Great Nottinghamshire History Fair

On Sunday 10th May 11am – 3pm Past Lives Project will be at Mansfield Library at the Great Nottinghamshire History Fair! We’ll be sharing our project, we’ll have projectors and cameras to show, photos and films we’ve collected during the project.

In the small cinema at the library we’ll be showing Past Lives Bolsover, Nottingham, Mansfield and Ironbridge films. And you’ll even be able to buy DVD’s from our stall, drop by and say hello. We hope to see you there!

great nottinghamshire history fairi

Past Lives with First Art in Mansfield

On Saturday 2nd May we ran a Cake for Memories swap cafe with First Art. First Art are an ACE funded, People and Places project, focusing on Mansfield, Bolsover, Ashfield and North East Derbyshire. They have turned an empty shop in the town centre into a small arts venue for the next three weeks and are running lots of activities from the shop to find out what creativity means to people in Mansfield. They have also organised a stunning exhibition in Mansfield Market Place, working with, featuring large cube photographic light boxes. The project is called Portrait and features photographs of local people. The work looks amazing and has been received very well locally.


Working with First Art offered a great opportunity  for us to reconnect with Mansfield.We finished making the Mansfield film in Feb 2015 and showed the film with live music at the Mansfield Palace Theatre. We’ve been busy recording the soundtrack for the DVD and working on Past Lives Derby since then, so to meet up with members of the Mansfield community again and for us to show the film to a new audience was a lovely experience.

Reminiscence Vintage set up their stunning vintage cafe in the shop and we offered tea, coffee and cake to anyone who walked in the door who wanted to share a memory of Mansfield. We were inundated with over 100 visitors throughout the day and we heard many stunning memories from people of all ages.


First Art Shop full of participants, having tea, cake and coffee provided by Reminiscence Vintage


Dave Sturt listening to locals share their memories about Mansfield


Debbie Adele Cooper is working with First Art to run a photo mapping project across their 4 regions. Participants can map their photos of Mansfield on a digital online map, and a physical map in the shop. We also used the map during the Past Lives event to map memories of Mansfield. This picture shows participants adding their memory to the map with help of volunteers.


You can catch up with us at Mansfield Library on Sunday 10th May at the Great Nottinghamshire History Event. We’ll be showing four Past Lives films (Bolsover, Nottingham, Ironbridge and Mansfield) in the small cinema, and we’ll have a stall with delicious cake from Reminiscence Vintage. Drop by and say hello.

And if you have photos of Mansfield you can take part in First Art’s Map of Mansfield project, at your photos will be printed and exhibited in the shop on the Market Place.

Memories of Granada Cinema, Mansfield 1958

During our time working in Mansfield we met some wonderful people and heard some amazing stories, one of these people is Malcolm Appleby, who started work at Granada Cinema in Mansfield at the age of 15 in 1958. Malcolm has shared photographs and film with Past Lives Project and has written this following blog post below to share his memories.

Malc mansfield rooftops granada cinema


I left school in 1958 aged 15 and the only job I wanted to do was to be a film projectionist. My father, Charles Albert Appleby, was a keen cinemagoer & he & I spent a lot of my early teenage years in local cinemas watching the stars of the screen who were popular at that time. The multicoloured beam of the projector light, made even more vivid by cigarette smoke, coming from the porthole at the back of the cinema fascinated me. I often wondered how many people worked up in the “box”; what did the job entail; how many reels of 35mm film made up a 2 hour feature film; what kind of high intensity light was used to make such a large picture so bright on the screen; how HOT would it get in that “box”? So many questions ran through my mind.

When I knew my school leaving date I made an appointment & went to see Mr Bush, the manager, at the Granada cinema on Westgate, Mansfield, Notts. The interview went well & I started work there in April 1958. I asked Mr Bush if I would need any special work clothes, to which he replied that no, just casual clothes that it won’t matter if they get splashed with film cement!

On my first day at the Granada Mr Bush introduced me to Alf Bailey, the chief projectionist, who took me up to the projector room. Alf explained to me all the duties that I would be expected to do & introduced me to my fellow work colleagues, Ray Walker, Mick Fowler, Dave Lumber & Billy Parsons.

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There were 5 rooms up there, the main projection room with 2 large Ross projectors, a slide projector & onstage spotlight. The 2 projectors had high intensity arc lamps that needed cleaning out every morning which, as trainee projectionist, would be part of my job. At the rear of the room was a bank of Westrex sound equipment with various switches & dials. The second room was the rewind & make up room; the third room housed a spotlight & the other 2 rooms were used for storage.

