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Swindon Film Society Origins

Cutting from the Swindon Advertiser 26 February 1947

This image above shows a cutting from the Swindon Advertiser of 26 February 1947 announces the newly formed Swindon Film Society.

The first film shown on Thursday, 6 March 1947 was Robert Wiene’s ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ (1919). This film in its visual representation and acting is a work of German Expressionism. It is also the first horror film which was to be a great influence on future examples of the genre.

Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938) was shown in April that year.

It is also interesting to note that the Swindon Film Society did show Eisenstein’s famous and influential ‘Battleship Potemkin’ (1925) in May 1947. The other two films to be shown that night in May 1947 were documentaries made by the then well-known GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit. This unit was formed in 1933 and produced many outstanding and informative documentary films.

Early membership card

In February 1947 the UK was still in the grip of a very cold winter with blizzards and a lot of snow. There were widespread coal shortages. On 19 February The Advertiser reported that German POWs were clearing frozen snow from Drove Road. Stories about snow and ice featured almost daily during January and February. By the middle of March the thaw and widespread flooding made the local headlines.

Rationing was still in force, giving people a very limited choice in food and many everday articles.

The formation of the Swindon Film Society must be seen against this background of austerity.

There were also six or seven commercial cinemas in the town; and yet it was felt there was room for a film society. Early membership of the society was about 200.

At that time there was also quite a bit of agitation against showing films on a Sunday. This led to a referendum of the local citizens by the Town Council. The Advertiser announced the result on Monday 24 February. Those who were in favour of keeping cinemas open on a Sunday had a majority of 7426. Only 1770 voters opted for stopping Sunday film performances. The turnout on this issue was quite low.

Newspaper article image

Newspaper article about the Swindon Film Society An early comment about the importance of film and how the Swindon Film Society came about.

Several decades on, what has changed?