TO the members of early Asian communities here, he was known as "The Bradford Godfather".

More than 40 years ago, Mohamed Fazal Hussain was one of the first Pakistanis to settle in Bradford and was the oldest member of the city's Muslim community. He was said to wield "enormous influence" and was always on hand with advice and practical help, long before any infrastructure was in place for Asian families.

Mr Hussain appears in a series of films revealing the district's unseen past, compiled for a £15 million National Lottery-funded BFI project from the BFI National Archive.

Called Britain on Film, it also includes rare footage of Bradford City players taking to the pitch again after the Second World War, outdoor boxing at Valley Parade, and participants in the historic Whitsuntide Walk making their way around rain-soaked Bradford in 1946.

The film reveals "hidden histories and forgotten stories of people and places" from film and TV archives of Britain, including the Yorkshire Film Archive.

From today, via BFI Player, viewers can watch thousands of newly-digitised film and TV titles, from 1895 to the present, about where people lived, grew up, went to school and worked. By 2017, 10,000 film and TV titles will be digitised. And through a BFI Facebook campaign, 60 new films will be released over 60 days.

Britain on Film curators have found and digitised extraordinary footage of ordinary people - including film from the start of the 20th century, little over a decade after Louis Le Prince filmed the world’s first moving images in Leeds in 1888. Many of these films have never or rarely been seen and can be searched for by specific locations through BFI Player's new Film and TV Map of the UK.

The moving, intimate portrait of the diversity of British life is revealed by professional and amateur footage of vanished landscapes, urban and rural communities, historic traditions and folklore, and people at work and play. Newsreels, advertisements, home movies, forgotten TV shows, and films by government departments offer insights into life throughout the 20th century.

Robin Baker, head curator at BFI said: "For 120 years cameras have captured almost every aspect of life in the UK on film, but too often these have been inaccessible to all but the most determined researchers. Now Britain on Film is transforming access to films from the UK’s archives and making them available, no matter where you live."

The Bradford footage includes an extract from a documentary about Mohamed Fazal Hussain, a founding father of Bradford's Pakistani community. The film was made in 1974 when he was 73, and often called "The Godfather" or "The Emperor". It includes footage of the steel foundry near Bingley where he was a personnel manager, where Asian men pray on the shop floor, and cook chapatis in their tea break. "He pioneered the path from Bangalore to Bradford," says the commentary. "And for the 30,000 who followed, he is the 'benign Godfather'. Just gentle persuasion, but his are offers that nobody refuses."

Mr Hussain is seen helping people with travel arrangements, and trying to persuade his daughter in Pakistan to follow him to Bradford. "Bradford is a beautiful place," he tells her.

The film also offers a glimpse of post-war sporting life in Bradford. In the days when football skills were honed on bumpy pitches, when goalkeepers got bashed about and humped the ball upfield, Bradford City players are seen in action in the re-start of the football league after the war. Footage shows the ramshackle stage of Valley Parade when League football restarted in 1946.

It isn’t made clear who Bradford are playing in these two games, but the opponents are possibly wearing an away kit.

There is even rarer film of outdoor boxing at Valley Parade, but little information.

Bradford's Whitsuntide Walk unfolds with footage of people weaving through the city, past billboards for the film Cloak and Dagger, starring Gary Cooper and Lilli Palmer. The walk, in 1946, was won by C Mengin of Highgate, in four hours 53 minutes.

The oldest amateur walking race in the world, it started in 1903, when 92 competitors set off on a 39-mile walk to York, watched by a huge crowd. A shortened version of the walk continued during the war.

The newly accessible film and TV material presents a Britain that is vibrant, diverse and eccentric while shining a light on issues and situations that affect every generation. Newsreels, advertisements, home movies, forgotten TV shows, and films by government departments offer surprising insights into British life in the 20th century.

Other highlights include This Town of Ours (1972), about "Halifax before the Last Tango"; Great Peter of York (1927), a large crowd and choir on an historic day at York Minster; Whitby’s Herring Industry, an atmospheric film from 1952.

Graham Relton is archive manager at Yorkshire Film Archive, which preserves more than 50,000 films made in and about the region, both professional and amateur, ranging from those made by film pioneers of the late 1890s to more recent footage of the region’s changing lives and landscapes.

"Yorkshire Film Archive have been delighted to work with the BFI to make more of our collections accessible via the BFI Player and, in the coming months, via the YFA website," said Mr Relton. "The strength of our regional content is in its ability to re-connect audiences with film made in, or about, their own communities – people have a sense of ownership of these images, and have their own stories to share.’’ Described by the BFI as "one of the largest, most complex archival projects ever undertaken", Britain on Film is a result of a major programme of curation and digitisation that started in 2012 and continues until 2017. It is part of the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage programme - three years of a sophisticated programme of data capture, cataloguing, copying, meticulous preservation of original materials, and thorough searching of archives across the country, using state-of-the-art equipment and digital storage facilities, and the transfer of films to online video platform, BFI Player. * For more information visit