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Reel Stories

Reel Stories is a project set up and run by educational charity digital:works.

Working with the British Film Institute on the South Bank for this project which is part of our “Working London” series that explores and records the history of various aspects of work in London. Working with historians, local archives and digital-works staff, a team of volunteers were trained in research skills, oral history interviewing and recording skills.

The project has recorded 20 wonderful oral history interviews with some of London's cinema projectionists.

The interviews have been edited to make a documentary film which will be shown at various screenings and broadcast on television - and a series of podcasts.

This project website houses all of the full interviews, the podcasts, the film and cover the progress of the project.



Acknowledgements

This project is run by digital:works with the support of British Film Institute.

We are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their financial support.




digital-works logo

digital:works has been running oral history projects across London working with communities to explore the history of work and workers in the capital. Projects so far include printers on Fleet Street, bus workers, underground workers, black cab drivers, jewellers in Hatton Garden, tailors in Saville Row, the Thames Lightermen, Thames boatyards and more. Other projects explore the history of Battersea, North Kensington, Southall, Eel Pie Island, as well as some of London’s indoor and street markets. If you would like to see any of these wonderful films and find out more about digital:works please visit:
www.digital-works.co.uk.

An Oral History of London's Cinema Projectionists

From the date of the first projected film by the Lumiere Brothers in France in 1895 projectionists have been the behind the scenes technical experts locked up in sound proof rooms, the silhouettes occasionally seen as we look back and up from our cinema seats at the little windows from which are projected cinema projectionist the films that have entertained, terrified and beguiled us. The projectors themselves, often Heath Robinson like machines, with film snaking through them, have required great skill and dedication to run. With the recent move to digital projection most cinemas now do not require those skills and we want to record the working lives of projectionists in the heyday of this dying art.

What type of person becomes a projectionist?
What are the skills required and how did they get them?
What are the machines like?
What’s it like, night after night, sitting in that noisy little room, alone, overlooking a theatre full of people.

These and many more are the questions explored to preserve and share this wonderful history.


Would you like to be part of a team on an oral history project exploring the history of London’s film projectionists?

training

Volunteer places are now full.

We have a great team of volunteers based at the BFI Southbank. They have taken part in workshops with an historian and with projectionists as well as a guided tour of the projections boxes in order to gain an understanding of the work involved in the industry.

They then learned about oral history techniques and have worked as a team to develop interview questions all ready to meet and interview 20 projectionists about their working lives. These interviews have been set up and took place in September and October 2021. Go to the "News" page for updates as the project proceeds.


Projector© Jorge Royan / CC BY-SA 3.0