A post by Kat Pearson | 27 October 2020
Coventry’s upcoming City of Culture year is already providing opportunities for public engagement with culture and history in the city. Towards the end of 2019 I started working with the Media Archive for Central England (MACE), Foleshill Community Centre, and a colleague from Coventry University to plan a film screening in the Community Centre in connection with the opening of the new social supermarket.
The social supermarket at Foleshill Community Centre
We chose two themes for the screenings, the first ‘Foleshill on Screen’ allowed us to find films in MACE’s collection that focused on this specific area of Coventry. The second theme focussed on food and drink in the city, to link to the social supermarket, the work that Coventry University are doing at Ryton Gardens, and the growing project that has been established at the Community Centre. Obviously the screening that we held this October wasn’t what we originally planned but (with the help of a technician from Film Hub Midlands) we were eventually able to hold a socially distanced screening, complete with lunch boxes for all the attendees in Foleshill.
Socially distanced screening
We were worried that it would be difficult to have a discussion with people sat so far apart from one another in the large hall. Actually, everyone seemed happy to share their thoughts about watching the films and how they related to their own experiences of the area and the history of Coventry. While much of the session focused on the personal memories that the films evoked, some of the discussion touched on what was missing from these archive films. This was either in terms of communities who weren’t represented, or parts of Coventry’s history that people would have liked to see more of. Noting these absences allowed us to talk about what is in the archives at MACE and why, and subsequently about the work that MACE are currently doing, and what they would like to do throughout the City of Culture year.
Still from a 1988 film about the award-winning food at a Foleshill Pub
A benefit of having to rethink our plan for the event was being able to create an online version of the screening. This meant that the MACE films (some of which were newly digitised so haven’t been seen outside of the archive since their original broadcast) are now available to be viewed and shared online. We have also included introductions from myself and Philip Leach (the senior curator at MACE) to try and give context to the curation of the films and some background about MACE. Attendees commented that some family members would have liked to come but couldn’t because of illness or because they were self-isolating, so providing the films online has increased the reach and the longevity of the event. The screening has currently been viewed nearly 100 times on Vimeo, which far exceeded our expectations.
Philip Leach senior curator at MACE, introducing the films
One of the main things I will take away from this event is the huge appetite for people to see all aspects of the history of the city depicted on screen. Everyone who filled in the feedback forms said they would like to attend an event like this again, and over half said this could be as much as once a month. I hope that Coventry’s City of Culture year will allow plenty more opportunities to showcase MACE’s collection at different venues and to different communities. This screening demonstrated the importance of taking the archives to spaces that mean a lot to people. Most of the attendees were volunteers are the Community Centre and so feel very connected to the building, and felt that this made the experience of watching the films in this particular space more significant. One commented, “It was interesting to watch archives in a hall that has itself a lot of history but has not been used in years. Felt like a revival.” Although all of the television clips we showed were over 30 years old, there was a sense that watching them together, in Foleshill, gave people the opportunity to discuss and better understand their own, present day version of Coventry.
You can view the online screening here: https://vimeo.com/468531427
This event was funded as part of the University of Warwick/Coventry University City of Culture Open Call funding.