Wednesday 22 June 2011

Wednesday wonders - BFI Southbank

I have always loved visiting the Southbank when I was visiting London and that hasn't changed any since I moved here.  I remember the first time I got the bus back over Waterloo Bridge at night time after work, I saw all the lights along the river and got such a thrill, and I still feel that, sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I'm living in London!  So I thought as my Wednesday wonder this week I would pay tribute to one of my favourite places on the Southbank, the British Film Institute! Now technically of course one of my favourites parts of the BFI, the Library and Archive, isn't on Southbank at all but on Stephen Street.  However the last time I went down to the Southbank there was a great display on the upstairs corridor of 'Recent acquisitions at the BFI National Archive'

The exhibition showed archive material (they call it Special Collections to differentiate it from the Film Archive) from a number of people including Karel Reisz (film director) and Ralph Cooper (a publicist).
The first photo includes a scrapbook on Merle Oberon compiled by Deborah Kerr and telegrams from Sophia Loren!  In the second photo are letters from Rachel Roberts and an annotated script for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.  I was very excited by the Karel Reisz material as I'd heard they got his archive whilst I was working in the Lindsay Anderson Archive.  Anderson and Reisz were friends and were both part of the Free Cinema movement so there was a good deal of material by and about Reisz and I always find it exciting to see material from other archives about individuals or organisations I've worked on!

Both the bars in the BFI are great, though I have noticed the Benugo Bar staff can be pretty rude - this is balanced out though by the friendly waiting staff, the good drinks and bar snacks, and the lovely surroundings!

And then, there's the exhibition room.. I've been to so many great exhibitions in the exhibition room - most memorable perhaps was the Jane and Louise Wilson 'Unfolding the Aryan Papers' which I blogged about here. There's been rumours that this is where the Library and Archive will be moving too but I really hope that's not true, for a number of reasons.  Firstly it's great having an exhibition space at the Southbank site and I'd miss it if it went but FAR more importantly, it's a tiny site compared to the current library which would mean staffing cuts (though from the sounds of it these are unfortunately inevitable) and I just can't imagine there's enough space there for all the wonderful resources in Stephen Street.

The BFI Southbank is also home to the fabulous Mediatheque - where you can go to watch a huge selection of films and television shows, for free! I still have to go in to watch Blue Black Permanent - Margaret Tait's only feature film, hmm maybe something to do this weekend if the rain keeps up!

So if anyone is in London this weekend and wondering what to do? You couldn't go wrong with a visit to the BFI.


  1. Wow, this sounds amazing! It makes me miss London a LOT. That bus ride over the bridge sounds amazing. I remember getting the train back into central London (can't remember the stop) from New Cross Gate East and seeing Big Ben all lit up... beautiful!

  2. Yes, Big Ben looks so fabulous all lit up from afar! I've heard you can go on tours of the clock tower if you organise it through your local MP - think I'll need to add that to the list of things to do!