BW 4/19 Imperial Relations Trust Minutes and Agenda 1938


The Imperial Relations Trust Film Committee was initially made up of the following members:

The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Clarendon (Chairman)
The Dowager Marchioness of Reading
Mr. Oliver Bell (BFI)
Mr. John Grierson
Sir Harry Lindsay
Mr. L.A. de L. Meredith
Sir Stephen Tallents
Sir Walter Citrine
Miss Judith Jackson (Secretary)

The 3rd Committee Meeting on 29th April 1938 introduced Philip Guedalla of the British Council onto the Committee.

Imperial Relations Trust Film Committee, 1st Meeting, March 2nd 1938:

The initial aims of the Committee were to investigate current distribution methods of Empire films in comparison to the distribution of other films, seek ways of increasing the supply and distribution of Empire films into the Dominions of the Empire, and to increase the supply of Dominion films into Great Britain, all of which are discussed on the agenda of the Committee’s first meeting.

Agenda Summary:

  1. To consider arrangements for survey of subjects suitable for filming for Empire audiences.

  1. To discuss visits to Canada and/or Australia in relation to –
    • Distribution of British films in the Dominions.
    • Encouragement of the supply of Dominion films to Great Britain.

  1. To hear about the existing supply of Empire films and the nature of the Imperial Institute distribution service.

  1. To consider the extension of existing arrangements for distribution of Empire films in Great Britain.

The Outcome:

    • At the end of the first Committee meeting it was agreed that the sum of £250 be recommended to the Trustees for the purpose of making a survey, both of the existing supply of Empire films and of subjects suitable for filming for Empire audiences. John Grierson was given the responsibility of co-ordinating the work of the survey, which would cover such questions as the numbers and types of films being made and sent to the Empire; ways in which this supply might be increased; the extent to which the demands of the Dominions are being met.

    • The sums of £500 and £800 were also recommended and were to be allocated towards John Grierson’s visits to Canada and Australia, respectively.

    • A grant of £1000 was recommended for the Imperial Institute to strengthen its supply of United Kingdom films, it being clearly understood that this sum should be granted for one year and should not be taken as a precedent for future grants. It was felt that a grant for this purpose, which would result both in improving the supply of United Kingdom films for showing in this country, and in making available a larger number of films for the Dominions when the time arrived for dealing with this aspect of the question, would be preferable to a grant for the purpose of obtaining extra films and copies of films from the Dominions.

Imperial Relations Trust Film Committee, 2nd Meeting, March 29th 1938:

By the second meeting the Trustees had approved all the recommendations from the business of the 1st meeting, plus an allocation of £100 in case of emergency. John Grierson had provided the Committee with an interim report on the position of Dominion and Indian films in this country. (Appendix A) Also, Sir Harry Lindsay had drawn up a strategy on how to spend the £1000 grant in order to increase the supply of films to schools and teachers (Appendix B)

Agenda Summary:

1. Confirmation of Minutes

2. Business Arising from Minutes – to report that all recommendations have been approved by the Trustees who have further empowered the Trustees on the Film Committee to spend up to £100 at their discretion in case of emergency.

3. Film Survey – to consider Mr. Grierson’s Report.

4. Grant to Imperial Institute – to consider memorandum from Sir Harry Lindsay.

· In regards to the Film Survey the following was agreed:

a) That there was a great deal, which could be done to encourage the distribution of Dominion films in this country until after Mr. Grierson’s visit to Canada as it was felt that a lead by Canada would prove the most useful lever with other Dominions.

b) That in the meantime it was desirable that as much publicity as possible should be obtained for the Empire Film Library and with this in view;

c) That it would be useful to have a turnover article in The Times on the subject of the library, and Mr. Bell offered to approach Mr. W.A.J. Lawrence.

d) That an effort should be made to obtain both a Home and Empire Broadcast about the Library, and Sir Stephen Tallents promised to put Mr. Grierson in touch with the Controller of Programmes and the Director of Overseas Services.

e) That Mr. Bell should arrange for some form of publicity for the Library in Sight and Sound.

f) That as occasion arose members of the Committee should try to obtain from their friends any amateur films of the Dominions, which they happened to know to be good.

g) That any amateur films of the Dominions received by Sir Harry Lindsay should be passed to Mr. Bell who would arrange for them to be vetted by himself or his Committee, rejecting any that were quite unsuitable and returning to Sir Harry Lindsay any that might be used after being “re-created” by a competent editor.

  • For the £1000 grant to be spent on increasing the Imperial Institute’s supply of films to schools and teachers it was agreed that the grant should be devoted to:

a) The selection from the films that at present in the Library of those which are most popular with teachers and the provision of sufficient fresh prints of these films to meet probable demands for sometime to come. The number of these prints was estimated at 255 16mm. and 5 35mm. the total cost of which would be in the region of £600.

b) The addition of prints of existing films not already in the Library.

  • A suggestion of a film about the life of Queen Mary was proposed to the Committee by Edgar Middleton, with the proceeds to be given to the Imperial Trust. It was agreed that Mr. Grierson would obtain more information from Mr Middleton.

