A full house for the screening of Past Lives Nottingham


It was satisfying to be able to share the finished Past Lives Nottingham film with such a full audience





After several very long days getting the final picture edits and scoring right, we arrive at Lakeside Arts for the get-in and final rehearsal…


Trevor our sound engineer was remarkably fresh for a man just that day returned from a US tour with King Crimson…


A moment to attempt to assemble the score in the right order…

Time to see if it all actually plays as we expect it to…



Deidre (Cello) and Kelly (Violin) meet the score for the first time.


Composer / performers Cameron & Eleanor splitting the piano part into four hands on sight… no mean feat.

Audience in,  lights out, and the screening begins

IMG_3210Flute lightIMG_3223IMG_3208

The credits rolled to the rousing sound of a march  – MEN OF TRENT  – by Eric Coates written specifically for the Nottingham Police Band in the mid 1950s and specially recorded by them for this showing under their musical director Gary Glover… a great finale…    

After much justified applause, there was a curtain call for our composers Katie Powdrill, Matt Arwhen-Langham, Cameron Wedgewoth and Eleanor Beestin; and then a very special guest…

Mike Riley spotted a picture of himself as a little boy in one of the film images that was published at the beginning of the project; he contacted Lakeside and has since done some great interviews about it on T.V. and in the papers. Mike is a mine of information about Nottingham and and particularly about the Railways – a joy to chat with. He agreed to come along and say hello.


Mike takes the stage


left to right Debbie Cooper, Mike Riley, Composer Matt Arwhen-Langham, Chris Ellis (seated) ; Composers Eleanor Beestin and Cameron Wedgeworth.

The Nottingham Historical film Unit – a lost archive rediscovered ?


The names of Richard Iliffe and Wilfred Baguley are familiar to many as co-authors of some of the best books of photographs of Nottingham’s past. More than one person who has come in to our Past Lives open days has mentioned ‘Dick’ Iliffe’s books and one woman recalled winning her copy of Victorian Nottingham on a phone-in to Dennis McCarthy’s The Sunday Show on Radio Nottingham.

vic nott

The sub-title on the cover of these books – A Nottingham Historical film Unit Publication – gave me momentary pause for thought: film Unit ..? Well perhaps they were referring loosely to the fact that the stills camera also used celluloid films…

Then some connections brought to light another possibility…

A chance remark by someone else at one of our open days about a film society that had bequeathed it’s collection to a Nottingham college sent me looking around. The British Universities Film Council web site lists such an archive as having been given to New College Nottingham some years ago. I contacted them and we went to meet their videographer, Adrian Todd.

It turned out that Adrian had been preserving the remnant of a collection of 16mm films – with no immediate resources to look at them in detail. Thanks to Adrian, they have not diappeared completely; he showed us the cans but we needed a safe way of looking at the content that would not risk damaging the ageing films. Ideally we needed a hand-wound viewer like a Moviescop that would not overstress the ageing films and whose low-intensity bulb runs no risk of burning the celluloid if the film stops moving through the viewer.

Noviescop Off to Tony Trafford of The Production   Outfit, who kindly lent us his Moviescop and winders – pieces of film history in themselves that hadn’t seen action for a good while.

After 2 hours of improvising, dismantling and cleaning of the optics  – (Adrian actually managed to find thmoviescop2e original manual online !)  – Images began to flicker across the Moviescop for thefirst time in maybe 25 years


A Bowler hatted man feeding the pigeons in Slab square…  a flooded…Nottingham main street in the 1930s…a motorcycle rally…NCN viewing

A society wedding at Wilford…Nottingham Forest’s FA cup victory parade through the town in 1959…

Some of the material has clearly been ordered from national archives like the British Film Institute by someone prepared to trawl through catalogues and pull out anything relating to Nottingham. There are also some more general histories of silent film featuring greats like Chaplin, Buster Keaton & W.C. Fields; but the rest was shot locally and sets out to document changes in Nottingham from the 1960s onwards – such as the old streets of the St Ann’s Well Road area before demolition.

The more I saw, the more I wondered who was behind this collection. Most of the footage had no titles but some time into the viewing session, a film came up with a brief heading: ‘C.R. Iliffe – Editor’ and then another title flashed up: ‘A Nottingham Historical Film Unit production’. It seemed that I was looking at a portion of the film archive of Richard Iliffe and Wilfred Baguley.

But were these films copies or originals: was the archive already preserved elsewhere?

Part of that question remains to be answered: the B.U.F.C. website refers to an origina gift of 100 cans of film plus an extensive collection of transparencies – presumably those featured in the series of books that Iliffe and Baguley published. I saw only 40 cans of film – did the rest find a home elsewhere or are they lost?

As to whether these films are copies or originals, Tony Trafford’s wide experience of film editing was again invaluable; he took a closer look at the various types of 16mm film stock used in the locally shot footage of the 1970s and pointed out that much of it is Kodak reversal stock; the nature of this film stock and the style of editing imply that these productions were put together directly from the camera rolls, meaning that these particular films are one-offs… unique artefacts created by Iliffe & Baguley.

I looked into more cans…

Hot air balloons at Wollaton Park in the 1970s; the demolition of the Midland Station; a portrait of Radio Nottingham in the 1970s; ‘the last of the trams’ – footage of the tracks being taken up; a documentary film about the newly-opened Nottingham Playhouse in early ’65 showing John Neville in rehearsal for Richard the Second – this one shot by students of the College of Art & Design…

Many of the films are silent, but a handful are credited as being narrated by Dennis McCarthy

To go though the archive in detail and to identify and conserve all the unique footage it contains would take some time, but it would surely be worthwhile;

and considered as a whole, the collection has a historical significance- being originally curated by two of Nottingham best loved historians…

Iliffe or Baguley

A walk In Carr Vale

Chris Ellis, Past Lives Project musician and music researcher  took a walk with Fred Webley , who grew up in Carr Vale and agreed to show us the landscape he remembers as a boy. Chris has recorded this walk which we are hoping to make available as an audio walk through Past Lives Project.

