Newcastle & District ACA: Treasures from the Cine Club World

The Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA) has been making cine stories and capturing the north east on film for nearly a century. It is the sole survivor of the five original ACA organisations in Britain, first set up in 1927, and this year, incredibly, the cine club celebrates its 90th anniversary.

In 2014 a large collection of the club’s treasure trove of amateur movies arrived at North East Film Archive, dating back to 1928 with a unique film of the wildly festive crowd welcoming King George V and Queen Mary at the opening of Newcastle’s iconic New Tyne Bridge. Through the decades, invaluable reels of amateur film are frequently misplaced, destroyed or simply lurking in attics or garages, forgotten. The Newcastle ACA films are now stored safely in the archive’s vaults for future generations and a selection of work has been digitised through the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage project and will be available to view on our website.

Newcastle & District ACA were storytellers, entertainers and documentarians. From simple or sophisticated drama and comedies to travelogues, home movies and records of events, we celebrate the Tyneside amateur filmmakers (both men and women) who captured the zeitgeist of city and countryside throughout the north east. This significant collection offers a parallel history of the region – moments of camaraderie, celebration or the commonplace – and reveals a valuable and sometimes unexpected heritage.

An extraordinary 1933 ACA news reel of glittering charity events was made when Depression era soup kitchens flourished and Prince George opened the Poor Children’s Holiday Association headquarters, thousands of children squeezed into Newcastle’s Percy Street to welcome him. On the home front in 1944, plucky young novice nurses in ‘hospital blues’ train up in Northumberland for a World War Two role with the British Red Cross Society in Longhoughton and Rothbury. The rich Kodachrome cinematography of another film captures picture postcard Whitley Bay in a bygone era for the fashionable seaside town, its popular Spanish City amusement park shaking up thrill-seeking holiday makers. One of the cine club’s bravura fiction films, Flowers for Peter, is both a stylish crime thriller and fascinating amateur portrait of the industrial decay of Newcastle’s Ouseburn waterfront and the River Tyne in the early 1950s.

The films are an impressive showcase of the North East’s industrial heritage, including NEFA’s earliest footage of Swan Hunter’s Tyneside shipyard launches. Vanishing working class traditions and crafts are also represented, including Durham Miners’ Gala and portraits of Amy Emms, a famous Durham quilter who was awarded an MBE in 1984, and of George Snaith, a shepherd and master stick dresser in the Cheviot Hills, a founder member of the Border Stick Dressers’ Association. These films are often records of what we have lost. As Patricia Zimmerman has said: “We view this kind of moving image with one eye in the past and the other in the present … “

With funding from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, a richly detailed catalogue of the films from the Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association was produced and provides an introduction to the breadth of filmmaking activities in the club.

We would like to thank the National Archives and the Newcastle & District ACA for their support in making these great films accessible to the public.