Tate St Ives Film

Film for Friday: The Barnes Brothers

black and white photograoh of two people standing at a kiosk

John Barnes and Garlick Barnes 'buying a ticket' at the ticket office of the Museum of Cinematography, taken at the time of the museum opening in 1962.
© St Ives Archive, photographer Sam Bennetts

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Watch The Barnes Brothers films depicting the fishing industry in St Ives and around the Cornish coast

The first Film For Friday of the new year is the screening of two short films by the Barnes Brothers; Gem of the Cornish Riviera 1936 and Cornish Nets 1938. These 16mm black and white silent films depict aspects of the fishing industry in St Ives and around the Cornish coast. On their release they were commended by the Board of the Amateur Cine World.

John Barnes (1920–2008) and William ‘Bill’ Barnes (1920–2018) were twin brothers who began film making as teenagers. From a young age they showed an interest in life around them in the coastal and rural communities in Cornwall and Kent. In 1939, they studied film with Edward Carrick in Soho who was film director for Ealing Studios and The Crown Film Unit, (later GPO films). They both served in the Navy during the Second World War and later joined their mother, Garlick Barnes, an artist who had moved to St Ives. In 1951 to coincide with the Festival of Britain they exhibited their collection of early film equipment above a bookstore in the High Street, St Ives. John Barnes then established the Museum of Cinematography at 44 Fore Street in 1962, and the museum closed in 1986. Between 1976 and 1998 John wrote the key five-volume reference text The Beginnings of the Cinema in England 1894–1901. This is ‘an essential work in the literature of the film’. (Film Quarterly) recently reprinted by Exeter University. Later in their lives, in 1997, the brothers were awarded the prestigious Prix Jean Mitry for services to silent film.

In support of the film showings Tate St Ives will also host an online event on Friday 29 January at 18.30 with Tony Grisoni, award winning scriptwriter for film and TV and Janet Axten, of St Ives Archive and local historian. The event will share some of the history of the brothers, their importance to early cinema and the hosts will invite audiences to participate live in the event to contribute to the knowledge about this fascinating local history.

With kind thanks to St Ives Archive for image permission and research and Screen Archive South East who hold the original films and key aspects of the John and William Barnes Collection.

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