In Their Own Words: Nostalgia, Trivia and Memory in Local Cinema History
Britain has a strong history of popular local cinema history, particularly as explored by amateur historians and non-academics. While they vary in their modes of address, they share a common emphasis on collating empirical information about exhibition practices within a town or region, in order to create a sense of individual identity. The relationship between a locality and its cinema history is thus constructed as a product of that specific place and community, rather than a non-specific expression of national or global practices. The nature of international film distribution naturally means that local cinema histories are told in the contexts of larger trends, but prominence is always given to the effects they have on localities. Part of the reason for this emphasis on highly localised issues comes from their nature as non-academic pieces of historiography; without the need for express academic rigour, the need for contextualisation is limited largely to providing a basic understanding for the reader. These histories typically speak to locals, or those with specific interest in these geographical spaces, rather than to those with a more general interest in cinema history. This paper discusses the relationship between the academic and non-academic historiography of cinema and exhibition history. It explores the reasons why local cinema histories are written, and the functions they serve as markers of community and identity. As time marches onwards, the ability for scholars to access primary accounts and materials related particularly to early local cinema history becomes ever more difficult; this paper seeks to argue for the value and potential usage of popular cinema histories as both compendia of esoteric regional historical data, and primary memory works. The author’s work on the early history of sound cinema in Birmingham will also serve to illustrate potential uses of such material.
Citation:Sibanda, N. (2017) In Their Own Words: Nostalgia, Trivia and Memory in Local Cinema History. Theorising the Popular Conference, Liverpool Hope University, June 2017.
Research Group:Cinema and Television History Research Centre
- Leicester Media School