Lancaster project captures the glamour and glitz of cinema in the 1930s and beyond

Silver screen stars from the left: Carole Lombard, Clark Gable and Ginger Rogers. Photographs reproduced courtesy of Picturegoer Magazine postcards.
Silver screen stars from the left: Carole Lombard, Clark Gable and Ginger Rogers. Photographs reproduced courtesy of Picturegoer Magazine postcards.

Photographs of fabulous film stars and fascinating interviews form part of a stunning new online showcase to capture 1930s cinemagoing in Britain.

The website, to help researchers and the public in their quest for information about the silver screen in the 1930s and beyond, has just been launched.

Part of a £778,000 project, led by Lancaster University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the website showcases a collection of cinema materials stored in Lancaster University Library’s special collections.

The website features pictures, postcards and other memorabilia from 1930s cinemagoing in Britain, a period when going to the cinema was at its height.

The most valuable part of the collection features more than 100 interviews with people who were enthusiastic cinemagoers during that decade.

Some 30 or more of these interviews are currently available on the website, with more to come. Materials will be added to the website on a weekly basis, with a launch of the full website planned for September 2021.

The project’s starting point is the materials gathered in the course of Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain (CCINTB), a large-scale inquiry, conducted in the 1990s, into cinema audiences and film going in the 1930s.

The CCINTB collection at the University Library includes:

  • In-depth audio interviews with 1930s cinemagoers living in four areas of mainland Britain – Glasgow, Manchester, Norwich and London
  • Questionnaires completed by 1930s cinemagoers from across the UK
  • Letters, essays and written memoirs received from interviewees and questionnaire respondents
  • A range of items of cinema going memorabilia and artefacts from the 1930s (diaries, postcard collections, scrapbooks, cinema programmes, posters, magazines).

The project is being led by Dr Richard Rushton, a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Lancaster University, who said: “The Cinema Memory website showcases a range of fascinating interviews and images that evoke the excitement and everyday importance of 1930s cinemagoing.

“Some of the pictures and postcards of film stars are fabulous, while the interviews are simply extraordinary. They offer wonderful insights into what it was like to go to the movies during the 1930s in Britain."

Co-Investigators on the project are distinguished UK film scholar Professor Annette Kuhn (Queen Mary University of London), who conducted the original CCINTB research while working at Lancaster University in the early-2000s, and Dr Sarah Neely (University of Glasgow), a specialist in the areas of film history and archival research.

Work on the website has been conducted by Dr Julia McDowell, along with Dr Jamie Terrill, Dr Annie Nissen and Dr Claire McGann, all of whom are Research Associates on the Cinema Memory and the Digital Archive project.

The project’s research phase will introduce substantial new findings on the cinema experience and cinema memory, while sharing these insights with the research community via international workshops, conferences, and publications. An online symposium was held to mark the launch of the website, with speakers from the UK, Belgium, Sweden and Australia taking part.

You can access the interim website by

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