On Saturday, May 15, a piece of British history will roll out in public once again. It was almost lost forever, having suffered abandonment and theft. It sat in a field for 14 years, and lay out of service for 35 years. Now this one-of-a- kind vehicle will take to the streets once again having been painstakingly restored, and will launch as part of a Digital Film Archive Fund project.
It was part of a fleet of seven, the rest of which were almost certainly lost to the scrapheap.
The Vintage Mobile Cinema was part of then Minister of Technology Tony Benn’s plan to drive forward British production and engineering into the modern age. It showcased films about industrial techniques and hosted lectures in factory grounds. The units were showpieces of these very techniques, with cutting edge plastics technology employed to build a bizarre clear plastic bubble above the cab that still looks futuristic today.
Ollie Halls is the owner of the cinema. He told D+CFilm: ‘It’s been five years since I bought it, and it’s been a long road to get here. All along, people have recognised its unique historic value and gone out of their way to help; for example the Transport Trust offered us a small grant and Hill’s Body Works in Exeter put a huge amount of effort into making sure the exterior was immaculately finished.
‘Even with modern capabilities it was hard to replace the plastic dome panels. The mobile cinema units were built with such care and attention to detail that it’s been a challenge to make sure the restoration does justice to the vehicle.’
The Movie Bus project will use the bus to showcase newly digitised archive footage from the vaults of the South West Film and TV Archive.
The 22-seat cinema will screen A Tale of Two Rivers about the Taw & Torridge Estuary at the launch, the first of eight archive films to be collated. There is no entrance fee to the public, and the film will be repeated every 30 minutes.
The bus will be on the town square in Barnstaple from 11am until 5pm. At 2pm, the bus will be officially launched with a special screening for those who have contributed to the restoration or helped to make the project happen, directly or indirectly through their contribution to North Devon’s cultural landscape.
Students from Ilfracombe College along with their teacher Peter Cooper have also been involved with making their own film about the restoration, which will be premiered at the launch.
Emma Giffard is the project co-ordinator, said: ‘The films are really exciting. Our second film Sootbombs and Blazing Barrels, has already attracted a lot of excitement because we unearthed some very rare 1930s footage which will be showcased for the first time. It’s all about celebration, and we will premiere it as part of the North Devon Festival.
‘We’re going to be at lots of festival events and we’ll be visiting schools and communities in North Devon until March 2011. The bus will tour not only the local area, but will be in London at the end of May for another event, amongst other things. There are other mobile cinemas out there, but there is literally nothing else in the world like this.’
The Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon has been the lead organisation on the project.
Alison Mills, curator, said: ‘North Devon is lucky to have something like this of national importance here, where it will be perfect for gettting out to our rural communities. There is already a lot of excitement about it, and we are getting a lot of enquires from people who want it to come to their school or community, as well as from people who want to hire it for their own event.’
Movie Bus Dates
May 15: Launch, The Square Barnstaple 11am – 5pm
June 2: Animation workshops with Aim Higher, The Square, Barnstaple all day drop-in sessions
June 5: Appledore Visual Arts Festival all day
June 6: Mortehoe Heritage Centre with the AONB, all day
June 12: Lynton & Lynmouth Music Festival, all day
June 18: GoldCoast Oceanfest, Croyde with Aim Higher, all day
June 19: Bideford College Summer Science Day, Tapeley Park, Instow
June 20: South Molton Olde English Fayre all day
June 22: Instow Cricket Club 6pm-9pm
June 26: Move It Shake It, Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe 2pm – 6pm
June 27: Ilfracombe College Open Day, all 12pm – 4pm
July 8: Kings Nympton 6pm – 9pm
Check the movie bus site for an up to date calendar of events – New dates added all the time!
(from a press release)
- Ben Kernow | It is alright for a project to scare you a little - August 11, 2022
- Long Way Back | intelligent and unique road movie - August 2, 2022
- Exeter Cinema Heritage | what cinema means projection - July 25, 2022