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A New Film Making Group at North Down and Ards u3a

A group of people standing in front of a camera

North Down and Ards u3a has started a film making group with equipment funded by the Heritage Lottery from an earlier Shared Learning Project (SLP) with North Down Museum in Bangor, County Down. This SLP began late in 2018 alongside seven other local historical groups to record some of the rich commercial and industrial history of Ards and North Down area.

Like the other groups, the u3a-led Heritage Group in Bangor, County Down had to produce a 10 minute film of interviews with people who had in-depth knowledge of the local enterprises it had researched. The Group also designed a display panel of images and a booklet on the subjects chosen for research. Although delayed by the pandemic, the full text, images and films of all research will eventually be archived on the Museum’s and the eight participants’ websites.

The Bangor Heritage Group chose four subjects – the early 19th century cotton mills which had made the town an industrial centre; a family of coal merchants and shipowners who were prominent in the area from 1832 to 2000; a family fishmonger and poulterer’s shop opened in 1890 and still trading; and the Bangor Italians, in the catering and tourist trades, which made Bangor so well known as a seaside resort from the 1840s, with the coming of the railway, up to the middle of the 20th century.

The prospect of making a film was at first daunting to the u3a-led Heritage Group but equipment and training was provided by The Nerve Centre in Londonderry and Belfast. This covered oral history recording; audio and video recording; plus film making and editing. Future training will include digital scanning and archiving images and text.

The Group was fortunate to have the services of a u3a member who had been an editor with the BBC in Belfast and his former colleague, a cameraman. The 10 minute film comprised five interviews and was integrated with seven films from other researchers into a ‘loop’ which ran during the launch of an exhibition of the project at North Down Museum in March 2020 before it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic which led to the Museum’s temporary closure.

Under the leadership of former BBC editor, Peter Croft, a film making group has been formed in the Autumn of 2021. Training is needed for a production team, but we are hoping that this can be provided by The Nerve Centre. We also need to recruit more members with knowledge of professional film making. With a strong team who knows what films we might attempt?

It would be good to begin with a short promotional film of our u3a’s activities to accompany grant applications; for inducting members and for publicising u3a through film presentations in the locality. Showing evidence on film to local government and our Health Trust of u3a’s contribution to the mental health of its 1200 members in North Down and Ards, is a priority.

The film making group is an exciting development and we want to contact other film makers to exchange ideas and be inspired! If there are any other film making groups in Great Britain, we would love to hear from them. Please get in touch with me!