Does cinema know that?
27th Leeds International Film Festival is over, from several weeks by now. (And how many cinemas did we see? Not so many, but only from the buses. Even if I really would like to go to the Hyde Park Picture House to try the real English cinema experience.)
Anyway, my recent visit to the Industrial museum at Armley Mills has reminded me some pieces of information that I’ve been collecting in these weeks and put in an drawer in my mind called “Leeds+cinema”.
Which the results? Don’t know yet, precisely. But I discovered some legends about Leeds and her love for cinema (I know i’ve said “her” although I’m not sure Leeds is a lady yet).
Right now there are a bridge, two owls and a plaque on that bridge related to Louis Le Prince. And here started the story. The true story of the invention of moving images that we’ve lost when he disappeared from a train to Paris.
It seems that in 1887, at that time neither American Thomas Edison or the French Lumière brothers had begun their own research into moving pictures, Louis built 16-lens camera at 160 Woodhouse lane and a year later he created his first films, recording some scenes on the Leeds Bridge.
But then? Why nobody seem to know Le Prince?
He was in Dijon at his brother and he wanted to come back to Leeds, where he was hiding his discoveries from industrial American spies, to finally patent his new camera. Something went wrong and Le Prince was never seen again alive or dead. So Thomas Edison got the credit for the birth of cinema when he demonstrated his projecting Kinetoscope in 1894, six years after Le Prince projected his film of Leeds Bridge.
But there’s even more. In fact Leeds contribution to cinema could started even earlier with the Donisthorpe Wordsworth. Son of a mill engineering, probably inspired by his father’s invention, he seems to have recorder the world’s first moving image, decades earlier than Lumiere Brother. Even with music.
But he was considered a nutter and nobody believed to his fantasy about making picture moving.
These are very weird and nebulous stories but what is sure is the large numbers of old cinemas that Leeds holds, that still shape her identity and landscape. And also the fervent atmosphere of the industrial Leeds that was the perfect laboratory for new ideas and for turning passions and fantasies into inventions.