Appeal for historic footage of Hull

In the run up to Hull City of Culture 2017, Yorkshire Film Archive is hoping to unearth the city’s hidden celluloid gems. Sarah Freeman reports.

Humber Highway

One summer in the 1950s, Cyril and Betty Ramsden decided to go on holiday. The couple from Leeds didn’t go far. They headed east to Hull and like they did on most of their trips they packed their cine-camera.

By the time they returned home, the Ramsdens had hours of footage of the East Riding, from the lighthouse at Spurn Point to the boat builders of Hull’s Alexandra Docks and with a bit of nifty editing it was shaped into a film they entitled Humber Highway.

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The couple, who didn’t have children of their own, left their extensive collection of films to a friend’s son and he in turn eventually passed it to the Yorkshire Film Archive.

“The Ramsdens were a bit of a one-off,” says the YFA’s Ruth Pateman. “He was a dentist, she was a teacher, but together, in their spare time, they were also semi-professional filmmakers.”

Humber Highway is one of the best pieces of footage the archive in York has of the east of the county, but it is hoping to unearth more celluloid gems through its Film Search Hull Campaign.

“We already have some fantastic films made in and around Hull, from home collections through to advertising films and local documentaries and together they show us the people, the place, the shops, schools, the celebrations and the events that make a community,” says Sue Howard, director of the YFA. “As well as the films shot by the Ramsdens, we also have some fantastic black and white footage of Hull Fair in the 1930s. Elsewhere there are recordings of the city’s street scenes with children doing what they do best, messing around in the streets, playing football, visiting the record shops and sporting the latest teddy boy haircuts.

“These are not feature films or costly productions; they are films made by local people about the things they cared about, their families, friends, the great events and everyday lives

“But we also know that there must be more collections out there and as we move into the digital world film is becoming increasingly difficult to watch in its original analogue format and these precious collections will start to deteriorate over time.

“Our aim is to ensure we create a lasting legacy which can be enjoyed by people now and for generations to come and the first step is to make sure we search out any hidden gems and ensure they are preserved and cared for.”

The YFA was born out of the merger of two other film archives in 2012 and it now contains more than 50,000 titles, ranging from films made by the early pioneers of the late 1890s, to recent footage of changing landscapes and life across both regions.

It is now keen to hear from people who may have personal film collections featuring Hull and the surrounding area which have become buried in the backs of cupboards or hidden away in attics. The organisation is also interested to hear from those who worked for companies which may have made films about their business.

“Whether it is footage from decades ago or much more recent material, it all builds to create a compelling visual history of the city. If we can create Hull’s Film Heritage collection, it will be a great legacy for the city.”

With the focus very much on the area in the run up to Hull taking on the mantle of UK City of Culture in two years time, the YFA hopes to play its part in creating a legacy.

“People will recognise and connect with all of these films,” adds Martin Green, chief executive of Hull City of Culture 2017. “They are a real reminder of the vibrancy of the city and a hugely important part of our heritage which everyone will now have the opportunity to see and share in.”

Anyone who might be able to help can contact the Yorkshire Film Archive on 01904 876550 or through its Facebook page.