A Smile in the Mind

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We nipped over to The Partners on Wednesday evening for the launch of the revamped A Smile in the Mind – Witty thinking in graphic design.

The book was originally published in 1996 (that’s our grubby copy on the left up above, which we picked up around 1999), and presented a wealth of the sort of graphic design that deals with ideas, play and wit. When we were at college, it was considered a key text for ideas-based design.

With a fresh neon pink coat, the new version has been extensively revised and updated, with over 1,000 examples of witty logos, book covers, posters, illustrations, packaging and photography – about 50% of it new material. And we’re ridiculously chuffed to have our work for Hoxton Street Monster Supplies included in amongst that.

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hsms_0015_Vague Sense of Unease

hsms_0025_Fang Floss

We thought we’d show a few more pieces from the book here. Up first, a cover for Nabakov’s Lolita, by the offensively talented Jamie Keenan. Quite possibly our favourite bit of graphic design from the last twenty years.

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Sticking with book covers, our studio partner David Pearson’s wonderful cover for Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, from the Penguin Great Ideas series, is rather brilliant too – with the spine of the book duplicated repeatedly across the front cover.

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This logo for The Guild of Food Writers by 300 Million is a perfect example of graphic wit and economy:

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Sticking with food, this pack by Design Bridge for Tiger Nuts is, well, the nuts.

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There’s a good section at the back of the book where various design folk talk through how they came up with an idea, including this corker of a poster by Arnold Schwartzman for the Los Angeles Olympics:

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A Smile in the Mind is a fantastic compendium of witty thinking, and a real credit to both Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart who put together the original edition, and Greg Quinton and Nick Asbury who put together the new edition.

You can see a further selection of work from the book (including our stuff) over at Creative Review.

60 years of TV commercials

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We made our way over to Hixter Bankside yesterday for the annual Clearcast party, for which we’d designed an 8 metre long backdrop.

Clearcast are the clearance service for the TV advertising industry – they review TV commercials at the script stage, checking that they conform to the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising. That way, before production begins, advertisers can make sure their ads aren’t harmful, misleading or offensive.

Clearcast asked us to create an eye-catching backdrop to celebrate the recent milestone of 60 years of commercial television. We looked through the archives of the most popular TV adverts, and pulled together a selection of the best bits from the scripts. We then created a huge typographic backdrop, designed to fit onto a glass partition in the venue’s main room. (The backdrop was produced by the event organisers, PR Live.)

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If you click the image below, it should open up the full artwork.

Here are the ads from which those bits of copy come – nostalgia-fest!

Cinzano – with the fantastic Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins:

 

Gibbs S.R. Toothpaste – this was the first advert shown on UK television:

 

Sugar Puffs

 

Renault Clio

 

Guinness

 

Boddingtons

 

comparethemarket.com

 

British Telecom

 

Um Bongo

 

R Whites Lemonade

 

Heineken

 

Budweiser

 

Yellow Pages

 

Birdseye Steakhouse Grills

(Going through those ads made us realise that commercials with great dialogue are few and far between these days. We have a feeling that might be because ads are made to work in many different countries now, so dialogue (except in voice-over) is far less common. Or perhaps witty copywriting is just out of fashion? Seems a shame.)

There was also a photo-booth at the party, run by the good chaps from Lots of Little Ideas, and we designed a series of prop-cards for that, featuring taglines from some old adverts – all set with the correct typographic styling.

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Werewolf Biscuits

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Our latest product for Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is due to hit the shelves soon, and we’re hoping it’s going to be a best seller. (It’s already been featured by Werewolf News, which bodes well.)

Werewolf Biscuits are ‘perfect for lycanthropes of all sizes’. And guaranteed 100% silver-free.

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We also created a bespoke version of the packaging for The Story, the fantastic annual conference based around story telling of every conceivable form. The packs featured the running order for the conference on the back, and went down a storm with the delegates:

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See more buzz about the conference (and the biscuits) on this Storify page.

Werewolf Biscuits will be available online and in store soon.

British Pathé

 

So we’ve just lost a few hours browsing through the fantastic British Pathé archive on YouTube. We thought we’d share a few highlights here.

Up above, a short film from 1967 showcasing the new British road signage system. Check out how a handy guide helps drivers to decipher the new signs.

The film below shows how a Mr Batley can produce portraits on a Monotype caster.

 

 

The next film, Wallpaper, is brilliant, showing how wallpaper is printed – all set to a swinging soundtrack that lets you know this is just about the most fun a human being can have.

 

 

And how about this one – showcasing how Ordnance Survey maps are produced?

