Amateur films from the last century inspire show about Norwich

Artists Janek Turkowski and Iwona Nowacka performance titled It's Happening in Norwich' which is ins

Artists Janek Turkowski and Iwona Nowacka performance titled It's Happening in Norwich' which is inspired by the films of Norwich man Charles Scott.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

An amateur filmmaker who documented our fine city in decades past has inspired one of this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival events. Arts correspondent EMMA KNIGHTS finds out more.

Norwich is a city full of stories past and present, and a new performance project created for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival looks at snapshots from the city.

It's Happening In Norwich is the idea of Polish artists Janek Turkowski and Iwona Nowacka who have created an event that looks at our city through different people's camera lenses.

The starting point was at the East Anglian Film Archive where they discovered a vast collection of old films.

Ms Nowacka said: 'The fascinating thing was all the movies were made by one person, Charles Scott, an amateur filmmaker who started in 1933. That was great information for us because it was very seldom people made movies in that time. He was making movies for over 40 years.'


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Mr Scott, who worked for Jacobs biscuits as a driver and depot manager, bought two film reels a year. On these he recorded family moments and key city events.

'We watched the movies and it was a kind of fascinating, beautiful chronicle of the city,' said Ms Nowacka.

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Carnivals, football matches, royal visits and even the development of the Magdalen Street flyover feature in his films, and highlights are shown in It's Happening In Norwich.

The title of the performance has also been inspired by the enthusiastic Norwich filmmaker.

Ms Nowacka: 'The title comes directly from Charles Scott's movies because he sometimes called them 'It Happened In Norwich.' We said if it happened in Norwich, let's look at what is happening in Norwich now. The idea [of the project] is that we try to continue the work of Charles Scott.'

To do this Ms Nowacka and Mr Turkowski have visited Norwich many times to make their own films which are also shown in the video-storytelling performance, and they recruited local volunteers to do the same.

Ms Nowacka said: 'They are great co-creators of this project. They give us their perspective and it's lovely to have them because they enrich our project. It's not only about what we see, it's lots of perspectives.'

The setting of the performance is also a spectacle in itself, with the audience invited into a medieval merchant's house in Elm Hill for the viewing.

Mr Turkowski, who presented the show Margarete at last year's festival, said it was a privilege to show It's Happening In Norwich in such a beautiful and historic setting, and he said he hoped the new show would encourage more interest in the films of Charles Scott and inspire filmmakers of the future.

He said: 'It's something what we have started but we don't know where it will end. It is something that we hope will continue.

Maybe in 50 years' time people will find the footage of what we have done and there will be a new generation of filmmakers that are inspired.'

It's Happening In Norwich – which is a Norfolk and Norwich Festival commission – runs until Sunday. Performances every day, except today, at 4pm and 7pm. Tickets £12. For more information visit www.nnfestival.org.uk

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