Britain’s docklands, the vital front-line for international trade and communications, have provided subject matter for generations of artists and writers. 

Films showing in this section: 

10:30 - William Raban Sundial 1992
10:32 - Alexandre Promio Liverpool Docks [La Rade; Entrée dans Clarence Dock, Panorama pris du chemin de fer électrique I-IV] 1896
10:37 - Basil Wright Waters of Time 1951 (extract)
10:43 - William Raban Thames Barrier 1977
10:53 - William Raban Island Race 1995

William Raban Sundial 1992

1 minute. Collection: Lux 

In a single minute, William Raban considers a possible role as a sundial for the newly-completed Canary Wharf Tower. He also reflects the changing face of East London in its shadow. Produced for BBC2’s The Late Show. 

Biography:

William Raban was born in 1948. He studied at St Martins School of Art, London, and Reading University. He ran the London Filmmakers’ Co-op workshop, and wrote and published Filmmakers Europe, an international listings and review magazine which reflected the artform’s internationalism. His work has included expanded cinema, installations and work for television, much of it with a strong social/political undercurrent. He has taught at North East London Polytechnic, St Martins School of Art and currently at the London College of Printing. 

Alexandre Promio Liverpool Docks [La Rade; Entrée dans Clarence Dock, Panorama pris du chemin de fer électrique I-IV] 1896

5 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive 

Made a century before William Raban’s study of the newly-completed Canary Wharf Tower, this film shows the commercial prosperity of Liverpool docks in 1897. Alexandre Promio was an itinerant cameraman who worked for the two Lumière brothers, inventors of the cinematograph for filming and showing moving pictures. 

Biography:

Alexandre Promio was born in 1868. One of the Lumiere brothers many camera/projector operators, Promio travelled widely, shooting and screening work in Madrid in 1896, and Belgium, Sweden and the USA in 1897 and 1898. His filming in Liverpool was combined with a trip to Dublin. He died in 1926. 

Basil Wright Waters of Time 1951 (extract)

5 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive 

Basil Wright made two feature-length studies of the River Thames and its traffic for the Port of London Authority; City of Ships 1939 and Waters of Time 1951. This sequence from the later work shows his interest in the careful conjunction of sound and image. 

Biography:

Basil Wright was born in 1907. Worked with John Grierson from 1929, but claimed he acquired his artist’s ‘eye’ from Robert Flaherty. He worked on Night Mail 1936 and many of the most innovative documentaries of the pre-War period, and was director of the Crown Film Unit in its final years. Later taught at the University of California from 1960, and at National Film School in London. His witty and eclectic view of cinema informs his books The Use of Film 1948 and The Long View 1972. The film prize of the Royal Anthropological Institute is named after him. He died in 1987. 

William Raban Thames Barrier 1977

8 minutes. Collection: Artist 

One of Raban’s most neutral or factual films, Thames Barrier was made using three synchronised cameras, and is shown on three synchronised 16mm projectors. 

Biography:

William Raban was born in 1948. He studied at St Martins School of Art, London, and Reading University. He ran the London Filmmakers’ Co-op workshop, and wrote and published Filmmakers Europe, an international listings and review magazine which reflected the artform’s internationalism. His work has included expanded cinema, installations and work for television, much of it with a strong social/political undercurrent. He has taught at North East London Polytechnic, St Martins School of Art and currently at the London College of Printing. 

William Raban Island Race 1995

26 minutes. Collection: Lux 

I finished [my previous film] A 13 shortly after the BNP [British National Party] won a bye-election on the Isle of Dogs. Events were taking place that urgently needed to be addressed and this was the starting point for Island Race. For me it was a process of rediscovering the part of London where I had lived for 20 years.’ William Raban Filmwaves Spring 1998 

Biography:

William Raban was born in 1948. He studied at St Martins School of Art, London, and Reading University. He ran the London Filmmakers’ Co-op workshop, and wrote and published Filmmakers Europe, an international listings and review magazine which reflected the artform’s internationalism. His work has included expanded cinema, installations and work for television, much of it with a strong social/political undercurrent. He has taught at North East London Polytechnic, St Martins School of Art and currently at the London College of Printing.