Transforming Screen Culture

Submitting Institution

University of Brighton

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies

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Summary of the impact

Through the agency of Screen Archive South East (SASE) and Cinecity, GRAY's research has transformed the history and wider understanding of screen cultures, particularly during the industry's formative years. Primarily his work has affected public life through the collection, preservation, cataloguing and conversion of diverse footage to publicly accessible formats, creating access to material from otherwise marginalised and forgotten film histories. Engaging with local communities, national and international museums and broadcasters, he has developed new public audiences for contemporary and historical screen culture that have generated over £1.8m in income, with total audiences exceeding 25 million. Secondly, his research has shaped public policy by contributing to the strategic direction of screen heritage across the UK.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research in this case study focuses on the public definitions of screen studies and the promotion of screen heritage in the UK. Screen studies embraces the related practices and theories that unite the magic lantern with film, television, video and digital technologies, while screen heritage publically articulates these artefacts in a variety of settings. GRAY, a film historian and curator, Director of SASE and the Co-Director of Cinecity, established the inseparability of the development of screen collections and the production of screen histories. His initial research focused on the film-makers George Albert Smith and James Williamson (1896-1912), who made a seminal contribution to the development of early cinema through the `Brighton School', particularly to the birth of film language and the creation of the film industry's first viable colour system [references 3.1, 3.2. 3.3]. This research, which significantly altered standard film history, led to the creation of a regional film archive and its dedication to the systematic identification, collection and preservation of moving images from the South East. GRAY founded SASE at the University of Brighton with the financial support of a number of local authorities. SASE digitises, researches and promotes regional screen heritage and maintains its public collection for a wide range of user groups and beneficiaries, including researchers, scholars, and public and commercial organisations. With initial funding from the AHRC Centre for British Film and Television Studies and a subsequent AHRC award of £200k — the first major grant from the AHRC to a regional film archive — it built the first online guide to the UK's moving image archives. Entitled Moving History, it opened in 2003 and provided the context for SASE's launch of its own online catalogue in 2006 [3.6].

Furthermore, the curation of public screen heritage exhibitions has drawn upon GRAY's research into the relationship between place, history and film. For example, his exhibition `Kiss & Kill: Film Visions of Brighton' (Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 2002), with catalogue essays by GRAY, was pivotal in the genesis and conceptualisation of a film festival for Brighton that would link contemporary production with archive collections and history [3.4]. Entitled Cinecity, the Brighton Film Festival was launched in 2003.

GRAY has played a leading role in developing an understanding of the need for a national strategy dedicated to the development of the film/screen archive sector [3.6]. From 2001 to 2004, he chaired the UK Audiovisual Archive Strategy Steering Group, the work of which resulted in the strategy document, Hidden Treasures: The UK Audiovisual Archives Strategic Framework (2004). He gave oral evidence to the House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2006 and served as a member on the UK Film Heritage Group (2005-7).

Key researcher:

Frank Gray: Lecturer (Sept 1985-Aug 1989), Senior Lecturer (Sept 1989-Mar 1999), Principal Lecturer (Mar 1999-to date).

References to the research

3.1 EYLES, I., GRAY, F. and READMAN, A. (1996) West Sussex Cinema. Andover: A. Phillimore. [Quality validation: submitted to RAE2001 — Quality Profile for RAE2001: Rated 5].

3.2 GRAY, F. (1999) Smith versus Melbourne-Cooper: history and counter-history. Film History 11 (3). pp.246-261. [Quality validation: submitted to RAE2001 — Quality Profile for RAE2001: Rated 5].

3.3 GRAY, F. (2002) James Williamson's Rescue Narratives. In: HIGSON, A, ed. Young and Innocent? The Cinema in Britain 1896-1930. Exeter: University of Exeter Press. pp.28-41. [Quality validation: submitted to RAE2008 — Output quality profile for RAE2008: 81% 2*]

3.4 GRAY, F. (2002) Kiss & Kill: Film Visions of Brighton. Exhibition at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. [Quality validation: submitted to RAE 2008 — Output quality profile for RAE2008: 81% 2*]

3.5 GRAY, F. (2002) South East Film and Video Archive's Digital Access Project. AHRC (01/07/2003-30/06/2006) Total funding: £200,520.

3.6 GRAY, F. and SHEPPARD, E. (2004) Moving history: promoting moving image archive collections in an emerging digital age. The Moving Image 4 (2), pp.110-18. [Quality validation: the article was one of the outcomes of the AHRC-funded project above and underwent double blind peer review].


Details of the impact

Film festivals, museum exhibitions and over 1,000 public events have emanated from this research to generate audiences of 15.9 million (an increase of over 100% since 2007). A further audience of 12.4 million has been created through inclusion of material within national and international broadcasts (source 5.1). This impact has been achieved through sustained collaborations between SASE and Cinecity with 6 local authorities as well as Arts Council England (ACE) and the British Film Institute (BFI).

Created new audiences for marginalised film and impacted upon wider public life: As the first collection dedicated to moving images of 20th-century life in south east England, SASE has generated demand for images from broadcasters that regularly select and purchase films for inclusion in their programmes, for example, WWII in HD: The Lost Films (USA, 2009) and Apocalypse (France, 2009), which were both screened worldwide (5.2). Curators also make regular use of the collection, selecting SASE films on 36 occasions for permanent displays and temporary exhibitions in museums, galleries and international institutions. These include the National Gallery of Art, Washington (2008), the National Museum of World Culture, Gothenburg (2008) and le Musee d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (2011). Overall visitor figures are estimated at 2,772,700 for permanent displays and 519,814 for temporary exhibitions (5.1).

