Exhibition Curator: Gray, F. Exhibition: 'Kiss & Kill: Film Visions of Brighton,' Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Brighton & Hove, 4 May – 1 September, 2002.
Author of Catalogue Essays: Gray, F., A Short History of Brighton on Film, pp 5 – 13, and, Oh! What a Lovely War, pp 23-29; as part of the exhibition catalogue: Kiss & Kill: Film Visions of Brighton, Royal Pavilion, Libraries and Museums, Brighton & Hove, 2002, ISBN 0 948723 49 1.
In 1992 a consortium of local authorities and the University of Brighton created the South East Film & Video Archive (SEFVA), a public sector regional film archive for the region. (The archive was re-named Screen Archive South East in 2006.) With a background as a film and art historian, I became its first director and since that time we have established the archive by creating posts, building a collection for public and scholarly use and developing a programme of public activities. Research is an essential part of the archive’s work as every item in the collection needs to investigated in terms of its history of production, exhibition and its relationship to ‘history’. Most of the films in the collection are works of amateur non-fiction and, because of their regional character, they are intriguing representations of place, period and lives. What particularly fascinates me is how selected films from our collection can be combined with relevant commercially-made feature films in order to analyse the range of representations of one place over the course of the 20thC. This notion provided the catalyst for the exhibition proposal to Brighton Museum & Art Gallery that was accepted in 1999 and realised in 2002.
Designed to complement the re-opening of this major regional museum after its HLF-funded refurbishment, this public exhibition was a critical and popular success. A grant of £60,000 from South East Arts Board made it possible. It explored, for the first time, the many representations of Brighton on film through materials drawn from the collections of Lord Attenborough, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, the British Film Institute and the SEFVA. It revealed the critical value of exploring the popular mythologies that develop through the fictionalisation of a particular place and the dialectical relationship between such fictions and ‘actual’ histories. The exhibition had over 100,000 visitors during its four month run.
The exhibition and the catalogue essays focussed on the many feature films associated with the town and considered how they have contributed to popular understandings of Brighton’s history and its character. It becomes a site for extreme emotions and conflicts found within narratives that are always set either on the seafront with or at the Royal Pavilion. The everyday world of Brighton, the Brighton as lived behind the seafront by its residents, has either little or no part to play in these ‘big-screen’ identities. In fact, it can be argued that these Brighton films are not about Brighton at all, as they are vehicles, contrivances, for the expression of popular anxieties, concerns and desires. As such, they transcend the specificities of place and particular histories and become projections of what could be described as a national unconscious.
I served as the exhibition’s Curator and contributed two essays to its catalogue: A Short History of Brighton on Film and Oh! What a Lovely War. The former has been adapted for a special issue of Film Studies in 2007 on the theme of Cinema and the City. This research also influenced the creation of our film festival, CINECITY. Since 2003, it has become the South East’s most significant film festival and it continues to attract good support from the University of Brighton, Screen South and the Arts Council. The festival’s identity is shaped by our interest in city cultures and their representation by the moving image.
"… I left this clever exhibition pondering the uncomfortable truth that Brighton had been appropriated and rather misrepresented by outsiders."
(Richardson, N, 'A Peerless Location for Screen Fantasists', The Daily Telegraph, 20 April, 2002. Daily Telegraph archive)
"The first special exhibition in the redeveloped Museum is a very good one about Brighton in the movies."
(Campbell, P., 'In Brighton', London Review of Books, 23 May 2002, p.12)
"An intriguing new exhibition, 'Kiss & Kill', at the lavishly revamped Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, showcases filmmakers’ successive visions of the town."
(Barker, P., 'Pier and Loathing', The Independent Magazine, 4 May 2002, pp 18-20)