The Mitchell & Kenyon Project

The Mitchell & Kenyon Project was a major partnership research project between the National Fairground Archive (NFA) the British Film Institute (bfi) and the BBC funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Examining and contextualising the films from these pioneer film-makers, who used the fairground Bioscopes and commissions from showmen to expand the exciting new medium of projected film. The material provides a unique insight into Edwardian life and is described by film historians as the cinematographic equivalent of Tutankhamen's tomb - the Mitchell & Kenyon Project was launched on Friday 14 January at St George's Hall Blackburn.

The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon Edwardian Britain on Film

James Kenyon on Sedgwick's Show, Pendlebury, 1901

In a photographic shop, in a town in Blackburn, 800 original nitrate negatives laid unseen in sealed barrels for over 70 years. Rediscovered by local historian Peter Worden in the early 1990s and subsequently acquired by the British Film Institute in June 2000 this collection was the subject of an ambitious four-year restoration and research project, involving the digitisation, dating and contextualisation of the films and revealing the key role of the travelling showmen in the production of early actuality film.

One of the exciting outcomes of this project were the production of 'The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film'

From factory gates to football matches, the leaving of Liverpool to the leaving of work, the workers on holiday and at play; this material provides an unparalleled opportunity to see the world through the eyes of the working communities and their everyday life in Edwardian Britain.

Further events included a touring programme entitled ‘Electric Edwardians’, commencing from February 2005, an annotated filmography ‘The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon’ (Summer 2006) and a series of themed programmes covering transport, sporting history and leisure, screened at the National Film Theatre and throughout the UK.

Related Articles

Mitchell & Kenyon and the Showmen
The Mitchell & Kenyon Firm
Mitchell & Kenyon in Hull

Related publications and resources:


Vanessa Toulmin, Simon Popple and Patrick Russell, The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film (London: British Film Institute, 2004)

Vanessa Toulmin, Electric Edwardians: The Story of the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection, (London: British Film Institute, 2006)


Vanessa Toulmin, 'Vivid and Realistic: Edwardian Sport on Film',Sport in History Vol 26, no 1 (2006)

Vanessa Toulmin and Martin Loiperdinger, 'Is it You? Recognition, Representation and Response in Relation to the Local Film', Film History Vol 17, no 1 (2005)

Vanessa Toulmin, 'An Early Film Crime Rediscovered: Mitchell & Kenyon's Arrest of Goudie (1901)', Film History Vol 16, no 1 (2004): 37-53

Vanessa Toulmin, Patrick Russell and Tim Neal, 'The Mitchell & Kenyon Collection: Rewriting Film History', The Moving Image: Journal of Moving Image Archivist (University of Minnesota Press 2003): 1-18

Vanessa Toulmin, 'The Importance of the Programme in Early Film Presentation.' In KINtop 11: Kinematographen-Programme, (autumn 2002): 19-34

Vanessa Toulmin, 'The Cinematograph at the Goose Fair', in Proceedings of the British Silent Film Weekend, ed. Alan Burton (Trowbridge: Flicks Books, in 2001): 76-86

Vanessa Toulmin, 'Local Films for Local People: Travelling Showmen and the Commissioning of Regional Films,' 1900 -1902', Film History, Vol 13, no 2 (Spring 2001): 118-138

Robin Whalley and Peter Worden, 'Forgotten Firm: A short chronological account of Mitchell & Kenyon, cinematographers', in Film History, Vol 10, (Spring 1998): pp. 35-51

Colin Harding and Simon Popple (eds), In the Kingdom of Shadows: A Companion to Early Cinema, (London: Cygnus Publications, 1996)


Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon (London: British Film Institute, 2005). This is a 90 minute DVD of 35 films from the collection, with 3 extras including an interview with Dr Vanessa Toulmin on showmanship and early film, a voiceover by Dr Toulmin, musical accompaniment by Sheffield artists In The Nursery, and a 24 page illustrated booklet.

The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon (London: BBC / bfi, 2005). This is the three part television series introduced by Dan Cruikshank shown on BBC tv in February 2005.