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The North Devon Movie Bus project delivered around 500 individual archive film screenings between March 2010 and March 2011 and was received with open arms and warm hearts all around the region. The project far exceeded expectations and smashed target audience numbers comfortably and was subsequently shortlisted for the 2011 Media and Innovation Awards.

We toured series of custom made short films, each dealing with different local areas and weaving together a narrative from diverse archive film content such as farming & fishing to local customs & celebrations. All of the films were a real hit with both locals and tourists alike, giving a deeply felt sense of a time gone by, and for many who know the area well a nostalgic look at people and places now sadly passed.

The education strand of the project was also a great success, the excitement of having something as unusual as the Movie Bus arriving at a school encouraged students to engage with the project and film material, making learning fun. Movie Bus visits to school groups were about much more than just showing a film.

The project was delivered to primary, secondary and older pupils, and were adapted to focus on the needs of the class. A learning resource pack accompaned each film, with replica moving image artefacts from the Bill Douglas Centre of Exeter University such as zoetropes, shadow theatres, praxinoscopes, phenakistocopes and magic mirrors. These helped the students to engage with hands-on learning about the history of the moving image.

The archive material we used was sourced from the ever helpful South West Film and TV Archive (SWFTA) which holds nearly 130,000 films and tapes dating from the start of film making in the 1880’s to the present day, covering all aspects of life in the South West of England. One of the challenges of moving into the digital age is to keep this archive footage accessible as old technologies become obsolete. The Movie Bus Project has ensured that generations to come are able to access a part of this important record of our history on a modern format.

The Films

The first film produced was ‘A Tale of Two Rivers’, and is about the Taw and Torridge estuary. It includes footage of the Bideford Bridge collapse of 1968, the gravelmen on the banks, the dangers of being a seaman, and grand shipbuilding projects that Appledore has seen such as the Nunsuch and the Golden Hinde.

The second film was in keeping with the spirit of the North Devon Festival which was one of the project partners, and is about local customs and celebrations – and does North Devon know how to celebrate! ‘Sootbombs and Blazing Barrels’ features rare and exciting  1930’s footage of Lynmouth Lifeboat Day, Barum Old Fair and Carnival, to Holsworthy Ale Tasting, Hatherleigh tar barrels, Westward Ho! potwalloping, the Torrington May Fair and chasing the Earl of Tyrone in Combe Martin, there’s something that everyone in the area will find of interest.

‘The Beast, the Hunt & the Harvest’ has exciting scenes from the hunt for the Beast of Exmoor, as well as a surprising conclusion. There is a controversial debate about hunting, that was as fierce sixty years ago as it is today, and the powerful images of farming in days gone by will surprise you with their beauty. Don’t be surprised if you find a tear springs to your eye.

 ‘Hippies & Hooligans – Yesterday’s Westcountry Youth’ is a hilarious journey into the lives of young people fifty or sixty years ago. Attitudes and expectations will surprise and shock you. Each time we have screened this film the cinema fills with laughter at the comic scenes from yesterday’s youth.

rowing boat

The Taw & Torridge Estuary

‘North of the River, South of the Sea’ is a look at two of North Devon’s most important towns; Ilfracombe and Braunton. Watch steam trains arrive in both stations, with nostalgia and controvosy in equal measure as the population discuss a future of the town as seen in the past. Containing footage from 1898 through to 1989, this compilation covers the widest timespan of all our films.

‘From Hartland Point to Lundy Light’ is our very exciting new film about the North Devon Coast. Thanks to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we have been able to rescue footage that has not been seen for many years. You’ll get a sense of the foreboding that accompanied the new motorway, you’ll be amused to see motor cars trying to access parts of the coast that we never designed as such, and the heartening scenes of community life engender a strong nostalgia for times gone by.

‘Movin’ On Up’ is a look at the changing face of transportation over the years in and around North Devon. From steam engines to crazy flying contraptions, this film will transport you into North Devon’s past like nothing else!

‘Nine to Five’ focuses on the world of work, looking at how we have spent our days and earned our keep in the past. From the frantic factory floors to the tranquil milkman’s round, this is a glimpse into the way we used to put bread on the table.

We produced these films together with Maniac Films in Croyde, all these films are still available for the public to buy on DVD fro mthe Museum of North Devon & Barnstaple, and are also suitable for schools to use as inspiration for continuing the education work that the Movie Bus was a part of during the project in North Devon. Each disc features four of our 20 minute archive films and our 3 minute introductory film about the restoration of the bus, produced by Ilfracombe Arts College.

Thanks to all those who supported the Movie Bus over the course of the year, and who made the project such a success. The Movie Bus Project was a collaboration between the Vintage Mobile Cinema, the Museum of North Devon & Barnstaple, the North Devon Theatres Trust, the Bill Douglas Centre of Exeter University, the North Devon Festival, and the South West Film and TV Archive (SWFTA). It was funded by  the UK Film Council’s Digital Film Archive Fund administered by South West Screen; the Museum, Libraries and Archives Partnership; and the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Sustainable Development Fund.