‘Shippam’s Guide to Opera’, 1955 (SASE 3266)

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Chosen by Ine Van Dooren of Screen Archive South East (http://about.brighton.ac.uk/screenarchive/)

In 1995 my life changed. I was appointed Moving Image Archivist for the South East Film & Video Archive, now called Screen Archive South East. I got some of my belongings in a car and moved from the Netherlands to England. More than 20 years later I am still here and love it. Although Screen Archive South East is part of the University of Brighton and serves the whole region of south east England, our Conservation Centre is situated at West Sussex Record Office, where I started with some 500 films. Now we hold over 10,000 items, including magic lantern slides, film, videotape, digital material, and associated documentation, hardware and technical apparatus. Our film collection, which is housed at WSRO, includes documentaries, newsreels, advertisements and ‘home movies’, and reflects the changing nature of life and work in the south east throughout the 20th century and beyond.

Choosing a favourite film is difficult but the 1955 animated film ‘Guide to Opera’, made for Shippam’s in October 1955, has to come up in the top ten. I still remember visiting the East Walls factory in Chichester, being honoured with a tour of the premises and a wishbone! Alan Readman (then Assistant County Archivist) and I then went into the basement, always a joy, to come back with a mixture of film reels, a Magic Lantern and a box of slides. The films show fascinating promotional material from the 1930s to the 1970s and include the company’s two longer advertisements, ‘Ancient to Modern’ (1936) and ‘A Family Tradition’ (1954), alongside shorter advertisements such as ‘Guide to Opera’ and ‘Shippam’s Tattoo’ (1958).

70-pilchard-and-tomato‘Guide to Opera’ is a lovely advertisement, a play on popular operatic tunes with chickens singing arias, a pilchard dancing and singing a duet with a tomato, and other fun stuff. I have shown it dozens of times and it always makes me smile. It was performed by the ‘Michael Sams Singers’, who were radio singers at the BBC, well known for Radio 2’s popular ‘Friday Night is Music Night’, and this colour version was made specially to be shown in cinemas; a black and white version has the distinction of being the first advert shown on Southern TV. Although it was award winning and is fondly remembered, the advert apparently was not as commercially successful as anticipated, as it failed to generate any significant increase in sales.

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On Tuesday 25th October (2016), Archivist Nichola Court will be telling ‘The Story of Shippam’s’ at West Sussex Record Office. As well as exploring the history of the company, there will be an opportunity to view some of Shippam’s promotional films – including ‘Shippam’s Guide to Opera’ – alongside associated items from the archive, such as magazine advertisements, and film and radio scripts. Tickets cost £8 (non-refundable) and must be booked in advance; to book tickets or for further information, please contact West Sussex Record on 01243 753602 or email records.office@westsussex.gov.uk. To find out more about Screen Archive South East, please visit http://about.brighton.ac.uk/screenarchive/

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