  • The chairman reported that he had a talk with Sir Robert Vansittart in regard to the possibility of a proportion of the money, which was being made available for his committee being allocated to the Trust for Empire purposes. He informed the Committee that it was expected that at their meeting on April 5th the Trustees would come to a definite decision as to whether they intended to make a formal application for a grant from this source.

  • The final bit of business of the meeting was the announcement that Mr. Philip Guedalla of the British Council had accepted the invitation to serve on the Committee.

Imperial Relations Trust Film Committee, 3rd Meeting, April 29th 1938:

By the 3rd Committee meeting Philip Guedalla from the British Council was now present. Sir Harry Lindsay had provided a list of new prints that had been purchased with the Imperial Institute grant. A total of 30 new prints were purchased from the Travel Association for 7 of their films (5 silent and 2 sound). John Grierson had provided another report on his film survey.
Agenda Summary:

1) Confirmation of Minutes

2) Business Arising from Minutes –
a) Film of Life of Queen Mary – Mr Grierson to report on conversation with Mr Middleton.
b) Publicity for Film Library – Sir Harry Lindsay rto report on position in regard to The Times, BBC, Sight and Sound, and pamphlet under construction.
c) Purchase of Prints for Library – List submitted by Sir Harry Lindsay (Appendix A)

3) To consider the question of purchase of colonial films under grant to Imperial Institute

4) Mr Grierson’s Report (Appendix B) –
a) Dominion interest in British films.
b) Competitive position of British films in the Dominions and production of Dominion feature films.
c) Review of Canadian films in the Imperial Institute Library.

5) Letter from Mr Guedalla (Appendix C)

The Outcome:

  • Mr Grierson reported that he had seen Mr. Middleton, the freelance journalist who had suggested filming the life of Queen Mary. He had also talked the matter over with the Chairman of Associated British Pictures who was going into the question in detail and would submit a memorandum for the consideration of the Committee.
  • In regards to generating publicity for the Empire Film Library, it was reported that Sir Stephen Tallents had written an article for The Times and that Mr. Amery, Mr. Vincent Massey and Miss Doreen Spender, a schoolteacher, would follow it up with more articles. Mr. Lawrence, of The Times, was proposing to have a further article with more facts about the library and a photograph of a school seeing a film. Sir Stephen Tallents was in touch with the BBC in connection with a broadcast about the Library. It was also decided to leave the article in Sight and Sound to a later stage, along with the publication of the pamphlet until the Film Library was equipped with its new stock of prints.

  • The Committee had before them a list submitted by Sir Harry Lindsay from which it appeared that orders had been placed for 122 fresh prints to be purchased with the Imperial Relations Trust grant. These would be available in the Library in about a month’s time and orders for other prints were under consideration.

It was also reported:

a) That 44 new prints were being sent by the Australian Trade Publicity Section.

b) That about 100 new prints would almost certainly be forthcoming shortly from the Canadian Government.

c) That Lancashire Industrial Development Council was making a gift of 12 new prints.

d) That the Ministry of Agriculture had indicated that owing to lack of funds they could not provide new prints. It was agreed by the Committee that Lord Baldwin of Bewdley would be asked to take this matter up with Mr. W.S. Morrison.

e) That the Milk Marketing Board also declined to co-operate. Sir Stephen Tallents offered to go into the matter with them.

f) That negotiations were being carried out with GBI, Pathe and Kodak with a view to obtaining further prints from these sources.

  • I was pointed out that it would considerably enrich the Empire Film Library if Colonial films might be purchased from the Trust’s grant. It was agreed that the Trustees be asked for authorisation to purchase such films.

  • The Committee noted a report by Mr Grierson dealing with such questions as Dominion interest in British films; the competitive position of British films in the Dominions and the production of Dominion feature films; a review of Canadian films in the Imperial Institute Library. Mr. Grierson drew attention to certain points, which would be taken up by him on his visit to Canada and on which he would report further to the Committee at a later date. He also reported a) that he felt hopeful of encouraging the News reels to add more Empire films to their programmes and that March of Time were including 4 Empire films this year, and b) that the Millers Mutual Association were making a film of the World’s Wheat Supply which would have a section on Canada.

  • The Committee had before them a letter from Mr Guedalla in regard to the possibility of producing films illustrative of British Constitutional Procedure and the System of Justice.

It was agreed:

a) That Lord Baldwin of Bewdley be asked to interest himself in the project.

b) That the cooperation of the Empire Parliamentary Association be obtained.

c) That the question of finance (the cost of the two films might be expected to work out at about £8000) be discussed later.

d) That the question of distribution, i.e. through March of Time, etc., be considered at a later stage.

e) That if the Trustees approved the suggestion Mr. Guedalla and Mr Grierson should meet to discuss the question in more detail before Mr. Greirson’s departure for Canada.

· Mr. Grierson reported that he had met an I.C.S magistrate home on leave from Bihar who had made certain suggestions as to the value of documentary films for India. It was agreed that the sum of £25 be allocated for the purpose of an investigation and report on existing material and ideas for new production which might be suitable for Indian distribution.