BFI Mediatheque: a London marvel

Tucked away behind an unassuming sliding glass door in the British Film Institute’s building on London’s Southbank is a little marvel of free education and entertainment: BFI Mediatheque.

Free for anyone to use (though booking a two hour slot in advance is recommended at busy times), it lets you sit in front of a large screen computer and watch various gems from the BFI’s collection. You don’t just get short clips – you get the full piece, even if it is a film.

I popped in last Friday to sample part of their election related collection:

Highlights of the collection include Neil Kinnock’s 1987 Labour party political broadcast, dubbed ‘Kinnock: the Movie’ and directed by Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire); the Communist Party of Great Britain lambasting the National government for its laxity over social services and its mistakes in foreign policy in Peace and Plenty (1939); the Conservative Party hinting at the perils of socialism in the dramatised Pink with a Red Shadow (1954); and the dirty side of electoral politics revealed in the Dennis Potter-scripted Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton (1965) from The Wednesday Play series.

For younger or nostalgic viewers, there is a rarely-seen special episode of The Clangers – Vote for Froglet (1974), which sees election fever hit the Moon; and In the Limelight with Lesley (1980), in which former Blue Peter presenter Lesley Judd fields questions for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, from an audience of ten-year-olds.

The Dennis Potter play is one that I recommended watching in my list of 30 things every would-be politician should do this summer.

Aside from that, there is a huge range of content available, including the ability to watch different on-screen adaptations of famous works of literature. I’m sorely tempted to return to spend a couple of sessions on the different versions of 1984, though suspect I will get distracted by the self-described ‘archive of oddities’ also available.

Full details of location, opening hours and what’s available are on the BFI Mediatheque web pages.

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