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BFI and Paul Merton unveil 'Top 10 most watched films you have never heard of' to celebrate 25 years of National Lottery funding

4th December 2019

Over 75 Million online views of BFI's Britain on Film in just four years

Billy Elliot, Philomena, Wild Rose, Pride, Suffragette, I, Daniel Blake, The Souvenir, Gosford Park and The King’s Speech are just some of the most critically acclaimed and well-known UK films – all of which have been backed by National Lottery funding.

In fact, National Lottery players have supported the production of more than 500 UK films over the past 25 years, enjoyed by audiences at home and abroad, attracting more than 100 million cinema admissions in the UK alone.

However, some of the most watched films in the UK are not mainstream blockbusters, they don’t feature rousing music or BAFTA winning actors. They are a vast range of documentaries, home movies, news footage, forgotten TV programmes and government films from throughout the last century that feature in The National Lottery funded BFI project Britain On Film.

Sunshine in Soho (1956)

The most watched film is Sunshine in Soho (1956) with over 2.5 million views, followed by Christmas in Belfast (1977) with almost 2 million. The top ten also features A Day in Liverpool (1929), Portsmouth’s Charlotte St Market (1977), Milton Keynes and the Area (1970) and Aberdeen (1970).

To help celebrate the list of lesser known films and pieces of content, Paul Merton stars in a funny countdown of the top ten most watched films on Britain on Film as part of The National Lottery’s 25th birthday celebrations, to showcase the type of impact players have on UK film.

A day in Liverpool

From The Shetlands to The Channel Islands, these films represent all areas of The British Isles to create a snapshot of life from the 20th century. BFI has released the national ‘Top Ten films most watched through Britain on Film’ to demonstrate the incredible impact National Lottery funding has had on its 25th birthday.

The number one most viewed title, Sunshine in Soho (1956, BFI) is a gloriously colourful, nostalgic time capsule of 50’s Soho has been watched a staggering 2,548,236 times. From a tram ride through Edwardian Nottingham to London’s post-war redevelopment by way of Aberdeen’s shimmering granite streets and
Liverpool’s bustling metropolis, portraits of Belfast beyond the troubles and the birth of New Town Milton Keynes, the top 10 uncovers hidden histories and everyday lives of Britain, reflecting deeper connections with communities, people and places and ways of life on a local level.

‘The Top 10 most-watched films you have never heard of’ from BFI’s Britain on Film’:

1.Sunshine in Soho, (Melodie Hyams 1956/BFI) taken from Britain on Film (2,548,336 views to date)
1950s Soho beats with far more energy than its 21st century counterpart in this vivid time capsule.

2.Christmas in Belfast, 1977 © Crown Copyright/BFI) Britain on Film (1,984.223 views to date)
Christmas in Belfast at the height of 'The Troubles' where traditional holiday activities and images are punctuated by reminders that not all is as it should be.

3.Tram Rides through Nottingham, 1902 / BFI, Britain on Film (505,430 views to date)
Pioneering filmmakers Mitchell and Kenyon conduct an evocative ride through Edwardian Nottingham, following the same route as today's Nottingham Express Transit tramway.

4.Aberdeen, 1970, National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive, Britain on Film (401,351 views to date)
Explore the growth of Scotland’s oil capital, from small ancient burgh to bustling metropolis in this lively and colourful educational documentary produced for the 'Cities of Scotland' series.

5.Chichester Tour, 1962, Screen Archive South East, Britain on Film (376,961 views to date)
A fascinating amateur film showing the cathedral city of Chichester before the arrival of its ring road and the pedestrianisation of its Roman streets featuring a variety of shopfronts, some of which are still trading in exactly the same location.

6.Changing Face of Camberwell, 1963, London Borough of Southwark / BFI, Britain on Film (347,375 views to date)
Looking back at Camberwell's Victorian history, and forward to the future, this film captures the impact of changing architecture on local residents and what was lost.

7.Day in Liverpool, 1929, BFI, Britain on Film (225,649 views to date)
Metropolis meets Merseyside, as this city-symphony inspired early travelogue portrays a day in the life of a city thriving with modernity.

8.Portsmouth's Charlotte Street Market, 1977, Wessex Film & Sound Archive, Britain on Film (179,718 views to date)
An affectionate snapshot showcasing the colourful bustle of Portsmouth's oldest street market– where independent traders and shoppers mix under the brooding presence of the infamous Tricorn Centre, demolished in March 2004 after being voted 'Britain's Most Hated Building'.

