The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the University of Westminster have announced a new exhibition to celebrate 100 years of British Cinematic history. Opening on 6 June at the historic headquarters of the University at Regent Street, the exhibition charts the birth of film censorship and classification, through to cutting edge rating and labelling of online content, and the cinematic heritage of the various incarnations of the Old Cinema at the University of Westminster.

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View the slideshow of the exhibition now

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The exhibition features early BBFC artefacts such as images of the first BBFC Presidents, T.P O’Connor’s 43 Rules for Deletion as published in 1916, through to cuts books from the 1950s and original film examiner reports. The BBFC’s history will be shown in parallel, and intersecting with, that of the University of Westminster, showing how film censorship impacted on early cinema-going in London. Items from the University’s archive includes material related to the Lumiere brothers demonstrations of moving pictures in 1896 and illustrations of the cinema’s prolific history as a venue for X-rated and avant-garde films.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC says: ‘A lot has happened over the 100 years of British cinema and the exhibition reflects the changing nature of both UK cultural life and the BBFC. The BBFC made a fresh start in 2000, putting child protection, public consultation and transparency at the heart of our approach; but our concerns, practice and expertise have been evolving for much longer, and are a sort of tracking shot of a century of British history. We hope this exhibition will bring to life the links between social and cultural life, as well as the BBFC’s academic and cinematic links to the University of Westminster and its Old Cinema.’

Guy Osborn, Professor of Law at the University of Westminster says: “Inevitably public attitudes and values towards the censorship of British film have changed considerably over time as new concerns emerge and old ones become less significant.”

“The University of Westminster exhibition with the BBFC allows us to see how these sensitivities have influenced the making of cinema during the last 100 years. In addition, it gives us the unique opportunity to showcase a number of exciting artefacts from the depths of the University’s archives and showcase the innovative work carried on at the University of Westminster School of Law.”

Established as the British Board of Film Censors in 1912, the BBFC was designed by the film industry to ensure uniformity in film classification and was a reaction to the Cinematograph Act 1909 whereby all Local Authorities had the power to provide or withhold licenses for cinemas in their area. In addition to the Lumiere connection, and hosting a number of well known national and world premieres, the University of Westminster became famous for showing the first X rated film Life Begins Tomorrow (La Vie Commence Demain) in 1951 and went on to have connections with long-standing BBFC Director James Ferman, who wrote articles for the Poly Law Review in the 1970s, published by the School of Law. Today the school produces innovative work on both film and law, some of which will be highlighted in the exhibition.

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