Learning to thread up the projector was quite a skill, remembering to leave various loops of certain sizes so that the film didn’t tighten up & snap whilst running through the machine at 90 feet per minute. Each reel contained 2,000 feet of film, a 2 hour feature film containing 12,000 feet of film, so changeovers were required from one projector to the second one to maintain a continuous show. To enable this, cue dots appeared at the top right corner of the screen a few minutes before the reel ended, & the sound & picture were transferred from one reel of film on Number 1 projector to the reel of film on the second projector so perfectly that anyone watching the film wouldn’t realise that it had actually happened.

Malcolm on the projector
A normal day started about 10.30 am, when we would get everything checked & ready for the first film showing about 1 pm. Shows were continuous & would end about 10.30pm. This was repeated daily, Monday to Saturday. Sunday didn’t start until about 5.30 pm & we would have one regular day off in the week.
Films were delivered by FTS (Film Transport Service) on a Saturday night. A film was made up of about 6 reels so we were taking delivery of about 12reels in cans holding 3 reels each. These were heavy & had to be manually carried up from the foyer to the “box”, about 50 steps, so we were kept fit! Films were made up on Monday morning ready for the first showing on Monday afternoon. There would be a ‘first’ feature film, a ‘second’ feature film, Pathe Pictorial Look at Life, trailers for future films & adverts. All of these had to be put onto our own spools ready for running through the projectors . At that time we were showing continuous performances which meant that the public could go in at any time after the cinema opened about 1 pm and stay in for as long as they wanted to until closing time about 10.30 pm. Films were being shown 3 times a day for 6 days a week. Sundays there was usually a different film shown. Films we were showing around that time were; Bridge on the River Kwai, Pal Joey, Gigi, South Pacific, etc. They were all in stereo sound & cinemascope (which was later changed in favour of Panavision)

In the 1950’s the film industry was going through a rough time due to the increasing popularity of the new TV’s which people could watch in their own homes. A lot of smaller independent cineams had to close. In the Mansfield area there had been about a dozen cinemas but by late 50’s/early 60’s there were only Granada, Century (which was part of Granada group) & The Grand (later the ABC.)

The Granada tried to get people back through the doors by putting on live wrestling matches on a Friday night. These lasted for a month or so but, although very popular, weren’t really the answer to the dwindling audiences. They also had local performers on on Sunday evenings, including Shane Fenton (later Alvin Stardust)

Around 1959 Alf Bailey semi retired & was transferred to the Century cinema on Midworth Street, Mansfield (they only opened for an evening performance so Alf’s hours were reduced to suit his semi retirement) & the chief projectionist from the Century, Ken Robey, was transferred to the Granada. Again around this time the Granada manager, Mr Bush, moved to a different cinema & was replaced by Fred Dawson.
About 1959/1960 John Hamp, producer at Granada TV studios in Manchester, promoted live stage shows at the Granada on a Saturday evening & night. Lots of the popular singers & groups appeared including The Beatles, Cliff Richard, Helen Shapiro, Marty Wilde, Russ Conway, etc. along with up & coming comedians & personalities of the time like Bob Monkhouse, Jon Pertwee (who went on to be Dr Who), Hughie Green, Jimmy Tarbuck.
The Granada had been built as a cinema &, as such, had a small stage area not really suitable for these shows & didn’t have any dressing rooms backstage. To enable full use of the stage, the screen had to be made to wind up out of the way & the speakers behind the screen were pushed back. Extra spotlights were erected high above the front stalls for the extra lighting needed on the artists on stage. When the stage show finishd about 11pm Saturday night everything had to be put back into it’s normal place ready for the films starting again on Sunday. Dressing rooms were built onto the outside of the building on the left side of the stage. These stage shows took place about 4 times a year & they made Saturdays into long working days. We started about 8.30 am with the children’s matinees, then after that finished around noon, all the preparation of moving the screen, speakers, setting up lighting for the stage show & getting everything ready for individual artists needs, etc had to be done. We then had the 2 shows (5.30 pm & 8.30 pm) to do & finally clear everything away, so we weren’t finishing until after midnight.
I left the Granada in 1963 as I was getting married later that year &, although I loved the job, the pay was very low & not adequate to support me as a married man.
John Hamp in the early 1970’s went on to help up & coming comedians like Bernad Manning, George Roper, Ken Goodwin & Jim Bowen on Granada TV in a show called “The Comedians”

Feature in Mansfield Chad

Great feature this week of Past Lives project in Mansfield Chad, big thanks to Chad Newsdesk for helping share the project, you can read in more detail here:

Tickets are selling fast for our Mansfield Grande Finale, pick up your tickets via: Mansfield Palace Theatre web bookings or call 01623 633133




Over the last 6 months Past Lives team have been working intensively with Mansfield local community and Mansfield Museum to digitise local cine film, photos and gather oral history. The cine film has been edited to create a new film of the town, and will be shown with live music from local young musicians who have been working with international musicians. Photos digitised though the project will be shown on the day too.