 

 

Or, say, when you’re enjoying your favourite magazine, do you ever wonder what went into its making?

 

 

This short film shows how neon lettering is made by remarkably smartly-dressed men in Acton:

 

 

Here are a couple of chaps engraving postage stamps:

 

 

Finally, meet Mr Leonard Ware, the rubber man:

 

 

Find more over at the Pathé channel.

Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse

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We were invited along to a ‘blogger’s evening’* at the Royal Academy on Friday to check out their new show, Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse.

The show documents the huge popularity of gardens as a subject amongst painters during the second half of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th. It’s a very Royal Academy show: beautiful, accessible, and popular / populist. It’s all extremely civilised. That could be damning with faint praise, and certainly some of the paintings in the exhibition are almost offensively pretty – but overall, it’s a good show, particularly thanks to the later works by Monet.

At the beginning of the evening we were given a passionate and informative introductory talk by art historian Graham Greenfield, who explained that although gardens had existed throughout history, they had largely been habitats of the rich and privileged. With the industrialisation of the 19th century though, and the growing middle class, gardens had flourished as domestic spaces. An explosion of affordable publishing had allowed a rapid and extensive spread of horticultural knowledge through books and seed catalogues. (As well as the paintings, there are photographs and ephemera on display in the show, including some beautiful copies of the Dictionnaire Pratique D’Horticulture et de Jardinage.)

Gardening had become a thing.

And at the same time, the Impressionists were responding to the advent of photography. Painting had been freed up from being directly representational, and could now be far more expressive.

Within this context, the show presents the work of a wealth of big names: Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Monet, Sargent, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Matisse, Klimt and Klee. The show is organised by various themed rooms (Impressionist Gardens, International Gardens, Gardens of Silence and Reverie, and Avant Gardens – see what they did there?) Threaded throughout these are rooms dedicated to Monet.

The first room, showing the early days of Impressionism, is perhaps the least interesting – it feels as if all the artists are working from the same fixed viewpoint. But as the show progresses, the work becomes more and more interesting, as it slowly evolves into something closer to abstraction.

The paintings that really caught our eye were Gustave Caillebotte’s Nasturtiums (1892), and Gustav Klimt’s Cottage Garden (1905-7).

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But Monet is the undoubted star, and the work he made based on his gardens in Giverny takes centre stage.

It’s the final room that holds the real show-stopper, with the three paintings that make up Monet’s triptych Water Lilies (Agapanthus) having been brought together for the first time outside of the USA. They cover three walls of the octagonal Wohl Central Hall, so that as you stand in front of the central panel, your vision is filled with Monet’s incredible painting. You feel as if you’re simultaneously floating in and above the water of the pond. And at the same time, you’re drawn to the surface of the canvas, to the individual brush strokes – you can see why these paintings were so inspirational to Jackson Pollock. They’re quite wonderful.

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They are part of the series of huge (around 2m x 4m) canvases Monet made at Giverny, the Grandes Décorations. You can see others from this series in a couple of dedicated oval rooms at the Musée de L’Orangerie in Paris. (If you can’t visit there in person, you can always Google your way round.)

The show is definitely worth a visit – be warned though, it’s busy, and probably well worth trying to get there early in the day, ahead of the crowds, while you can still have some chance of feeling like you’re enjoying the peace and calm of a beautiful garden.

————–

* Why is it that that sounds so undignified?

A decade of photography

 

Alistair, who runs We Made This, spends most of his time designing stuff. But he also spends a fair bit of time hiding behind a camera. We thought we’d share a selection of his work from across the last ten years – just click on the picture above to open up a slideshow.

Check out more of his work over at Alistair Hall Photography and even more over on his Flickr page.

British Hardware Federation

British-Hardware-Federation

We stumbled across this little paper bag the other day, and crikey it’s peculiar.

It features branding for the British Hardware Federation, the national trade association for independent hardware and DIY retailers in the UK. We’re not quite sure when this particular bag dates from, but we’d guess it’s the early 1970s. (We’ve been in touch with the BHF to ask them if they know anything about the branding, but they’ve not got back to us with any answers yet.)

So that symbol. That’s the male gender symbol right?*

So, hum, was the British Hardware Federation really suggesting, as James Brown would have it, that DIY is a ‘man’s man’s man’s world’? Because that seems kinda outrageous, even in the 70s.

gender-symbols

The symbol itself, the circle with an arrow pointing outwards at an angle, and its equivalent female symbol, the circle with a cross below it, have an interesting history.

Their use as markers of gender dates back to the work of Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus, in his dissertation Plantae Hybridae (1751), where he used them for male and female parents of hybrid plants.

