A celebration of the movies made by the acclaimed, local, amateur filmmaker Archie Reid will be screened during a special Picture House Community Cinema event at the start of the forthcoming Ballyclare May Fair festivities.
Archie was a prolific, award-winning filmmaker, with many short movies to his credit documenting life around Northern Ireland.
His lens often focused on his beloved home town, Ballyclare, and his ‘movie stars’ were friends, neighbours and local school children.
A selection of his films, curated by NI Screen, is being brought to Ballyclare Picture House’s big screen in the local community cinema that shows monthly movies in the Town Hall.
“The May Fair has a long history in the town and is always the highlight of the year for local people,” explained the Picture House’s Robert Robinson, adding, “we wanted to compile a selection of this amazing archive footage for the festivities made by Archie and his wife Lindy and their friends.”
The event is free and takes place in the Town Hall at 8pm (doors open at 7.30pm) on Saturday, May 19th.
The screening of the short films will be supplemented by interludes of music, poetry and talks with people who worked with Archie during his film making career.
“The event is brimming with Ballyclare culture and talent,” said Mr Robinson.
Archie, who lived in Ballyclare for his whole life until his death in 2005, got into filmmaking as a student at Queen’s University where he joined the camera club.
But he preferred moving pictures to stills-photography and continued with his new hobby during a postgraduate teaching qualification at Stranmillis College, where he met Lindy, a 17-year-old trainee teacher.
“The camera club there put up a poster saying ‘Wanted: Women’ – for films and photoshoots,” Lindy explained, “I went along but I preferred doing the technical jobs rather than posing!”
She concentrated on audio editing and recording.
“The sound was recorded separately and you had to match everything up,” Lindy recalls.
The couple went on to become teachers and married in 1961. It was in 1972 through school that they met Iza and Joan McDowell – also teachers – whose mother, Florence Mary, had written ‘Other Days Around Me’, reminiscences of growing up in the Co Antrim countryside.
“Florence Mary asked Archie to make the movie and he agreed as long as Iza and Joan looked after the practical side,” Lindy explained, adding, “they roped in 30 children and many local folk and friends and we made the movie! The film went on to win a Ten Best Award in the Institute of Amateur Cinematography Awards and was shown at the National Film Theatre in London.”
By this time, Archie had formed ARC Films with chums Craig Clements, Rex Thompson and Rowel Friers, the renowned cartoonist.
Rowel Friers starred in another film, playing three roles, including the local parish priest.
Amused by English people’s view of Northern Ireland, Archie’s team was inspired to make ‘Sodom and Begorrah’, a comedy about attitudes to Ireland.
“The film is dedicated to people who have misconceptions of Irish life. We put up signs for the town of Ballybegorrah but it was really Holywood. From idea to completion took two years but it was such fun,” Lindy recounted.
Brimming with wit and warmth, Archie’s films are often inspired by local novelists, or works of whimsy, not least Sodom and Begorrah’s humorous send-up of stage ‘Oirish’ with Rowel Friers’ priest finding that his new parish is an extremely challenging calling!
Archie continued to teach history and media studies while making his films and eventually took a job making education videos for the Education and Library Board as well as producing some films for Newtownabbey Council.
Archie was also the driving force behind Ballyclare and District Historical Society for many years before his death.
Everyone is welcome to come along to see the collection of Archie’s work at the Picture House event on 19 May – while tickets are free, seats are limited so booking is advised.
Archie’s films are digitised and preserved as part of a British Film Institute project. They are held in the digital archives by NI Screen, which is providing copies for Ballyclare’s screening.
They capture many facets of life there and in the surrounding areas in days of yore, when Archie was part of the bustling Northern Irish amateur filmmaking community that sprang-up in the 1960s – alongside the likes of The Spence Brothers and J J Tohill.
The Northern Ireland Digital Archive describes Reid as a “prolific filmmaker and this collection pays tribute to the diversity of his work; be it glorious footage of his home town’s May Fair in the 1960s, through to ambitious film shorts, such as Seventh Angel - inspired by the Nuclear Disarmament movement during the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis – or the historical flight-of-fancy, The Jorvik Saga”.
The Ballyclare May Fair Festival, running from May 19th to May 26th, is one of the few horse fairs left in Northern Ireland.
The event has grown to be more than a horse fair, and along with the Archie Reid film-screening there are amusements, family activities, music concerts, a Mayor’s parade, sports events and exhibitions.
Local shops compete for the best dressed window, and children take part in fun days and competitions.