Established in 2003, the Cinecity festival presents a global mix of premieres and previews, artists' cinema, archive film, talks and debates. With attendance figures rising annually, attendance has risen by 30% in the period for ticketed events with unprecedented figures for its free events in public spaces (450,000 viewed its exhibition on the making of Brighton Rock in 2012) (5.1). According to the Guardian, the 2012 Cinecity festival programme was `one of the strongest and most diverse' and should be `admired for its eclectic programme' (5.3). GRAY's curation Capturing Colour: Film, Invention & Wonder (Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 2010) represented another facet of SASE's public engagement and wider impact. Supported by the AHRC (£53k), UK Film Council (£20k) and Renaissance (£28k), the exhibition attracted 51,471 visitors and was accompanied by an extensive programme of events for adults and children. It was described by Child Friendly Brighton as `an impressive exhibition for all the family to discover the significance and magic of colour on film' (5.4). A direct impact of the exhibition has been the commitment by the Brighton Museum to create a new film and media gallery `that will engage and inspire hundreds of thousands of visitors each year' (5.5).

SASE's collection of largely non-fiction material represents and connects with the past through associations with memory, identity and place. Indicative of this are over 500 invitations received by SASE to present its work from history and heritage societies (eg the National Trust, Saddlescombe Farm Museum, 2012), University of the Third Age (eg U3A Science Group, Crowborough, 2013), galleries (eg Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 2009 and The Lab Gallery, New York, 2011), museums (eg People's History Museum, Manchester, 2012-13) and festivals (eg Brighton White Night Festival, 2009 and Dresden International Short Film Festival, 2011). Complementing and extending its reach, GRAY has appeared 22 times on regional, national and European media, contributing to the BBC's popular series Coast (2009) and a German documentary on Brighton for the European ARTE channel (2012) (5.6).

Shaped national and public policy on screen heritage: Informing both national and local screen policy, GRAY's research led to his membership of the group that prepared the `Strategy for UK Screen Heritage' for Government, leading to the Department for Culture, Media, & Sport (DCMS) investing £25m (2009-2011), the largest public award ever made to the sector. As a result, £247k of new funding was distributed to each region of England (5.7). In 2012, Brighton & Hove City Council committed itself to Film City. Led by GRAY and dedicated to creating a cluster for film-related research, heritage, exhibition, production and tourism in the city, the Head of Arts for Brighton & Hove City Council noted that `Frank's work as an historian, archive director and as a cultural leader in the City is continuing to elevate film's importance to our city's culture and economy' (5.8).

The £1.8m of sustained support that SASE and Cinecity have received from ACE, AHRC, UK Film Council/British Film Institute, Heritage Lottery Fund, DCMS and EU is indicative of how these funders value this public work. This income has created 16.8 full-time employment years at a cost of £400,189 and a spend of £351,987 on procurement. Extending this is the BFI award of £900k in July 2013 to create an Audience Development Hub for the region to lead its film culture (5.9).

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 Screen Archive South East and Cinecity Report that details events, audience figures and income for 2008-2013. The report is organised by year and type and provides a cumulative summary for the period.

5.2 Press release and website for the Smithsonian six-part Apocalypse series. The website states that the documentary uses `over 600 hours of footage-much of it never seen by the public'. The pages dedicated to episode three and six make specific reference to the Gowlland collection, supplied by SASE. Available at: [Accessed: 12 November 2013]. Supplementary evidence includes a review of the series that appeared in The New York Times (2009).

5.3 Guardian review of the 2012 Cinecity film festival that highlights its carefully constructed and eclectic programme and broad scope and appeal. Available at: [Accessed: 12 November 2013]. Supplementary evidence includes a review of the Cinecity event Hangover Square, which appeared in Sight & Sound (2012). According to the reviewer `despite being billed as "a film set for an imaginary screen version of Hangover Square", its connection to film-to cinema was, at best, tangential. Which, paradoxically, is what made it so fascinating and also put it at the heart of the current debate about film/cinema'.

5.4 Child Friendly Brighton Review of the Capturing Colour exhibition. The review highlights the broad appeal of the exhibition and states that the exhibition is `an imaginative and well thought out trail which enables them to participate, explore and most importantly, enjoy the exhibition as much as adults will'. Available at: [Accessed: 12 November 2013].

5.5 Testimonial available from the Head of Collections, Interpretation and Learning at the Royal Pavilion and Museums that highlights GRAY's role in developing the museum's media collections.

5.6 Webpage dedicated to Seaside Resorts-Brighton on ARTE (2012). The sixth episode in a ten-part series, this programme focuses on the seaside town of Brighton and employs, extensively, footage from SASE. Available at:,day=2,dayPeriod=morning,week=32,year=2012.html [Accessed: 12 November 2013].

5.7 British Film Institute video of the launch event for Screen Heritage UK (BFI Southbank, 2011), in which GRAY contributes to a panel discussion on the changing role of film archives with the Director of BBC Archive Content, the Executive Producer for Reel History of Britain and the Head Curator of the BFI National Archive. Available at: [Accessed: 12 November 2013]. Supplementary evidence includes details of the event on the BFI website, the BFI press release for the launch of the Screen Heritage UK programme and the 2004 BFI report that led to this funding stream (UK Audiovisual Archive Strategy Steering Group, Hidden Treasures: The UK Audiovisual Archives Strategic Framework).

5.8 Testimonial available from Head of Arts at Brighton & Hove City Council that highlights the importance of GRAY's research in nurturing and expanding the city's film culture and promoting film's economic and cultural role and value within the city.

5.9 Details of the Audience Development Hub award from the BFI website. Supplementary evidence includes the overview report of the BFI Audience Fund 2013-2017, which states the fund is `to help bring diverse and engaging film experiences to the widest possible audiences'.