But Linnaeus didn’t invent the symbols, he just appropriated them from the scientific study of alchemy, where the male symbol was originally used to refer to the metal iron, and the female symbol to the metal copper. In fact he’d previously used them as such in his 1735 piece, System Naturae.

The symbols’ use in alchemy derived from a shorthand for the names of the planets, each of which was associated with a metal. Iron (a hard red metal used to make weapons) was associated with Mars (big red planet, god of war); and copper (a soft metal that turns green) was associated with Venus (goddess of love). Read all about that over on this Today I Found Out article.

Which is all well and good, but doesn’t perhaps explain why the male gender symbol was used to brand a DIY trade body. It’s possible it was something to do with iron, but it feels like most people would have connected the symbol with maleness way before they thought about a hard red metal.

Of course, there’s a much more contemporary instance of the symbol being used as a key part of a much larger brand identity…

volvo-logo

Volvo refer to their mark as ‘the iron mark’, so they’re definitely anchoring (sorry) the symbol with that meaning. As opposed to subtly suggesting that cars are just for men.

*If anyone knows any more about the British Hardware Federation identity, get in touch. It’s always possible that the symbol refers to something very DIY specific. We’d love to know.

Recreating The Wipers Times

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On Saturday 12 February 1916, the first edition of a newspaper, The Wipers Times, was published.

Twelve pages long, it featured a mix of editorial, articles, advertisements, poetry, letters to the editor, a competition, and even an agony column. Nothing too unusual there.

But it was utterly remarkable because it was written, printed, distributed and read by soldiers serving in the trenches of the Western Front of the First World War. And it was deeply satirical, joyously lampooning the top brass, the enemy and the war itself in equal measure.

At a recent Wynkyn de Worde Society event, cartoonist and author Nick Newman related the story of this fantastic publication. Newman really knows his stuff, having co-written (with Ian Hislop) a BBC drama about the newspaper, The Wipers Times, in 2013 (watch the trailer here, and you can still catch the whole film on Netflix).

We’ve been honorary designers for the society this year, so to mark the talk, we decided to create a new edition of the newspaper (shown top), featuring a collection of the best bits from across its twenty-three editions.

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The Wipers Times came about after two soldiers, Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson, came across an abandoned and slightly damaged printing press in the heavily-shelled city of Ypres. You can imagine the glint in their eyes as they decided that they might just be able to get the press working, and possibly even lay their hands on enough type, paper and ink to produce a newspaper.

Both men served in the 12th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, which formed part of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.). So they set themselves up as the printers and publishers ‘Sherwood, Forester & Co. Ltd., B.E.F.’.

Of course, they needed a title for their paper. The British soldiers’ common mispronunciation of Ypres served as the perfect name – The Wipers Times was born.

As the battalion, and the press, were moved around during the war, the newspaper took on a series of new names – after being The Wipers Times it became The “New Church” Times, then The Kemmel Times, The Somme-Times, The B.E.F. Times, and finally, at the end of the war, The Better Times. Just above you can see the front cover of The B.E.F. Times from February 1918 – published two long years after the first edition.

Here are a couple more spreads from the same edition:

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(You can see the full set of scans of this edition over at our Wipers Times Flickr album.)

It’s incredible to think that the newspaper was produced throughout the war, often under fire. Roberts and Pearson fought in both battles of the Somme, and were both decorated for gallantry.

Designed to entertain the troops, the newspaper took a deeply satirical approach to news. Here’s a piece by ‘Belary Helloc’, gleefully satirising the writer Hilaire Belloc, whose writing in pro-war magazine Land and Water would often feature inflated estimates of enemy casualties:

“In this article I wish to show plainly that under existing conditions, everything points to a speedy disintegration of the enemy. We will take first of all the effect of war on the male population of Germany. Firstly, let us take as our figures 12,000,000 as the total fighting population of Germany. Of these 8,000,000 are killed or being killed hence we have 4,000,000 remaining. Of these 1,000,000 are non-combatants, being in the Navy. Of the 3,000,000 remaining, we can write off 2,500,000 as temperamentally unsuitable for fighting owing to obesity and other ailments engendered by a gross mode of living. This leaves us 500,000 as the full strength. Of these 497,250 are known to be suffering from incurable diseases, this leaves us 2,750. Of these 2,150 are on the Eastern Front, and of the remaining 600, 584 are Generals and Staff. Thus we find that there are 16 men on the Western Front. This number I maintain is not enough to give them even a fair chance of resisting four more big pushes, and hence the collapse of the Western Campaign. I will tell you next week about the others, and how to settle them.”

