with thanks to Jilly Payne, Archival Film Programmer

Earlier this year the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA) was involved in the launch of a ground breaking collection of films on the British Film Institute’s BFI Player.

‘Disabled Britain on Film’ is a diverse collection of over 170 films that look at representations of disabled people on screen over the past century. The collection offers a glimpse into the lives and experiences of people often hidden from screen history. It also offers an insight into how contemporary disabled artists and filmmakers are making sure their images and voices are seen and heard.

You can read the full press release about the collection which spans documentaries, news reports, charity appeals, home movies and works of fiction here.

A photograph of a boy and a woman with a garden in the background for the SWFTA NASA on Sensory Stimulation film

Our Archival Film Programmer, Jilly Payne worked on SWFTA’s contribution to the collection and offers more insight:

The research and digitisation for the project took many months and had to be handled sensitively.

Our most important series of documentaries centres on the parents and children of Downham School in Plymouth entitled ‘One Per Cent of Us’ by John Pett. ‘So Many Children’ (1966), ‘Children No More’ (1976) and ‘One in a Hundred’ (1988) profile the lives of five children firstly at the age of 5 when they start school, secondly a decade later when they’re 15, and finally when they’re adults of 25. The filmmaker also talks to the parents.

Images from SWFTA film clips showing a boy on a bicycle and two girls

We had an enormous soft spot for the children portrayed in the documentaries and felt we came to know them a little during the process of capturing, grading and editing our films.

Database entries at the archive often conveyed a type of language and descriptive terms that are unacceptable today. I drew on resources at the European Union and United Nations as well as subsequent changes to UK law to help put context into some of the films.

The backdrop to the digitisation was provided by television coverage of the Summer Paralympics, the profile of the Invictus Games and popular comedy show ‘The Last Leg’, all of which demonstrate that disability is not a barrier to achievement.

A black and white image of a girl in a swimming pool

One in four people in this country have some form of disability so we’re proud to be part of a project that is helping to break down barriers and misconceptions.

You can watch the SWFTA films here.

You can link to the wider collection here.