For over 33 years, Windrose Rural Media Trust and its predecessor, Trilith, have been chronicling life in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. Its archive film shows have drawn packed houses in village halls, theatres, cinemas and arts centres all over the three counties. With the help of a great many people in local communities, Windrose has discovered, saved and copied thousands of reels of cine film dating from the 1910s to the 1980s depicting our history in moving image.
Although the film archive will be the most familiar part of Windrose's work for many, the Trust has also created a huge range of community based media projects which have enabled local people to learn how to work in video and radio or through which Windrose has made its own original productions about changes in life around us and about valuable community initiatives.
It has all been concerned with how rural life has had and can still have a special character and importance. The Trilith-Windrose Archive allows us to have a long perspective: to look into the past in the most vivid way possible and to understand how history has shaped the way we are and the way we may choose to go.
Windrose has thus accumulated a vast archive of film, video and audio recordings since work started in 1984. Most of these are on pre-digital formats and much of the archive has either been unseen for many years or has never yet been accessible. A great deal of work is needed to bring this fascinating material to the public.
Thanks to National Lottery players through a £67,000 grant award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), very significant progress can now be made. Crucial support has also come from the Alice Ellen Cooper Dean Charitable Foundation, the Valentine Charitable Trust, Dorset History Centre and Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. The total resource available is £93,700.
Windrose's application for National Lottery funding was backed by letters of support from show venues, museums and educational bodies which have long known and used the Trilith-Windrose Archive.
The thousands of original recordings are being preserved under temperature and humidity controlled conditions at Dorset History Centre. Windrose will be working in partnership with Dorset History Centre, Somerset Heritage Centre, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and Bournemouth University. As well as the major task of protecting, cataloguing and making as much of the archive available as possible, there will also be important educational and therapeutic work. Placements will be available for Bournemouth University students and volunteers to enable them to research and learn about the background of films and other material in the archive. Old films will be used to interest and help people with dementia, learning difficulties and hearing loss.
As well as touring shows and DVDs/CDs, much material from the archive will be made available on Windrose's Close Encounters website: www.closeencounters-mediatrail.org.uk This is organised geographically. You click on a symbol on a village or town in which you are interested and discover film or audio recordings relevant to life there. Although Close Encounters is still in its early stages, it is already well worth a visit.
Trevor Bailey, Director of Windrose, said: “It comes as a shock sometimes to realise how big and varied this archive has become. When we were standing in freezing fields shooting our early productions, helping young people to make their first radio programmes or out in the evenings taking old films to the smallest village halls, we didn't have time to spare to sort out its future. You gradually realise that all that work since we started in 1984 has created something that really matters in 2017 and in years to come. Thanks to National Lottery players, we now have three years of fresh work ahead of us, bringing this archive to the public in a more thorough way than has been possible before and doing so by using modern technology.”
“We are very grateful to our funders and partners for making it possible for this to happen.”
“It should not be thought, though, that we shall stop creating new media-based projects in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. We have several on the stocks, some using the archive of course. If we can get them funded, there will be plenty more to announce! We are renewing ourselves. Several members of our team, Ali Grant, Debra Hearne, Amanda Boyd and James Harrison – all names that will be heard more, are pursuing exciting ideas. All of this will, of course, go on adding to the archive. Archives don't end.”
Dorset County Archivist, Sam Johnston, has worked closely with Windrose on the application to the Heritage Lottery. He added: “We are delighted to hold the Windrose archive on behalf of Trevor and his colleagues and very much look forward to playing our part in the forthcoming project to preserve and open up access to this really important historic collection. Film is a potent medium, instantly accessible to audiences young and old. It will be great to be able to share this with the wider public in due course.”