Moving around London has never been this fun

Trafalgar Square hosts free film screening to celebrate transport in capital

by Kevin Emery   October 21, 2009  

Hyde Park Bicycling Scene (1896).jpg

Transport in London has always been high on the agenda in the capital. And these past few weeks it has been in the spotlight even more with the Mayor’s Draft Transport Strategy. But thanks to the BFI you can see what transport in London used to be like in the past – and how different it was for people commuting to work back then.

For the sixth consecutive year, Trafalgar Square will play host to an evening of free screenings tomorrow. The London Moves Me event, presented in association with Film London, is a celebration of transport in London as captured on film, and will be set to a live music accompaniment.

More than 20 archive films depicting travel in the capital over the last century, from the more familiar trains, buses and bicycles to the more unusual skateboards, airships and canoes, offer audiences scenes of the capital from as long ago as 1896.

All films in this programme are from the BFI National Archive, Imperial War Museum and London Transport Museum. And accompanying these screenings will be a live improvised score from acclaimed pianist Neil Brand.

A unique opportunity to see the daily commutes of our forebears, films on show include Westminster Bridge (1896), showing morning traffic by Big Ben, Barging Through London (1924), which follows a traditional horse-towed barge through Hackney, Kings Cross and Camden, and a forgotten vision of the London Underground in Scenes at Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Corner Underground Stations (1931), which captures the beauty of the tube in the early thirties.

Other compelling scenes include R101’S Maiden Flight (1929), showing a spectacular airship’s maiden voyage over London, and Canteen on Wheels (1941), a snapshot of life in London during the Blitz. Breaking into colour, Rush Hour (1970) condenses the titular hour at Waterloo Station into three enthralling minutes, while Project One (2009) is Yohan Forbes’ award-winning short depicting a skateboarder’s odyssey from the Thames Barrier to the South Bank.

The transport theme is rounded off with the Festival’s first Archive Gala, a World Premiere of a newly restored print of Anthony Asquith’s silent classic Underground (1928). Recently restored by the BFI, the film will be accompanied by the Prima Vista Social Club playing a live, improvised jazzy score by Brand in a special performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall. A classic tale of love, treachery and jealousy on the London Underground, the film features some of the first feature film footage ever shot in London’s underground stations, and various famous London locations.

The BFI 53rd London Film Festival is on until Thursday, October 29.