Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon were travelling filmmakers who documented everyday life in ordinary Britain. Lost for years, a treasure trove of their remarkable work was discovered in Lancashire basement, restored and released to the world by the BFI in 2005.
Chances are, Mitchell and Kenyon never gave a thought to posterity. They were businessmen with a living to make; their job was to capture as many faces as possible with their camera to bring in paying audiences to their film shows. They wouldn’t see themselves as artists, let alone social scientists. But thanks to the conspiracy of flukes that preserved hundreds of their films in a Blackburn basement for nearly a century, that’s exactly what they’ve become.
What were, in their day, ephemeral local entertainments are now vital documents of social history: records of real, ordinary Edwardian life and behaviour more vivid and immediate than any photograph or written account. What emerges is a lively, fun-loving people a world away from the starchy, usually upper-class Edwardians of popular imagination.
The films catalogue much of the fabric of ordinary people's lives in Edwardian Britain, from the workplace to football matches to public processions, and offer an astonishing glimpse into lives previously thought beyond the reach of documentary film.
Read more from the BFI's Mark Duguid here.