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UnLOCked: The Library of Congress Discoveries at the BFI

Theatre 625: World of George Orwell - 1984

SELECTED highlights from the treasure-trove of early British TV dramas unearthed at the Library of Congress are to be screened by the BFI.

Over 100 hours of lost British TV dramas were discovered in the archives of The Library of Congress (LOC) last year, in what was hailed as the “most important” retrieval of material since the search for such footage began.

Now, the British Film Institute (BFI), which orchestrated the recovery of the shows from America, has announced that it set to screen a number of the recovered gems during a two-month season dedicated to the finds.

UnLOCked: The Library of Congress Discoveries runs across June and July at BFI Southbank, with the first month dedicated to 20th century dramas and the second focused on pre-20th century.

Screenings scheduled for June are as follows: Theatre 625: “World of George Orwell – 1984”, Theatre 625: “Dr Knock” (starring Leonard Rossiter), Twentieth Century Theatre: “Colombe” (starring Sean Connery), Play of the Week: “The Typewriter” (starring Jeremy Brett), and Twentieth Century Theatre: The Insect Play.

Dick Fiddy of the BFI says the forthcoming season demonstrates the institute’s determination to provide access to the finds.

He said: “When such material is found, there are concerns expressed in some quarters that the footage will just disappear into various archives,
never to see the light of day, partly because of the perceived reluctance on the part of broadcasters and product releasers to exploit vintage black-and-white material.

“Indeed, many similar titles to those found in the LOC have survived intact but remain unseen and unreleased on archive shelves.

“However, the BFI – which has mounted numerous
seasons over the years to exploit such materials and encouraged various regional venues to do the same – was determined to provide access to these finds.

“Accordingly, June sees the launch of a two-month season of highlights from the collection, which will then be followed by regular screenings of further titles through various stranded programming.”


Lost Sean Connery TV footage found in US – BBC News (September 14, 2010)

Footage of British stars unearthed in lost archive in America – The Telegraph (September 14, 2010).

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A LEGENDARY ‘lost’ performance by rock band Pink Floyd is just one of the many recently-unearthed television treasures being shown at a major London event this Saturday (January 9).

Other highlights in a packed schedule at BFI Southbank include footage of The Who, Black Sabbath and Procol Harum during their prime; a vintage episode of acclaimed Sixties’ sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, and the late Ronnie Barker shining in a long-missing comedy gem.

Organised and run by the British Film Institute, Missing Believed Wiped is an annual survey of recently rediscovered television material. It showcases the important work of missing episode enthusiasts and organisations in tracking down our lost TV heritage: programmes tragically considered ephemeral and disposable at the time of broadcast but now recognised as of great cultural value.

And this year, for the first time, the BFI will be running the popular event in conjunction with classic TV organisation Kaleidoscope, responsible for bringing to light some of the biggest discoveries of 2009.

Programme One: “A Mixed Bag” – features episodes from two very different yet equally entertaining BBC sitcoms recovered with the help of Kaleidoscope. One of comedy’s finest (and foulest) creations – Alf Garnett (played by Warren Mitchell) – rails against devious politicians and the world in general in an episode of Till Death Us Do Part entitled ‘State Visit’, from 1967. The second screening is of a show referred to as “Fawlty Towers mark one” by its writer and main star, the late great Ronnie Barker. In His Lordship Entertains, from 1973, Barker plays Lord Rustless, the owner of a stately home-turned-hotel. Truly an orphaned episode, “The Food Inspector” is the sole surviving instalment of this seven-part show.

Completing the first half of Programme One is an update by Kaleidoscope on the Bob Monkhouse archive, entrusted to the group by the family of the late comedian and comprising a vast collection of film reels, videos and audio tapes amassed by the performer during his lifetime, and a presentation on lost BSB satellite TV archive material from the 1990s.

Programme Two: “Music, Music, Music” brings together all of the year’s music finds, including a rediscovered Time for Blackburn featuring a live 1970s performance from The Who; a compilation of musical finds from the 1970s series Look! Hear! featuring rare performances from Black Sabbath and The Selecter, and introduced by the show’s presenter John Holmes; segments from Top of the Pops from the collection of DJ David Hamilton; and very rare 1960s material from Top of the Pops featuring these performances:

From TOTP 6th July 1967 (Presenter: Alan Freeman)
• Pink Floyd – See Emily Play
• Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale

From TOTP 27th July 1967 (Presenter: Alan Freeman)
• Dave Davies – Death of a Clown
• The Alan Price Set – The House That Jack Built
• The Turtles – She’d Rather be With Me

Kaleidoscope’s Chris Perry said: “The cultural significance of this TOTP material cannot be underestimated. Unearthed in an unnamed rock star’s collection, the material had been severely damaged and was in an extremely poor condition, but was retrieved as far as possible by BFI technicians.

“About 20 minutes of the material had been considered completely lost, and is sure to generate huge interest among music fans and music historians all over the world.

“Despite the fact that the quality of the footage is still poor, the recordings remain a highly important and fascinating document of some of pop’s greatest names.”

Dick Fiddy, BFI TV Programmer/ Consultant, said: “For more than 15 years, the BFI’s annual Missing Believed Wiped campaign has given the public access to vital material long thought lost from the British television archives.

“This year, we are once again very grateful to our partner organisation Kaleidoscope, who have collaborated with us on retrieving material and making it available for this screening.”

  • Missing Believed Wiped runs in NFT1 at the BFI Southbank, London, on Saturday, January 9th. Programme One starts at 4.15pm and Programme Two at 6.30pm. For this event, joint tickets for Programmes One and Two are available for £12.90, concs £9.65 (members pay £1.40 less). Unless otherwise stated, tickets are £9.00, concs £7.60.

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