Reach 06 - Early Cinema in Scotland

Film & Broadcasting | Fiolm & Craoladh

For the Early Cinema in Scotland project, working outside of the university has an important impact. For Dr Maria Velez-Serna, visiting the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall means that “our research makes more sense when placed in that actual space.” This is just one of several ways in which  Early Cinema in Scotland has engaged with communities beyond academia.

Dr Velez-Serna is the research assistant on the AHRC-funded project, led by Prof John Caughie. As she explains, Scottish people were avid cinema goers in the early twentieth century. There was a lot of local variety, and Glasgow itself became known as the ‘cinema city’. Film culture was not just about the films; early entrepreneurs showed their creativity in running cinemas, making films circulate, and making people enthusiastic about the movies.

With Glasgow Film and the Bo’ness Hippodrome, Dr Velez-Serna and the four other academics on the project have given talks and screenings to the general public, including recent events and panels in an exhibition in connection with the Glasgow Film Festival 2015. Festival producer, Corinne Orton, says “it has been a real pleasure to work with the Early Cinema project to bring the events and exhibition together. We learned a lot from them and were inspired by their knowledge and commitment in the field. "

On the theme of Cinema and the First World War, Dr Velez-Serna has created teaching packs for secondary school students. This was developed in collaboration with a teacher and alongside the Scottish Screen Archive and Glasgow Film. They also delivered a training session for teachers and produced a DVD of supporting material. The films that were made in Scotland during the First World War can be used “to get a sense of the home front but also to get a sense of the discourses and the way that the state communicated with people”.

The next endeavour of the project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and focuses on the owner of Glasgow’s Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in the 1910s, A. E. Pickard. His collection of scrapbooks is full of information about music hall and films and it will be made available to the public online. The project partners will also train volunteers at the music hall to integrate the archive material into their talks.

Working with the music hall directly helps researchers to visualise the conditions of a cinema show in the early twentieth century. “Presenting a cinema talk in there allows you to do something different, to point to the way that the space was organised for the audience, and that’s quite transformative,” says Dr Velez-Serna.

As part of the focus on A. E. Pickard, the researchers are collecting oral history interviews from people who remember him or any urban legends around this local character, who was active in Glasgow into the 1950’s. If you have any information, please get in touch by emailing





If you wish to find out more about this article or about how you can progress your ideas (i) as an academic wishing to engage with a non-academic organisation or (ii) as a non-academic organisation interested in engaging with the academic knowledge base, please email the College of Arts KE Team.


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