Mansfield on 7th Feb 2:30, one off performance with live music & exhibition, tickets are selling fast, follow the link or call to book your place –  Mansfield Palace Theatre web bookings or call 01623 633133

Great Nottinghamshire Local History Fair

Recently we held a stall at the ‘Great Nottinghamshire Local History Fair’, we had a great day out and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet history groups from Mansfield and Nottingham, particularly as we’ll be bringing Past Lives Project to both of those regions in the next year.

We had a fantastic meeting with a chap who showed us a photo of his grandfather from Bolsover, we couldn’t believe it when we saw the picture, as we had used the photograph at the Past Lives Exhibition and listed the picture (below) as ‘Unknown Gentleman Carr Vale’, as part of the Past Lives Bolsover Project we partnered with Picture The Past to share some of their archive photos lacking information, in an aim to add provenance to the photos. (Link to Picture the Past original)


So it was fantastic when we learned some more information about the Unknown Gentleman…

The photo was most likely taken at the Station Hotel at Cresswell, and the gentleman’s name is Lewis Shinfield. He worked as a shaft sinker in Cresswell Pit and referred to himself as a ‘German’ and that his original family name was Schoenfeld. The second photo is of Lewis Shinfield’s wife in the middle and his sister and daughter. Photo was taken in 1898 and Lewis died in 1912.

One of the many great things of Past Lives Project are these personal stories that come along with the photos and film, and it’s wonderful to be able to add more provenance to archives.

We’ve forwarded the information to Picture The Past and they will be able to update their archive shortly.

Training Day at MACE

The Past Lives Project team recently went on an archive film training day at the Media Archive for Central England, Richard Shenton (opening the shelves so quickly he’s blurred), head of access and learning at MACE took us on a very cold tour of the film stored in temperature controlled conditions. One of the reasons our project has received funding from HLF & ACE is due to the rapid deterioration rate of film footage and the urgent need to do something about this; If film footage is stored in cupboards, lofts, under beds; places where temperature and more importantly humidity fluctuates the footage will be rapidly deteriorating and needs digitising and preserving straight away before the footage becomes so damaged that it will be unable to be saved or viewed.


Row upon row of archive shelves, which first must be unwound to allow us to walk between


Dave Sturt & Anthony Hatton with Richard Shenton of MACE


Richard gives us an idea of how the 8mm film may look when it is donated to the project


Often donated footage comes in boxes with lots of other ephemera (bits and bobs)

Donated footage often comes in boxes with other bits of ephemera, things we might expect to also find with the footage will be notes, audio reels, photos etc. These items are not in MACE’s remit as they deal with footage alone, but for the Past Lives Project other ephemera will be perfect!


More shelves of film and ephemera to explore!


Projector and film reels


Titles on film reels that entice curiosity, many of these films are awaiting digitisation due to cutbacks in public funding


Black Magic… No.20, not at first what it seems – these films were donated by the Coal Board


‘Know your film’ a handy guide to help us identify the types of donated film and get an idea of when the film (not the footage) was produced


Moviscop – a fabulous device from Germany that allows film viewing without damaging the film

Our training day with MACE has left us feeling ready to start taking footage from the public, but we’re glad that MACE are only a phone call (or quick trip to Lincoln away) and will be supporting us with their vast knowledge throughout the project over the next 2 years. MACE staff will also be attending some of the Past Lives Project open days so look out for MACE at those, our first open day will be 30th Nov 2013, 10am -2pm Bolsover Parish Rooms (more dates to follow shortly)

Please check out MACE’s regularly updated blog:

Past Lives Project

Capturing moving images is now commonplace with mobile phones and pocket cameras but before the digital age it wasn’t so easy. Small format movie cameras were the liberating technology of the mid 20th century giving ordinary people the chance to capture everyday events on their 8mm and 16mm cameras.

Cipher (Theo Travis and Dave Sturt)  collaborated with visual artist Anthony Hatton to produce a thought-provoking and engaging visual and live musical experience using previously unseen archive footage from the Media Archive for Central England, including local images of the Midlands from the 1930s to the 1970s and with music composed by Cipher.

The new live soundtrack features Travis on sax, flute and keys and Sturt on fretless and upright bass and sound design and combines acoustic and electric instruments with digital looping technology and computer sound processing. The musicians in Cipher have previously collaborated with Gong, Robert Fripp, Bill Nelson and David Sylvian. The score also features acclaimed string players – Deirdre Benscik (cello) and Clare Bhabra (violin) both from the Midlands based orchestra Sinfonia Viva. This will be the first time Cipher have augmented their sound with strings.

The Past Lives project toured the Midlands in 2012, and depending on funding will be touring the Midlands in 2014 & 15 as a participatory and community local history, music and film project. There will be a series of film & music workshops in each locality to enable participants to digitise and edit antique footage to create new films and learn about editing film and writing and performing music with film. Look out for project open days and reminiscence cafes across the Midlands in 2014 & 2015.