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Response to Review no. 432

Simon Brown’s review raises several important questions in relation to recent developments in the study of early cinema, not least the growing focus on the need for interdisciplinary approaches that provide access to this rich material for a broad spectrum of scholars and general public alike. His analysis of the paradigm shift from a textual to a contextual approach is a very welcome recognition not only of our need to re-focus and re-think our attitudes to early film, but also of the need to establish an intellectual framework within which this can take place. We share his frustration with this grand project because although many of the outcomes of the original AHRB funded project have been completed, in terms of the overall richness of the collection, we are still at a relatively early stage. The Mitchell and Kenyon Project, like the current London Project, are part of this evolving landscape and will help define the interpretive strategies needed to fully realise the potential of such important historical texts.

Our book was, as we clearly stated, a first attempt at trying to suggest how such a vast (over 800 films) collection could be approached and interrogated by scholars from a broad range of critical and disciplinary perspectives. It was the result of an AHRB funded partnership between the bfi and the National Fairground Archive whose primary focus was the conservation and contextualisation of the films in terms of their production and exhibition. The book was one of many significant outputs from this project and should be read within this broader context. It certainly does not represent the definitive or last word on Mitchell and Kenyon, but merely the first. If nothing else we wanted to provide a sense of what was possible in terms of understanding and fully appreciating this body of work, and to stimulate a set of ongoing interpretations of this material which were not simply rooted in the area of film studies. We have a very strong sense that other historians will certainly take up the challenge and begin to develop their own interpretive approaches, and that Mitchell and Kenyon will prove a rich resource for many, many years to come.

Many of the omissions cited by the reviewer are covered in other published or forthcoming materials which we would like to draw your attention to below.

Articles in print/press

Toulmin, V., ‘An early film crime rediscovered: Mitchell and Kenyon’s arrest of Goudie (1901)’, Film History, vol. xvi, no. 1 (2004), 37–53.

Toulmin, V., ‘The importance of the programme in early film presentation’, KINtop 11: Kinematographen-Programme (2002), 19–34.

Toulmin, V., ‘The cinematograph at the Goose Fair’, in ed. Alan Burton, Proceedings of the British Silent Film Weekend (Trowbridge, 2001), 76–86.

Toulmin V., ‘Local films for local people: travelling showmen and the commissioning of regional films, 1900–1902’, Film History, vol. xiii (2001), 118–138.

Toulmin, V. and Loiperdinger, M., ‘Is it you? Recognition, representation and response in relation to the local film’, Film History (forthcoming, 2005).

Toulmin, V., Russell, P. and Neal, T., ‘The Mitchell and Kenyon Collection: rewriting film history’, The Moving Image: Journal of Moving Image Archivist (Minneapolis, 2003), 1–18.

Whalley, R. and Worden, P., ‘Forgotten firm: a short chronological account of Mitchell and Kenyon, cinematographers’, Film History, vol. x (1998).

DVD Production

The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film (co-produced by BBC World and bfi, 2005).

Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon (selected by Dr Vanessa Toulmin, additional filmic extras include the Boer War Films, introduction to the Archive, the factory gates films, with a 28 page illustrated essay/booklet to accompany the films, forthcoming May 2005).

Electric Edwardians: Mitchell & Kenyon on Tour

This is currently touring the country and venues include the National Film Theatre, Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Bradford, Oxford, Nottingham, Cardiff, Lancaster, Derby and Leicester. A series of three themed evenings at the National Film Theatre in February co-presented by Dr Vanessa Toulmin and the subject historians, Professor John Walton (leisure), Ian Yearsley (transport) and Professor Dave Russell (football).

For further details of the tour please see <>.

Web Material

Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, an introductory biography: <>.

The Mitchell and Kenyon Collection: <>.

Mitchell and Kenyon and the Showmen:


The full listing of the Mitchell & Kenyon films will be found in the filmography which will contain an introductory essay to the Collection outlining the issues of researching the collection, the lack of business papers and the role of the exhibition showmen in the development of early film practice and exhibition in the North of England (Vanessa Toulmin, Mitchell & Kenyon: An Annotated Filmography 1998 –1913 (bfi, forthcoming)).