For the new edition of the newspaper, with advice from Nick Newman, we pulled together a selection of different articles, adverts, columns and poetry that represented the overall feel of the publication.

From a printing point of view, we wanted to create something that was as true as possible to the original. Fantastically, Matt McKenzie, a member of the Wynkyn de Worde Society who runs his own letterpress studio, Paekakariki Press, offered to typeset and print the new edition on his Heidelberg KS Cylinder press.

wipers_heidelberg

(We should point out that the newspaper was probably originally printed on a Liberty or Arab press. There’s a lovely article in Printing History News that relates Tim Honnor’s provision of an Arab press for The Wipers Times film.)

We decided to do as much as we could within the time available with movable type, and to use plates made from scans of the originals for the rest.

We sent Matt a template grid of the newspaper to work to, with a page size of 10″ high x 7.5″ wide (though we actually set the measurements in mm, because, well, imperial measurements are confusing right?).

Wipers-new-grid

Matt has a Monotype Composition Caster which he used to create a lot of the movable type for the newspaper.

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Historically, using the Monotype System, you would type out text on a Monotype Keyboard, which looked a bit like a massive typewriter. The keyboard would produce a roll of perforated paper tape, which could then be fed into a separate machine, the Monotype Caster, which would cast (at considerable speed) brand new individual metal letters, set line by line. Matt’s caster though is connected to a computer interface, which means he can type the text onto his laptop, and it’s produced moments later by the caster. It’s about as close to magic as you can get. Here’s a short clip we shot of the caster at work – view it full screen and you can see each individual letter being created:

Brilliant!

Once the type was cast, Matt (with just a little assistance from Mike from the printers Benwells, and Alistair from We Made This) then put together the spreads, combining the new type with the scanned plates. Here are Mike and Matt at work:

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Gradually, the pages came together, ready for proofing.

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The newspaper was then printed onto a recycled stock, before being bound and sewn by Benwells.

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The Wipers Times had a peculiar format, in that it effectively had two front covers. There was an outer 4 page section, that worked as a protective cover, and was a heavier weight than the text pages. You can see that above, with the cover created from a mix of freshly cast type and plates created from scans. (The advertisement for an ‘Archie’ is for an anti-aircraft gun – no children’s party complete without it!)

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The page above was printed entirely from plates.

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This page shows the internal front cover, which repeats the title, date, edition number and price. The text here was freshly cast for printing.

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For the bits of type that couldn’t be created on the caster, and for which we didn’t have clear enough original scans, we sourced some digital fonts, and recreated the text using those. So, above, you can see Frisco Antique Display, and below, Dharma Slab Condensed, both of which approximate the typefaces originally used.

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The question ‘Am I offensive as I might be?’ (above) was one asked by staff officers of the troops on the front line, questioning whether they were sufficiently eager to attack the enemy. It was turned around by the writers of the newspaper to suggest that the officers themselves might well be considered offensive.

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The Wipers Times is an incredible example of creativity and humour, created in truly perilous circumstances.

Wynkyn de Worde Society

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Founded in 1957, the Wynkyn de Worde Society is ‘dedicated to excellence in all forms of printing’. It’s a rather fantastic society which gets together regularly to eat, drink, talk about design and printing, and drink some more. The membership is made up of talented and frankly fascinating folk from right across the graphic arts spectrum – printers, graphic designers, calligraphers, publishers, typographers – all sorts. Each year they ask a different member to be their Honorary Designer, and this year they asked Alistair, creative director of We Made This, to take on that role.

The society holds a series of wonderful lunchtime and evening events across the year, and one of the Honorary Designer’s jobs is to create the booking forms for those events. Alistair designed each leaflet to respond to the theme of the respective event. We thought we’d share a few of them here.

In March, Daniel Mason gave a wonderful talk about recreating the packaging for Joy Division’s albums. Having found a copy of the original image used to create the Unknown Pleasures cover art, Alistair created a Factory-style booking form. This was printed onto Colorplan Pristine White. Alistair also created a memento for the event.

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In July, the Society held its annual Members’ Garden Party. For this Alistair created a botanic pattern based on a Gunnera leaf.

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The leaflet was printed onto Colorplan Pistachio with a leaf-like embossed texture.

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In September, Professor Lawrence Zeegen gave a fascinating talk about the history of Ladybird Books. For that Alistair created a leaflet that matched the exact size of the Ladybird books, and reworked type from one of the original books to create a text page inside it.

