90 Years of Film Making in Burnley

by Mike Smith


Believe it or not, Burnley has been involved in making films since 1931 when ‘The Burnley And District Amateur Cine Society’ was formed, the group holding its first meeting in the town’s Mechanics Institute. The following year the Cine Society began screening its own home-made films in cinemas across the Burnley area to public audiences. The Cine Society went through several changes through the decades, (Burnley Cine Club, Burnley Camcorder Group) and the club continues to operate today as Burnley Film Makers with a steady number of dedicated members who make their own films and get together regularly to record local events and screen these to various groups. 

Sam and his wife Edith in 1986 still working

One of Burnley’s most famous film makers was Burnley schoolteacher Sam Hanna who also began making films in the early 1930s. In his spare time, Sam began filming local craftspeople such as coopers, hand-loom weavers and brush makers and became an early pioneer of introducing film into the classroom. In the 1950s, he invented things for film makers such as the ‘Hanna Projector’ and ‘The Effects Box’ and set up Brun Educational Films in Burnley as a commercial operation exporting his films and inventions around the world. In 1986, Sam’s contribution to film making was recognised by the British Film Institute. 

Still from Sam Hanna’s 1950s film The Cooper

Television producer and screen writer Paul Abbott, famous for Shameless, Clocking Off and State Of Play, was also brought up in Burnley and has won numerous several Royal Television and Society awards during his career. 

Burnley Film Makers continues to attract people to making films and anyone can join. The former Cine Society has re-purposed itself for the digital age and its members learn from one another and from invited guest speakers like BBC’s Songs Of Praise producer Cat Lewis. 

BFM’s longest serving member Keith Widdup joined Burnley Film Makers in 1964 and like other members enjoys the camaraderie and support provided by being a club member. 

“You are assured of a warm welcome and at every meeting you will leave having picked up a tip or idea to improve your own filming technique.” 

Another important part of Burnley Film Makers’ work is the Annual Newsreel, which records events taking place in Burnley throughout the year, from charity fundraisers to local events and news items. The newsreel is screened before an invited audience in December and a copy sent to the North West Film Archive for their records. 

Burnley’s lady film makers 1970

BFM member Carl Stredder is responsible for producing the Annual Newsreel: 

“The reason I joined BFM was to gain more knowledge about the hobby I have loved since I was 15-years-old. I have never regretted a minute since joining. I have improved not only as a film maker but also in my own self confidence.” 

Burnley Film Makers meet every Wednesday evening from September to May and new members are always welcome. 

BBC film producer Cat Lewis with BFM in 2018

On Saturday 30th April 2022, a free public event will be held at Burnley’s Central Library to mark the 90th anniversary of film making in Burnley. The event will bring together film makers from across the Burnley area and will feature displays on the history of film making in the town, the Sam Hanna collection, talks from film makers, tips and advice, demonstrations on how to make better films and much more. 

 For further details of Burnley Film Makers and the 90th anniversary go to burnleyfilmmakers.org 

Northern Life Mar/Apr 2022