‘“How to pack a hall”: MoI mobile film shows for the Women’s Institute and civic film culture in wartime Britain

Price, Hollie (2021) ‘“How to pack a hall”: MoI mobile film shows for the Women’s Institute and civic film culture in wartime Britain. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 18 (4). pp. 458-477. ISSN 1743-4521

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Abstract

In the 1930s, the documentary film movement had experimented with non-theatrical distribution and this was championed by John Grierson, who claimed that the ‘future of cinema … may creep in quietly by way of the YMCAs, the church halls and other citadels of suburban improvement’. This article explores the wartime evolution of this idea by expanding on the Ministry of Information's (MoI) organisation of mobile film shows in practice: uncovering archival evidence of Helen de Mouilpied's work organising the regional film exhibition scheme, and focusing on the programming of film shows for women, including those held on a regular basis for the Women's Institute (WI) in the ephemeral spaces of village halls. By taking into consideration records of de Mouilpied's distribution work at the Ministry and the often insubstantial, fragmentary and regional traces of film shows in Ministry records, the local press and the WI journal Home & Country, this article offers a new view of the non-theatrical operation's role as ‘useful cinema’ in the MoI Films Division's propaganda programme, and its encouragement of a civic film culture on the home front that has been overshadowed in histories of British documentary and wartime cinema.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2021 08:20
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2021 15:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/100357

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