9.Belfast - No Way Out, 1970, Fremantlemedia Ltd/BFI, Britain on Film (171,436 views to date)
What was life really like in 1970s Belfast? Beyond the Troubles the current affairs magazine show ‘This Week’ addresses social problems, talking to people in poverty struggling to cope.

10.Milton Keynes and the area, 1968/ UEA’s East Anglian Film Archive, Britain on Film (156,350 views to date)
Anglia TV footage of the pre-existing towns and pretty North Bucks hamlets newly incorporated into the New Town Development of Milton Keynes.

“Britain on Film is an ambitious project that has made the rich unseen film history of the UK accessible to the whole nation, with thousands of titles from 120 years’ worth of films drawn from the BFI National Archive and regional and national archive partners from across the UK and Northern Ireland from Victorian times to the 1990s. Whilst you or I may never have heard of them before and they will never trouble the weekly box office lists, the films have captured the imagination of the British public and amassed an incredible 75 million online views. They are incredible and are a wonderful way to get lost in our history and heritage for an hour, or even a day. I love it, and all thanks to those pink tickets at newsagents.”

Comedian and amateur film historian, Paul Merton

“Britain on Film has completely transformed the British public’s access to the archives preserving UK film and TV heritage. This simply would not have been possible without funding from the National Lottery. Over 10,000 films from the archives are now available for everyone in the UK to enjoy – an astonishing range of content, from Edwardian tram rides to wartime public information, from quirky animations to thoughtful documentaries, forgotten feature films to home movies. Britain on Film explores a vast range of themes and maps the whole of the UK. We live in the moving image age and today’s audiences and filmmakers have so much to be inspired by as they explore this rich treasure trove from the past.”

Patrick Russell, Senior Curator of Non-Fiction at the BFI

The National Lottery has invested over £933 million into almost 23,000 film related projects over the past 25 years - from iconic films, education and skills programmes, to community film clubs and preserving the UK’s film heritage. National Lottery-supported films have won an incredible 400 awards including 15 Oscars®, 100 BAFTAs and 29 Cannes awards, from more than 1,462 nominations.

The funding has also given more than 6,000 young people across the UK a chance to be part of the future film industry, through the BFI Film Academy programme of activities, courses, masterclasses and opportunities for hands-on filmmaking.

BFI has launched the next phase of Britain on Film, with ‘BFI Contribute’, a crowdsourcing platform to harness all the wonderful stories and local expertise that have come out of the public’s desire to share their knowledge. The BFI is calling upon the public to watch and contribute any information they may have
about the films on a local level. The BFI Britain on Film Mapping Mission (contribute.bfi.org.uk) is an online community that everyone can visit, empowering the people of Britain to take an active part in the BFI’s research, sharing local expertise with the rest of the nation to unlock answers and make real discoveries to enrich our understanding about, our shared film history.

Notes to editors

Paul Merton’s Top 10 most-watched films you have never heard of, on BFI’s BritainOn Film, will be available to download under embargo from 8am Tuesday 3rd December at the following Dropbox link:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5zc...

For further information, case studies, images or any questions, please contact:

Sinead Gilgunn - Sinead.gilgunn@lotterygoodcauses.org.uk - 02072111651

Full details of ‘The Top 10 most watched films you have never heard of, on BFI’s Britain on Film’:

1.Sunshine in Soho (2,548,336 views to date)
(Melodie Hyams 1956/BFI) taken from Britain on Film
1950s Soho beats with far more energy than its 21st century counterpart in this
vivid time capsule.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free...


2. Christmas in Belfast (1977)(1,984.223 views to date)
1977 © Crown Copyright/BFI) Britain on Film
Christmas in Belfast at the height of 'The Troubles' where traditional holiday activities and images are punctuated by reminders that not all is as it should be.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-christmas-in-belfast-1977-online

3. Tram Rides through Nottingham (505,430 views to date
1902 / BFI, Britain on Film
Pioneering filmmakers Mitchell and Kenyon conduct an evocative ride through Edwardian Nottingham, following the same route as today's Nottingham Express Transit tramway.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-tram-rides-throughnottingham-1902-1902-online

4. Aberdeen (401,351 views to date)
1970, National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive, Britain on Film
Explore the growth of Scotland’s oil capital, from small ancient burgh to bustling metropolis in this lively and colourful educational documentary produced for the 'Cities of Scotland' series.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-aberdeen-1970-online

