January 8th ‘Bristol Film Cinema’ with John Penny
By Mike Adams
An audience of 40, the largest for a while, clearly judged that this was a wonderful opportunity to indulge in a little nostalgia to brighten up a winter afternoon. Their appetites were soon whetted as John described how he would present his as-near-as-possible recreation of a traditional film show from the 1950s/60s era. It would open with a film club song followed by the main feature film, advertisements, Pathé Newsreel and a second feature film before concluding with the National Anthem.
“We’re Minors of the ABC”
This song opened up the special picture shows for children on Saturday mornings in the ABC chain of cinemas. You can hear it on YouTube together with other films about the ABC.
Main feature – “Bristol, British City” 1951, b/w 20 mins
This film was made as a contribution to the Festival of Britain –staged 100 years after the Great Exhibition of 1851 and designed to give us an economic boost following WW2.
The opening film shots were taken driving over the Suspension Bridge. The background was one thousand years of history with Bristol the capital of the West of England. Horses and carts and smoking factory chimneys were seen as the film toured the historic City. War damage was evident; “bombs had caused more scars than it got in all its preceding centuries.”
The film explained how the Floating Harbour was achieved by excavating the New Cut, enabling the shipping trade to flourish. Large Bristol industries depended on this trade, notably tobacco, wine, cocoa, sugar and paper with its associated printing, packaging and publishing.
The tug John King was seen – it is still based in the harbour today.
By then, the City was governed by its Corporation who eventually had to make the decision to build new docks at Avonmouth as ships got larger still.
Pearl & Dean advertisements
These were a regular feature and in colour – Babycham was an up and coming light drink.
This was still in b&w. The main story was the opening of the New Bristol Centre, a cinema with 870 seats and a very large curved screen. The Kneller Hall trumpeters were a big attraction.
Second feature – “Bristol Fashion” 1963, colour
The film was one of those produced regularly by the Port of Bristol Authority for publicity purposes. It was narrated by Michael Redgrave, who was born in Bristol. We see a pilot landing on board a ship in the Severn Estuary approaching Avonmouth. Since Roman Times, pilots had lived in the village of Pill near the mouth of the River Avon. John Cabot had sailed this stretch of water on his way to the New World. Soon a new Severn Bridge would be completed carrying the M4 over to Wales.
The audience showed their appreciation at the end and we are sure to want John to return in the future.