Museum on Tour, 23 February 2017: Ropewalks #2 – A visit to the film and television archive

by Chiara Cabri, City Explainer

I am one of the team of people working on the realisation of the theatrical walking tour of the Barbican. My role is to capture the development of the project in a short film, helping to promote the people who are involved and the results of their hard work.

As a producer of sound and film, as well as an enthusiast of history and the arts, I was fascinated by the idea of a project that would unveil the rich heritage of Plymouth through entertainment. Being part of the team has exposed me to an amazing amount of knowledge about the past of the city where I’m living.

During one of the recent team meetings we had the chance to visit the South West Film and Television Archive.

Photograph of Plymouth Museum's city explainers at the South West Film and Television Archive

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA) is the largest regional film and television archive in the UK.

The archive was created when Television South West (TSW) closed at the end of 1993 and a great deal of SWFTA’s material is from TSW and its predecessor, Westward Television.

SWFTA’s core functions are preserving and making the material in its archive available. My role within this project will benefit from the archive, which contains invaluable footage of the Barbican in the past.

During the visit to SWFTA we were welcomed by Stacey Anderson, the Archive Director. She was kind enough to guide us around the building and give us an overview of the work that is carried out there.

Everyone on the team enjoyed the visit. A particular highlight was getting to see Gus Honeybun. I didn’t know who this funny puppet was, but it was a nice surprise for those who were born and raised in Plymouth and the local area.

Gus was the Westward Television and TSW mascot from 1961 to 1993. He’s a sort of a legend to a generation of people who tuned in at tea time on their birthdays to see if they were lucky enough to have their birthday cards read out, accompanied by a magic button or some bunny hops!

Photograph of Plymouth Museum's city explainers with Gus Honeybun

Some of SWFTA’s material dates back to the 1890s. It was fascinating to see how much history can be stored in a few rooms, and how much effort goes into the preservation and digitisation of the collections and old equipment.

The visit was particularly significant to me as the film maker for the walking tours project. Experiences like this visit have really cemented the project and boosted the enthusiasm of all those involved. I can’t wait to see what the team achieves and, eventually, be part of the audience.

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