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Last updated:07 May 2015

Workers' Film Society

Manchester and Salford Workers' Film Society

 
Origins

The Salford Social Democratic Land and Building Society was the owner of Hyndman Hall, the Social-Democratic Federation's headquarters. In 1930 at a special meeting they agreed to add to their Objects a commitment to building or buying a venue "for the exhibition of cinematograph films, plays, dramatic and musical performances, particularly those of interest to the Working Class, or may hire a building for any such purposes..."

Workers Film Society : Second programme of the Manchester and Salford Workers' Film Society

Workers Film Society : Second programme of the Manchester and Salford Workers` Film Society

Out of this decision came the Manchester and Salford Workers' Film Society, with the first screening in November 1930.

The main organiser was Reg Cordwell who was to remain at the centre of operations for the rest of his active life.

In 1937 the name was shortened to the Manchester and Salford Film Society. In 2005 their archive was lodged with the Library.  You can find more details of the archive by searching our online catalogue using the phrase 'film society'.

Ewan MacColl wrote:

"This was the era of the growth of Hollywood, the era of the first international stars, the age of the comedians, the celluloid sweethearts and the tough guys. As the lines of unemployed grew longer and longer, so the gigantic baroque palaces of Hollywood's new art form grew more and more sumptuous and the lines of high-kicking chorus girls more and more desirable.

The Hollywood film of the late twenties and early thirties was the staple diet of the vast army of unemployed and I would venture to suggest that it provided the main art fare for the entire working class. It was certainly one of the most important artistic influences in my life up until late 1929.

Workers Film Society ticket : Guest ticket for Futurist Cinema in Ducie Street, Strangeways, Manchester

Guest ticket for Futurist Cinema in Ducie Street, Strangeways, Manchester

In the autumn of that year the Deansgate cinema ran a season of Russian films. This was long before the art-cinema concept first appeared and it must have been a financial flop for I remember going there for several weeks and sitting in splendid isolation as the great epics of Pudovkin, Eisenstein and Dovzhenko unrolled on the screen. It was, I think, Eisenstein's October and Pudovkin's End of St Petersburg which started me on the road I was to travel for the next twenty years.

When, in 1930, the Salford Workers' Film Society was formed, I was among its foundation members. It was, I believe, on the Labour Party's list of proscribed (communist) organisations and every Sunday morning, in a small flea-pit on Oldfield Road, it presented the cream of the world's best films.

Workers Film Society programme : Storm over Asia

Workers Film Society programme : Storm over Asia

There, in the space of the next few months, I saw Storm over Asia, The New Babylon, Pabst's Kamaradschaft, Dziga Vertov's Man with the Movie Camera, Aaron Room's Bed and Sofa and The Ghost that Never Returns, Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Dovzhenko's Earth.

The opportunity of seeing films of such stature compensated for some of the deprivation experienced by an ill-educated adolescent who faced the bleak prospect of trying to earn a living in the arid desert of 1930."
(Ewan MacColl - Journeyman: ppxv-xvi)

 

 


Archival material about the Manchester and Salford Film Society in the library collection

Manchester and Salford Film Society (ORG/MSFILM)
Annual reports and constitution, Minutes, Correspondence, Accounts and financial papers, Programmes, Membership forms and tickets, Papers relating to anniversaries, certificates and souvenirs, Other papers, Minutes, correspondence, accounts and programmes for Manchester and Salford Film Society and Manchester Film Institute - Shelfmark: AG M&S Film Boxes 1-12

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