“Walking down from the top of Car Vale, we come to a broad swathe of grass that still cuts a clean line through the town. This is the path of the railway track built by William Arkwright for his Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway. The line never made it all the way to the coast but it came through here, disappearing into a tunnel a few hundred yards east up the slope that cut through the escarpment and emerged at Scarcliffe. The tunnelling disturbed so many natural springs that flooding was always a problem in the tunnel and a water works was built to cater for the outflow and supply the town…

We make our way up the line of the tracks in the warm sun, towards where until the ground falls away ahead into an overgrown thicket … this is the way to the all that remains of the tunnel entrance, now sealed with concrete.

On the way back down, we look again for remains of the water works but it has all been erased, though the brook still runs clear, right down past the ends of the lower streets of the town & into the valley, Fred remembers playing in the brook as a boy – damming up the water which, coming as it did from natural springs via a drinking water filtering system, was crystal clear.


The series was apparently shown only once, in 1981* – and copies are rare: no-one I have spoken to has seen it… it would be good to see those sequences of Carr Vale…maybe we will have a look for it.


We’re standing on the track bed of a branch of the Midland line that served the local collieries and the Byron Brickworks – where Fred got his first job at 17. He was in the brick pressing room two weeks later when the news came that the plant was to close.


The site and its rail sidings are covered in birch and sycamore trees now, but Fred can locate the surviving loading bays in the undergrowth where the coal for the kilns arrived; and further into the trees we find traces of the high quality bricks that were prized for their durability; they are noticeably dense & heavy to lift; Fred reckons these were mostly rejects by the look of them.

We’ve been walking south along the railway line from Carr Vale. Now we turn North and take a path that runs back up the valley alongside the River Doe Lea.

9Ahead are some big ponds – now a wildlife reserve. I assume they are where the clay
for the bricks was originally dug, but Fred puts us right – this is the result of mining
subsidence: the coal seams under the river were dug out more cautiously than the area surrounding it, leaving more columns of coal & rock standing to support the ground. As a result, the land around the river sank unevenly and created these dips; later we see lines of fence posts disappearing into the water.

10As we walk we talk of the experiences of a childhood in this valley: the favourite haunts and games, the long six weeks of freedom in the summer.

There were dangers to be sure – and Fred tells of boys who died in accidents while playing around the railway wagons or clambering into tunnels. But without taking these lightly, there was also a freedom to roam that it’s hard to imagine now.

11As we come closer to Carr Vale again, we scramble up the embankment that once carried Arkwright’s railway east across a viaduct and through the town. This is the site of one of Fred’s childhood exploits: pushing empty wagons up the incline as a gang & then riding them back down to hit the buffers at the bottom.

From up here you can see the squares of new Bolsover – the model village built by the Bolsover Mining Company in a genuine attempt to create a better living environment for its workers. Carr Vale was built soon after as the mine expanded – though it was clearly designed on more utilitarian lines. A description from D.H. Lawrence about houses on a hillside runs vaguely through my mind as we stand there; later I look it up & it turns out to be from Sons and Lovers:

“To accommodate the regiments of miners, Carston, Waite and Co. built the Squares, great quadrangles of dwellings on the hillside of Bestwood, and then, in the brook valley, on the site of Hell Row, they erected the Bottoms”

We are about 15miles as the crow flies from Lawrence’s home territory in Eastwood… a good days walk.

We end up back down in the town, just over the dividing line between Carr Vale and New Bolsover, standing by a new sculpture to commemorate the finding in 1978 of a fossil ancestor of the dragonfly on the coal face at Bolsover colliery. It’s one of the best specimens ever found of its species and is now in the British Museum. They stopped the cutter at the coal face while the geologists had a look for more; Fred recalls the story that the foreman’s advice to any miner who noticed another fossil that might hold up production was sharp and to the point.”

*A footnote on Sons and Lovers:
A quick look around for information on the BBC series reveals that it was shot in 1980 and scripted by no less a writer than Trevor Griffiths – there is a mention of it on his site at:-
And to top it off, the music was by John Tams …

Bolsover School Music Workshops

Chris Ellis and Dave Sturt  had a productive workshop with young musicans at Bolsover School, out of these sessions came a musical sequence for 2 acoustic guitars, 1 electric guitar, flute and percussion.

Together the musicans are making a new soundtrack for the donated vintage cine film footage that  Anthony Hatton is developing into a new film of Bolsover to be premiered on 15th March 7pm in Bolsover Assembly Rooms. Follow this link to see some short clips from the donated cine films. (Vintage 8mm films clips of Bolsover)

Photographs from the school workshops

IMG_0032 IMG_0035 IMG_4813 Past Lives workshop 1

Chris took the audio recordings of the session into the studio and produced a written score from them… “not a definitive score yet, of course, but a work in progress…” – Chris Ellis

Score writing in Chris Ellis' studio

Score writing in Chris Ellis’ studio

We’ll be showing the film with the live music production on 15th March, Bolsover Assembly Hall. Come along to the event, tickets available in Bolsover at Beans Cafe or TA Page & Son or via eventbrite http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/past-lives-film-live-music-performance-tickets-10630473031