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University of Liverpool - University News

New research to investigate Liverpool’s life in film

published on February 24 2006
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Archive footage of Liverpool’s changing landscape through the post-war years, the Blitz and the 60s music scene is being examined by researchers at the University of Liverpool as part of a unique project.

City in Film will explore the relationship between the city’s architecture and the moving image, and aims to create an online database of Liverpool films for cinema goers, producers and researchers. Films located so far include footage of Liverpool’s overhead railway and St Georges plateau in 1897 which will be shown at a public screening next month.

Dr Julia Hallam, from the University’s School of Politics and Communication Studies, and Professor Robert Kronenburg, from the School of Architecture, will examine footage shot by film pioneers such as the Lumiére Brothers and Mitchell and Kenyon in the late 19th/early 20th century, as well as a range of amateur and independent films up to the present day.

Dr Hallam said: “Some of the 19th century footage we have looked at reflects an age when films were developed to showcase new technology.  The Lumiére Brothers are an excellent example of this.  In 1897 they photographed moving picture scenes in Liverpool, including the first tracking shot ever filmed, taken from Liverpool’s overhead railway – then just three years old.  In February the same year the city hosted its first public cinema event, just two years after the first recorded showing in Paris.

“Later footage, developed by local film and video workshop movements in the 1970s, created a wealth of material, much of it made by local neighbourhood action and community groups.  As well as recording, for example, housing conditions to support political campaigns, other films celebrated local activities such as city arts and play schemes.  Particularly poignant to the city’s forthcoming 800th birthday celebrations, is amateur footage of people by the Mersey in 1907 celebrating Liverpool’s 700th year with a huge pageant of floats and revellers dressed to represent events in the city’s history.”

Professor Kronenburg added: “In terms of architecture we will be looking at how Liverpool’s urban space was used, examining films by the Lumiére brothers and to coverage of the Blitz as well as footage of Liverpool Football Club’s Champion’s League winning celebrations.

“Film showing Liverpool before the Liver and Cunard Buildings is very interesting as the landscape is largely uncontained; instead it is the water and large ships that provide a point of focus.  The atmosphere of the city alters again when the Three Graces are erected, giving shape to the water front.

“Other films reflect just how much the urban landscape was used; in one still frame we see horses and carts, people on foot, cars and bikes occupying every inch of the space given to them in a variety of ways.  Film is a fantastic way of capturing these moments, allowing us to examine closely how the city was used and how the buildings shaped this activity.”

The project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will be officially launched at a public screening of unique film footage, presented by North West Film Archive, on Thursday, 2 March, at 7pm, at the University’s School of Architecture in Abercromby Square.

Notes to editors

1. Liverpool has been represented as Chicago, Dublin, London, New York, Moscow and Paris in a wide range of feature films including Chariots of Fire, The Hunt for Red October and In the Name of the Father, as well as a number of television dramas, such as The Forsythe Saga, The Hound of the Baskervilles and David Copperfield.

2. Public screenings, seminars and lectures of Liverpool archive footage will be announced throughout the year at

3. The North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University holds an extensive collection of moving image material documenting life in the North West of England. The Archive has been funded by North West Vision to work in Merseyside on a survey to establish how much material is at risk in the county, and to make recommendations for its preservation and accessibility.

4. The University of Liverpool is one of the UK’s leading research institutions.  It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £90 million annually.

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