Charley The Cat and Tufty the Squirrel saved by the BFI!

It’s a press release so is True,

BFI secures major collection of over 20,000 Central Office of Information films following its closure

28th March 2012

The BFI National Archive will acquire the entire moving image archive of the Central Office of Information (COI) when it is formally wound up on 31st March 2012. This is the largest single collection ever to be acquired by the BFI and all available rights to the material will also pass to the BFI.

Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive, BFI said, “The COI films are wonderful and important examples of British filmmaking. Often quirky and eccentric these films over the last 66 years tell a rich and diverse stories about British life. The fact that they were used so effectively by Government departments really demonstrates the power that film has in capturing the nation’s attention and influencing Britain and we are very proud that the BFI National Archive is the films new guardian.”

The BFI has enjoyed a close working relationship with the COI and already holds a large number of COI titles, as part of the Public Records collection preserved in partnership with The National Archives, some of which have been released in a popular series of BFI DVDs: The COI Collection volumes 1 – 6 since 2010.

The latest addition to the BFI’s DVD releases of films from the COI collections will be released in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a major collection: Volume Seven: The Queen on Tour presents a wealth of wonderful colour footage of the Queen and the Royal Family travelling the world on official visits between 1953 and 1971. The COI – with unprecedented access to the royals – produced the ‘official’ record of royal tours and state visits and also commissioned and supervised a variety of retrospectives of the Queen and her family.

Highlights from this extraordinary collection of films, many of which were shot in exotic locations, include: Royal Destiny (1953), a look at the Queen’s early life, made in her coronation year; The Queen’s State Visit to Iran (1961), a fascinating film of the royal visit to Iran eight years after a British-and American-backed coup installed the Shah; Sierra Leone Greets the Queen (1962), a colourful account of the Queen’s visit in the year of independence; and Britain Welcomes the Emperor and Empress of Japan (1971), a record of the controversial state visit from Emperor Hirohito and his wife.

Many of the UK’s most distinguished filmmakers have worked for the COI such as Peter Greenaway, Ken Loach, Humphry Jennings and Hugh Hudson. Memorable public information campaigns are still resonant decades after their original screenings.

The COI collection charts the attitudes and preoccupations of British society through every decade since 1946 and provides a unique insight into Government’s changing priorities for public information, from simple messages telling children how to cross the road through to more hard-hitting information about how to survive a nuclear bomb.

Originally shown in cinemas, later on television, the films reflect many of the important social issues of their day. Many early COI films dealt with the many consequences of post-war reconstruction. The 1970s saw classic characters like Charley the Cat, Tutfy the Squirrel and the Green Cross Code Man (Dave Prowse) promote personal and road safety, and more recent films have covered important subjects such as climate change and internet safety.

As the successor body to previous Government bodies with film interests – at the General Post Office with its famous GPO Film Unit, then the Ministry of Information and its Crown Film Unit, the COI was set up in 1946. This rich tradition of British public service filmmaking, preserved and curated by the BFI, yielded over 45,000 titles which add up to an irreplacable picture of British life and manners interpreted through creative filmmaking.

The COI collection will be preserved in the BFI’s state-of-the-art Master Film Store and will continue to be made widely available on multiple platforms. A selection of COI films can be viewed at the BFI’s MediathequeS at QUAD Derby, Wrexham Library, Newcastle Discovery Museum, Cambridge Central Library, BFI National Library and BFI Southbank, London. Some key titles are also available on the BFI’s YouTube channel, Significant collections are also available to view by students and academics who can access moving image materials through the InView project and screenonline.

  • Lisa Rullsenberg

    Many happy hours spent watching documentaries and COI type projects. �Happy about this for sure!