Brighton swimmers paddle back through time for film festival

Posted On 25 Nov 2011 at 11:58 pm
By Nafisa Fera

Fancy a tea party in the sea?

Film footage of Brighton’s sea bathing and swimming heritage from 1945-54 forms one of the highlights of this year’s Cine City Film Festival.

Floating tea parties and male bathers in top hats are part of Brighton Swimming Club’s priceless visual archives – a selection of which will be premiered on Sunday (27 November) at the Sallis Benney Theatre.

The film footage has recently been digitised by Screen Archive South East as part of a £50,000 project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund called Floating Memories.

It was spearheaded by graphic designer Paul Farrington and the Brighton Swimming Club.

The project documents over 150 years Brighton’s swimming heritage using archives that date back to 1860.

Mr Farrington said that the catalyst for the project was viewing the club’s archive collection at Brighton and Hove Museum in March last year.

He said: “I found posters from 1864, original minute books, photographs and newspaper clippings.

“I felt that there was an importance in this material being displayed and being made accessible.”

A crucial part of making the archive accessible was moving the collection to the East Sussex Records Office where it could be catalogued and digitised.

At the heart of the Floating Memories project are stories from older and current club members who offer oral histories relating to the material collection.

Oral historian Alan Dein said: “When Paul and his team are speaking to a group of swimmers about the 1940s or 1950s you are not only getting a sense of their experience of swimming but of who they are, where they grew up, why they choose to swim, what it meant to them, friendships that were created and the kind of traditions that existed.”

Documenting these oral histories has led to new archival discoveries such as Roger Dunford’s collection of 16mm films that will be shown at the festival.

The film footage will be mixed with oral history recordings in a live soundtrack performed by Mr Farrington and fellow sea swimmer Bella Kardasis.

The event aims to connect people to the project’s memories and hopefully lead to the recording of more oral histories.

Floating Memories will have a continuing legacy through the archive collections held at East Sussex Records Office and Screen Archive South East.

There will be a permanent exhibition at the Brighton Fishing Museum and there is an affiliated website www.floatingmemories.co.uk.

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