other choices include Billy Liar filmed in Bradford and Silver Jubilee celebrations in the city.

"My choices are based on memories of growing up in Bradford," said Mr Wilson. "There's no better way to capture a sense of what it was like in times past - the way people dressed, walked and talked - than in a film archive, and Yorkshire has one of the best.

"I am fortunate to have worked closely with the YFA since taking up my role with Bradford UNESCO City of Film and I visited their headquarters to see how the archive works and learn about the important role film archives play. The archive collects, preserves and makes available a wide range of film footage, from professional to amateur, and in turns serious, funny and heartwarming.

"As well as preserving a fantastic record of Yorkshire life the archives are used in a number of inventive ways, from education to tackling dementia."

Throughout August City of Film will host free family film screenings on Big Screen Bradford in City Park, and each film will be complemented by a short film from the YFA , with a focus on holiday scenes.

Sue Howard, director of Yorkshire Film Archive, said: "The collections we care for are an amazing visual record of life in our region over the past hundred years - cine club collections, local documentaries, films from industry or business, amateur productions and family home movie collections. We are indebted to all the film-makers who, over every decade of the 20th century, have captured and recorded the places where we live, grew up, went to school, had our first jobs, and the important milestones in our lives.

"Our guest curator feature on the YFA website is a great opportunity to draw out a more personal perspective. David has made some great choices!"

The Shipley Glen film begins with crowds of pedestrians near Salts Mill, staring at the camera. Crowds flock to the tramway and enjoying the nearby Aerial Glide chair ride and wooden roller coaster, which has packed wagons running along it. There are marquees at Shipley Glen and young men are kicking a football to hit a target. Two carriages packed with passengers are pulled along the tramway, as hordes of people climb the pathway through the wood. A passenger boat with a steam engine comes down the River Aire and docks alongside the Boathouse at Saltaire.

"A trip to Shipley Glen was a real treat," said Mr Wilson. "We used to love scrambling on the rocks and if we were lucky we’d get to go on some of the fair rides.

The Silver Jubilee film was made by local filmmaker Ken Leckenby, documenting the Lord Mayor's Gala in Bradford in June, 1977. The procession, led by a pipe band, enters Lister Park past a large crowd waving Union Jack flags. The Lord Mayor, Paul Hockney, goes past in a horse drawn carriage and later stands on a podium carrying a Union Jack briefcase.

The procession includes float - one is shaped like a ship, with 'pirates' waving - Jowett cars and Tetley's Dray horses. The floats, fun fair and park are filmed from the top of a hydraulic lift allowing onlookers to see the carnival from a birds-eye view.

A model aircraft display is stopped because of a downpour, then after the rain there's a tug-of-war match between two groups of men.

"There is something very memorable about 1977. As a nine-year-old I wasn’t really sure what it all meant but there were loads of parties everywhere," said Mr Wilson. "Watching this clip brings a real sense of community pride - the scale of the Lord Mayor’s Parade and the enthusiasm of people taking part."

Footage of Billy Liar, filmed in 1962, offers a behind-the-scenes look at John Schlesinger's film, shot largely in Bradford. One scene shows a grand fantasy scene, with Billy, played by Tom Courtenay, leading a military parade, surrounded by crew working equipment for a tracking shot and extras in military uniform.

"I had to pick this, in my current role as Director of BradfordCity of Film, which involves celebrating the district's rich film heritage and promoting it as a great place to make film and television," said Mr Wilson. "This clip is special in my view as it was filmed by an onlooker, giving it a whole different perspective.

"I went to a screening of Billy Liar at Bradford Playhouse in the late 1980s, it was the first time I'd seen Bradford on a cinema screen and I remember feeling very proud."

Yorkshire Curiosities is a documentary about "a search for the strange and unusual through the county of the White Rose.’ with a commentary against a brass band, starting and ending with On Ilkley Moor bar t’at.

There's footage of Bronte Parsonage at Howarth, Saltaire, a boat going through Bingley Five Rise locks, Ilkley Moor and children walking across the stone steps at Bolton Abbey. The film ends with a woman making Yorkshire pudding which she serves with gravy and raspberry vinegar.

The Bradford Mela was filmed in 1998, the year it moved to Peel Park. it focuses on three people - eight-year-old Saika, retired nurse Mavis and festival co-ordinator Paul. Lively footage of the Mela includes Saika on the dodgems, Mavis trying an onion bhaji and Paul sorting out a changing space for dancers.

"I made an early appearance as a professional musician at the Mela at Lister Park, I performed on the stage on the lake," said Mr Wilson. "it was a great opportunity for amateur musicians and dancers to perform with professional artists from all over the world. Watching this clips reminded me of the sounds, sights and smells."

Yorkshire Beaches is from the Ibberson family's collection, showing colour footage at the end of the Second World War. The film documents the family at beaches including Filey and Whitby, relaxing in deckchairs and playing with sandcastle buckets.

"Even though much of this was filmed in 1945, the little boy could easily be me in the sea with shorts and sleeves rolled up," said Mr Wilson.

"I am honoured to be guest curator for the YFA. It has meant delving through the extensive online archive to highlight film clips and what they mean to me.

"I did search for some things I remember from my teenage years, such as punks outside Bradford's HMV and fans queueing at St George's Hall to see rock acts like Deep Purple.

"I didn't find them - but the beauty of archives is that this kind of material might still be in someone’s attic or under the bed just waiting to be discovered."

* To see David Wilson's selection of films visit yorkshirefilmarchive.com

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