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Families are in film's focus ; Archive footage has not been seen for more than 30 years [Sentinel, The (Stoke-on-Trent, England)]

November 20, 2013


A VETERAN film-maker and archivist has turned the spotlight on an area of Stoke-on-Trent with a film collection documenting its history.

Ray Johnson has put together the footage which features comments from one of Smallthorne's most famous sons. Artist, poet and playwright Arthur Berry was born there in 1925.

Some of the footage on the collaboration had not been viewed for 30 to 40 years until it was displayed to audiences at two film shows at the Smallthorne Community Centre and the Salem Methodist Church.

Ray Johnson, speaking at the Community Centre, said: "The film has received a really good reaction. "It's nice to show shots of footage of existing streets and landmarks in the presence of people who know the area so well. It's a question of selecting films where people can spot things and see people - possibly themselves - when they were younger."

WATCH RAY'S these " The film was first shown at the Stoke Film Theatre on the November 6.The films contain wartime 'Digging for Victory' footage as well as the Smallthorne Chapel Queens from the 1970s and 80s. Mr Johnson added: "Some of the people in attendance will have been children when the FILM AT film was shot. "It's a chance to see people the audience will know, and the main thing is there's lots of Smallthorne on the screen." Mr Johnson has been building up his Staffordshire film archives for around 30 years.

"I'm a great believer in people relating to the films," he said. "It's about bringing the past alive. It's about trying to convey the identity of Smallthor ne."

Barry Ashley, aged 46, set up the Smallthorne History website, which has now received more than 40,000 hits.

He said: "The film is excellent - especially for anyone who has grown up in the area.

"I grew up here and it's quite nostalgic - it brings back a lot of memories. We've got quite an ageing population here and they remember a lot of what Ray has put on screen."

Mr Ashley's website is constantly looking for any photos, documents or memorabilia related to Smallthorne.

He said he felt his childhood home was often ignored because of its close proximity to both Burslem and Hanley. "We've always been overlooked in comparison to the likes of Burslem," he added.

"That's why I started the website and I want to get as much information as I can."

Audience member Ralph Keen, speaking before the screening at Smallthorne Community Centre, added: "Having grown up here film footage like this, which is rarely seen, means a great deal to the local community." The film will be screened again today at 11am at Salem Methodist Church.

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