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Bristol Remembers William Friese-Greene

Plaque to William Friese-Greene

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Members from Bristol’s film community gathered this morning in remembrance of Bristolian motion-picture pioneer William Friese-Greene, on the 100th anniversary of his death, 5 May 1921.

The socially-distanced gathering took place as part of Bristol Film2021, the year-long programme launched by Bristol Ideas and Bristol UNESCO City of Film last month to mark the centenary of the inventor’s death and raise awareness of the city’s thriving film and moving-image sector today. It was held at City Hall at the plaque which was originally placed on Friese-Greene’s former home at 12 College Street in 1955 to mark the centenary of his birth and later relocated after the house was demolished. The plaque was an initiative of the Bristol Savages, Bristol Civic Society, Western Counties Photographic Federation, Institute of British Photographers, Bristol Amateur Cine Society, Bristol Photographic Society, Bristol Camera Club and citizens of his native city. The organiser for the 1955 commemorations was Reece Winstone, the Bristol photographer and author.

Photo credit: Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Dr Michael Pritchard FRPS, Director of Education and Public Affairs at The Royal Photographic Society, of which Friese-Greene was a member, says: ‘William Friese-Green joined the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) in 1885 as his experiments in cinematography were taking shape. It is particularly appropriate for Bristol, as one of the UK’s centres of film production, and now the home of the RPS, to be commemorating one of its most illustrious citizens in this centenary year of his death.’

A special online event entitled Who Was William Friese-Greene and What Did He Do? is available to watch from today featuring historian and leading Friese-Greene expert Peter Domankiewicz. He is in conversation with Bristol Ideas director Andrew Kelly, talking about Friese-Greene’s impact and legacy.

Domankiewicz explores Friese-Greene’s development of photography and the moving image, his progressive support for women photographers, the many commemorative plaques to him and their significance and his endless optimism despite setbacks and bankruptcies. He also discusses The Magic Box, John Boulting’s 1951 film based on Friese-Greene’s life and work, which director Martin Scorsese said “…created the biggest impression on me about film and about filmmaking – the one [film] that prompted me to say, maybe you could do this yourself.”

Follow Film2021 on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolFilm2021 and on the project Facebook page.

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