New town film archive project to bring Stevenage story to life

PUBLISHED: 12:05 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:10 02 October 2018

Is this you? Stevenage town centre in 1971. Picture: Stevenage First New Town / Courtesy of Film Hub South East

Is this you? Stevenage town centre in 1971. Picture: Stevenage First New Town / Courtesy of Film Hub South East

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A new film project has been launched that aims to use rare archive footage to explore the shared experiences of new towns including Stevenage.

Stevenage town centre in 1971. Picture: Stevenage First New Town / Courtesy of Film Hub South EastStevenage town centre in 1971. Picture: Stevenage First New Town / Courtesy of Film Hub South East

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given a £66,500 grant to the Independent Cinema Office’s ‘New Towns, Our Town’ project, which is to focus on the UK’s first four new towns – Stevenage, Crawley, Hemel Hempstead and Harlow.

The project aims to increase pride in the story of the new town movement, which began as part of the restructuring of Britain after the end of the Second World War in 1945.

There was much interest and considerable aspirations for the new town movement during the late 1940s and 1950s.

The development corporations overseeing each new town were keen to document their progress, and recorded much of this on film.

These films have been kept in archives with limited public access for decades, but this new project will bring them together and allow people to engage with them once more.

ICO director Catharine Des Forges said: “The ICO is really committed to the whole picture of British life through archive film, and there’s a genuine appetite across the UK.

“We’ve seen this with the success of our Britain on Film touring programme, which has reached an audience of over 15,000 people and played in hundreds of cinemas, film societies and community groups.

“We are looking forward to demonstrating the important contribution the new towns and their residents have made to the social history of the UK by bringing these fascinating films back to life.”

Free screenings and more are planned over the next year for the films – which promise to reveal fascinating insights into the development of the new towns, and possibly give you the chance to spot a familiar face.

The project will work with the collections at the BFI National Archive, the East Anglian Film Archive and Screen Archive South East, with screenings of material set to start in December 2018.

The ICO is now seeking volunteers in Stevenage and the other three new towns to get involved with the project, with anyone interested in local history invited to get in touch.

To find out more about how to get involved, send an email to info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk.

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