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Haunting #2: Ghost Town Preview

Haunting #2 - Ghost Town Preview: "Coventry Kids: People of a Restless City" (BBC – 1960) 45 mins and "Coventry Cathedral/An Act of Faith" (BBC – 1962) 24 mins

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This screening event was held on the 23rd of March 2018, at Coventry Cathedral. Just under 130 people joined us for a look back at the post-war reconstruction of Coventry.

The night began with Philip Donnellan's lyrical documentary about life in Coventry in 1960, which offered a vision of Coventry’s industrial boom, and the city's rich cultural diversity including teddy-boys, nuclear protestors, West Indian domino-players and Scottish job-hunters. This was followed with surviving extracts from Robin Whitworth's documentary Coventry Cathedral (also known as An Act of Faith). The documentary tells the story of the re-building of the Cathedral and was commissioned to celebrate the consecration of the Cathedral.

As audiences watched John Hutton engraving his glass panels, John Piper creating his stained glass windows, and French weavers working on the Sutherland tapestry, they were surrounded on three sides by the finished products. The crowd was rippling with movement as people turned from screen to place and back again, bringing the past and the present into contact in the reverent space of cathedral, and the Dean of Coventry, the Reverend John Whitcombe, was excitedly pointing out exactly which panes of glass we were watching on screen. It was a truly haunting experience.

What were the audience saying:

- Lots of people talked about seeing the city in a new light: “A wonderful experience. I used to think Coventry was just a normal town. The screenings told us about the stories of this war-torn city. They made me want to explore more about the city”

- People also felt that watching these programmes in this setting had connected them with their family history: “My dad worked in the car factory so really good to see the inside of where he spent so much time” “Made me wish I could talk to my mum and dad about what it was like to be here in the 1960s”

- This was also the first time that the project team saw just how much civic pride could be inspired by watching archive television: “Thank you – our city of culture deserves recognition” “It’s made me feel proud of Coventry’s diversity”

- Lots of our visitors (about half who repsonded to our questionnaire) said that this event had made them think differently about the value and importance of the television archive: “Totally necessary, for now and posterity” a “fascinating treasure”, “I always thought it should be preserved and celebrated” “Thank God someone had the foresight to document this great city”, “Makes me realise the importance of keeping records and having scholars who bring the past back to life for future generations. Pictures and films are very valuable tools for understanding and appreciating our past”

- A third of our feedback postcards mentioned how important it was to improve preservation and widen access to the archive (especially for young people): “Education is Everything. We have always been a city of skill and culture”, “I feel it is very important and should be made available offline for the world to view” “It should be viewed as a resource in the same way as books. A visual/living history archive” “It should be available on permanent display at the Herbert for all to see” “I really enjoyed seeing the city as it was as I grew up. I hope that eventually more archive will be digitized and made available” “I’d like to see the film paused so we could look at the stills and recognize the places” “It’s absolutely critical that it be restored and viewed”

- We were surpised that a third of the people who filled out our questionnaires had never been to the Cathedral before and were keen to return.