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Later this month, Nick Newman will be giving a talk about The Wipers Times, the newspaper written, printed and published by British soldiers in the trenches in the First World War. Alistair carefully replicated the typographic style of the newspaper for the booking leaflet, and reworked some text from the newspaper too, making it specific to the event. (He’s also worked with Matt Mackenzie at Paekakariki Press to recreate a letterpress printed edition of the newspaper – we’ll tell you all about that next month.) The leaflet was printed onto Colorplan Stone.

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And finally, for the Christmas party, which is held at the Garrick Club, Alistair created a leaflet that looked like an old theatre playbill, playing with some of the lyrics from the ‘Deck the Halls’ Christmas carol.

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If that’s whetted your appetite, take a look at the Wynkyn de Worde Members’ Handbook too.

The Cinema Museum

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There’s something incredibly special about the experience of going to the cinema. That initial moment of walking in from a hectic high street to a quiet, dim auditorium. Sinking down into the comfy embrace of your seat. The gentle and excited buzz of chatter through the adverts and trailers. The sharp focus that being in a darkened room in front of a huge screen provides. That magic moment you sometimes get when the screen widens before the main film. The expectant hush of a crowd as the first titles begin to roll. The collective and audible expression of shared emotion during the film – gasps, laughs, screams, whimpers, sobs and occasionally even applause. Basking in the afterglow as the credits drift up to the heavens at the end of the film.

Nowadays of course, cinema, as a way of spending your precious leisure time, competes against myriad other forms of screened entertainment: TV. Netflix. YouTube. DVDs. The vast depths of the internet.

But back in the 1940s, cinema was the main form of public entertainment. No TV. No Internet. In 1946 alone, in the UK, cinema audiences hit 1.64 billion (that’s 1,640 million). That’s a vast number of people going to the pictures. Since then there has been a massive decline, principally because of television; and by 1984 audiences had dropped off a cliff, to 54 million (though since then they’ve been gradually climbing, back towards 200 million).

A huge number of cinemas closed over the second half of the twentieth century. And that rich social, architectural and cultural history could all too easily have been lost with their closures. Fortunately, a few people had the foresight to save as much as they could, preserving that history for us.

And one of the very finest collections can be found at the fantastic Cinema Museum, in an old Victorian workhouse where Charlie Chaplin spent time as a child, tucked away in a corner of south London.

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cinema museum sign

The museum’s unique collection has been put together by Ronald Grant and Martin Humphries, and is the result of a life long passion for cinema. Starting as an assistant projectionist with Aberdeen Picture Palaces, Grant went on to work at the BFI, and the Brixton Ritzy, not far from the museum’s current home. He and Humphries established the museum in 1986, and it moved from place to place until they settled at The Master’s House in Kennington in 1998. It is maintained there thanks to Grant and Humphries, and a small and dedicated force of volunteers.

We went along to the museum earlier this week to have a rummage around, and to take a few photographs.

The museum is a glorious mix. You step through the front doors into a hallway stuffed to the rafters with an incredible collection of projectors and beautiful typographic cinema signs.

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standing sign

stalls sign

seating indicator

the majestic

prices of admission

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odeon saftey first

seating board

ABC manager

pathe news

secret of blood island

mrs wiggs of the cabbage patch

Odeon Car Park sign

balcony full sign

high fidelity

They also have other bits of cinematic ephemera: uniforms, equipment, playbills, newspapers, magazines…

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cinema newspaper

Castle Bolton

pathescope box

projector lenses

35mm projector sign

On the ground floor there’s a small screening room with a stunning set of original cinema seats.

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There’s also an extensive library and archive, with more than a million photographic images; film sheet music; books; magazines; catalogues and other ephemera. They also have more than 17 million feet of film.

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From there, you make your way through the building, and upstairs, past a huge Granada cinema sign, to a truly magnificent main room.

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cinema museum interior

It’s quite the most incredible place. It’s preserving a vital part of our cultural heritage, and doing so with warmth and love. As well as providing an archive, they are open for pre-booked visits, host a programme of events, work with educational institutions, make items available for loan to other institutions, and are available as a venue for hire.

We went along to a screening there a few weeks back, and the atmosphere was really wonderful. It is absolutely worth a visit.

The museum is set up as a registered charity, and remarkably receives no public funding, relying instead upon donations. And, worryingly, they have no guarantee that they’ll be able to stay in their building beyond next year. For such a wonderful institution to have such an uncertain future is nothing short of scandalous. And peculiarly, it feels like the UK film industry haven’t really realised what a precious treasure trove they have right on their doorstep.

We can only hope that this marvellous place is secured for generations to come.

If you’d like to help, pop along to their Support page, or get in touch directly.