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Mitchell and Kenyon: Birmingham University Procession (1901)


Main image of Mitchell and Kenyon: Birmingham University Procession (1901)
Mitchell and Kenyon 523-526: Birmingham University Procession on Degree Day
435 ft combined, black & white
Production CompanyMitchell and Kenyon

A procession of University dignitaries or graduate students.

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The University of Birmingham was the first of a number of new 'redbrick' universities established in the 1900s (Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Bristol followed before the end of the decade), receiving its charter in 1900 and replacing Manson Science College and Birmingham Medical School. Medical graduates are evident in this procession waving bones at the camera.

Making its debut in July 1901, Degree Day was the newest addition to the roster of local ceremonies that passed along Congreve Street and Victoria Square in central Birmingham. The square was formerly known as Council House Square, and had a tramway running through it. It was renamed on 10 January 1901, six months before this procession, to honour Queen Victoria, whose statue - which appears briefly in the final reel - was erected and unveiled just 12 days before her death.

This film of the events was among the 800 films in the trove of early 20th century films shot by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon discovered in 1998. Yet it wasn't, in fact, shot by Mitchell and Kenyon; the cameraman was Arthur Duncan Thomas, passing himself off as the American film pioneer and inventor Thomas Edison. For his cheek Thomas was described by the British filmmaker Cecil Hepworth as a "loveable rogue, a scoundrel".

Thomas used four whole rolls of film to record the event - the four sections seen here - which would have been projected as one film at Birmingham's Curzon Hall. The film negatives were retained by Mitchell and Kenyon, who would have been paid to process and print the film.

The advert for its screening in the local press promised 'animated portraits' of the Rt Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, who was then Chancellor of the University (having had long links with the city as its onetime mayor). Throughout his political career Chamberlain had campaigned for educational reform, helping in 1869 to set up the National Education League, a political movement in England and Wales promoting elementary education for all children, free from religious control.

Rebecca Vick

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Video Clips
Mitchell and Kenyon 523 (2:21)
Mitchell and Kenyon 524 (2:52)
Mitchell and Kenyon 525 (1:27)
Mitchell and Kenyon 526 (2:26)
Mitchell and Kenyon