Britain’s Shipbuilding Heritage On Film

This week sees the start of the British Film Institute’s “Tales from the Shipyard” with screenings of documentaries, studio features and independently produced films recalling the stories of UK communities shaped by the shipbuilding industry.  The film series offers a richly fascinating and often surprising view of a vanished way of life.

Launch of SS OLYMPIC. Courtesy BFI.

“Tales from the Shipyard” draws on some of the remarkable films held in the BFI National Archive, Scottish Screen Archive and Northern Region Film & Television Archive. This includes newly-restored feature films, non-fiction and television material captured by filmmakers across a century. The project launches at BFI Southbank, Glasgow Film Theatre, Tyneside Cinema and QFT, Belfast in February 2011.”

RMS QUEEN MARY leaves the Clyde in 1936. Photo courtesy BFI
The launch of Orient Line's ORION in British Film Institute's, "Tales from the Shipyard".

A DVD set complied by the BFI’s, “Tales from the Shipyard” contains over five hours of material that portrays Britain’s shipbuilding past through acclaimed documentaries, little-known cinematic gems and emotive actuality films made at the great shipyards of Belfast, Clydeside, Tyne, Wear and elsewhere. In addition to films from the BFI National Archive, there are two brand new restorations from the Scottish Screen Archive at the National Library of Scotland.

It begins with three Mitchell & Kenyon films and scenes of jubilant workers celebrating spectacular launches in the early 1900s.  Further highlights include King George V and Queen Mary’s morale-boosting trip to Northern England’s shipyards at the tail end of the Great War; rare footage of the stunning SS OLYMPIC (1911) showing the building and launch; beautiful colour film of the iconic QUEEN MARY in “RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde” (1936); Sean Connery’s perspective on Glasgow’s industrial relations in “The Bowler and the Bunnet” (1967) – the only film Connery ever directed – and lyrical documentaries in celebration of industrial might such as “Shipyard” (Paul Rotha, 1935) and the Oscar-winning “Seawards the Great Ships” (Hilary Harris, 1960).
BFI / Shipyard
BFI filmstore for DVD (DVD is Region 2)

Courtesy BFI, launch 1974

Thanks to Jill Reading, BFI

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