5. Chichester Tour (376,961 views to date)
1962, Screen Archive South East, Britain on Film
A fascinating amateur film showing the cathedral city of Chichester before the arrival of its ring road and the pedestrianisation of its Roman streets featuring a variety of shopfronts, some of which are still trading in exactly the same location.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-chichester-tour-1962-online

6. Changing Face of Camberwell (347,375 views to date)
1963, London Borough of Southwark / BFI, Britain on Film
Looking back at Camberwell's Victorian history, and forward to the future, this film captures the impact of changing architecture on local residents and what was lost.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-changing-face-ofcamberwell-1963-online

7. Day in Liverpool (225,649 views to date)
1929, BFI, Britain on Film
Metropolis meets Merseyside, as this city-symphony inspired early travelogue portrays a day in the life of a city thriving with modernity.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-day-in-liverpool-1929-online

8. Portsmouth's Charlotte Street Market (179,718 views to date)
1977, Wessex Film & Sound Archive, Britain on Film
An affectionate snapshot showcasing the colourful bustle of Portsmouth's oldest street market– where independent traders and shoppers mix under the brooding presence of the infamous Tricorn Centre, demolished in March 2004 after being voted 'Britain's Most Hated Building'.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-portsmouthscharlotte-street-market-1977-online

9. Belfast - No Way Out (171,436 views to date)
1970, Fremantlemedia Ltd/BFI, Britain on Film
What was life really like in 1970s Belfast? Beyond the Troubles the current affairs magazine show ‘This Week’ addresses social problems, talking to people in poverty struggling to cope.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-belfast-no-way-out-1970-online

10. Milton Keynes and the area (156,350 views to date)
1968/ UEA’s East Anglian Film Archive, Britain on Film
Anglia TV footage of the pre-existing towns and pretty North Bucks hamlets newly incorporated into the New Town Development of Milton Keynes.
Watch for free at https://player.bfi.org.uk/free...


The National Lottery’s 25th Birthday
● The National Lottery’s Birthday celebrations are running for an eight-week period (from 14 Oct until the beginning of December). There are some incredible activities planned across the UK to celebrate the good causes that have been made possible thanks to National Lottery players over the last 25 years.

● Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.

● The 25th birthday is a moment to celebrate the extraordinary impact The National Lottery has had on the UK, and to say thank you to National Lottery players for contributing around £30 million to good causes every week.

● Over 5,500 millionaires have been created by National Lottery games over the last 25 year. The National Lottery creates an average of seven millionaires every week across its games

● As part of the National Lottery’s #ThanksToYou campaign, 30 lucky film fans have been chosen to take part in a rare tour of the BFI National Archive in Hertfordshire.

About the BFI

The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image.
It is a distributor of National Lottery funding and a cultural charity that:
• Curates and presents the greatest international public programme of world cinema for audiences; in cinemas, at festivals and online
• Cares for the BFI National Archive – the most significant film and television archive in the world
• Actively seeks out and supports the next generation of filmmakers
• Works with Government and industry to make the UK the most creatively exciting and prosperous place to make film internationally Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger CBE.

ABOUT BRITAIN ON FILM AND UNLOCKING FILM HERITAGE


Britain on Film is one of the largest and most complex archival projects ever undertaken by the BFI and one of the most successful with over 75 million online views to date. Unlocking film heritage for everyone in the UK was a key strategic priority for the BFI (2013-2018). Bringing together a partnership with Regional and National Film Archives and rights holder collections across the UK, this work included a sophisticated programme of data capture, cataloguing, copying to archival standards, meticulous preservation of original materials, thorough searching of archives across the country, new state-of- the-art equipment and
digital storage facilities and the transfer of films to the BFI’s online video platform, BFI Player.
Unlocking Film Heritage and Britain on Film have been made possible thanks to £15 million funding from the National Lottery and the additional support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

ABOUT THE REGIONAL AND NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVES


The English Regional Film Archives and other National Film Archives (listed below) hold significant collections of film and video material specifically relevant to their regions or hold dedicated collections such as Imperial War Museums, preserved in specialised storage facilities and made widely available for education, research,
communities and the wider public.

• UEA’s East Anglian Film Archive
• Imperial War Museums
• London’s Screen Archives
• Media Archive for Central England at the University of Lincoln
• North East Film Archive
• North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University
• Northern Ireland Screen Digital Film Archive
• National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive
• Screen Archive South East
• The Box, Plymouth
• Screen and Sound Archive, National Library of Wales
• Wessex Film and Sound Archive
• Yorkshire Film Archive