Jill Craigie: Film Pioneer

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Media, Film and Music

Abstract

Jill Craigie (1911 - 99) was one of Britain's earliest women documentary makers. Her career as a pioneering film-maker has been largely eclipsed in public memory by her position as the wife of former Labour leader, Michael Foot. Although a handful of other women managed to work in creative roles in the sector (including the Grierson sisters, Kay Mander and Margaret Thomson) and had some support from the Documentary Movement, Craigie's films stand out because of their overtly feminist and socialist politics, their attempt to juggle activism and entertainment, and a degree of critical recognition on their release. We will use Craigie as a case study to interrogate the historical frameworks and the canon of the British Documentary Movement which have undervalued women's contribution to the genre. We will explore what Craigie's life history reveals about the social and industrial factors which constrain, and sometimes enable, women's involvement in film production. Drawing on her extensive personal archive at the Women's Library and other sources, we investigate how Craigie managed in her short career as a director (1944 - 51) to negotiate both obstacles and opportunities. We look at how Craigie's witty, polemical films including 'The Way We Live' (1946) (on urban reconstruction), 'Out of Chaos' (1944), (the first arts documentary with Moore, Nash, Spencer and Sutherland) and 'To Be Woman' (1951) (a forceful, early argument about equal opportunities) present an unique, woman's perspective on the cultural and political challenges the nation faced during and after World War Two.
Our research will contribute to initiatives by our partner, the BFI, to encourage women's film production and contextualize their current plans to distribute work by early women documentarists.
Our outputs will take two principal forms: firstly, an experimental documentary biopic about Craigie, 'Making the Grade', and secondly a book. The film will investigate how to create a similar approach to Craigie's own hybrid mix of documentary and drama such as through a first-person narration by 'Craigie' herself reflecting on her past, from the moment of her final film, 'Two Hours from London', (1994). We will examine how her history might be represented in ways which reveal her multiple and complex identities as not only film-maker but as suffrage historian, journalist, feminist and devoted wife of 'Labour's Old Romantic'.
We aim to provide creative insights into the biopic, advancing work in the genre by eschewing conventional to-camera interviews and instead using a dramatized narration which reflects on the contingency of the film's archival sources and uses Craigie's own words, films and photographs to explore her life history. Our proposed book aims to discover why Craigie's career as a film maker effectively stalled through the 1950s although she moved into screenwriting and remained active as a journalist. It will examine the social and political forces which account for this gap in her film production; a gap which is crucial to understanding not only Craigie, but the many women since who have struggled to maintain a career in the film industry. We will chart how, although her production activity ceased for 40 years, her commitment to her political ideals did not and was pursued in her lifelong interest in the women's suffrage movement. We will examine how Craigie mediated the 'first wave' of feminism to understand the politics of her own time just as we envisage this project informing a revision of documentary film histories to encompass women's contribution.

Planned Impact

Jill Craigie: Film Pioneer will make an important contribution to public understanding of women's role in British cinema. Our project provides a creative intervention in moves by other organizations to boost equality in current film production. Impact will be achieved through the following:
1. Enhancing public awareness of women's film history:
The presentation of our work about Craigie including at our partner, the BFI's, planned season and tour and dvd on Early Women Film-Makers will enable wide access to our research for public and professional audiences. Live screenings at Southbank and at the BFI's regional partners, including Tyneside Cinema, where Thynne was formerly Education Officer, Cardiff and Glasgow will stimulate engagement and interest in the project and provide valuable feedback on further dissemination. We will also work with Our Screen prior to the dvd release to promote the film to audiences in communities across Britain through live screenings in areas which do not have extensive cinema provision. Our partner, The Stanley Spencer Gallery will host an event in their community at Cookham (Berks.) to share our research on Craigie's remarkable arts documentary, 'Out of Chaos', which features the painter Spencer as a key subject.
2. Contributing to current equality and diversity initiatives in the film sector:
The BFI are supporting the project because of their commitment to improving equality in the contemporary film industry and in foregrounding the achievements of, and obstacles faced by, women historically in national film culture. Our project will enhance their current work on women in film history, spearheaded by curator Ros Cranston, particularly by revealing the industrial and social conditions which framed and limited their contribution. The proposed inclusion of our film on the Early Women Film-Makers dvd will provide an invaluable historical perspective for current strategies and campaigns to improve equal opportunities in the sector.
3. Inspiring women film professionals in pursuing their careers:
By exploring the work and life of a neglected woman director, we will enable women working in the film business today to learn from the lessons of the past and understand the approaches taken by their female forebears in pursuing their projects. We will enter the film into the BFI London Film Festival as well as other film festivals worldwide which will raise the reach and profile of the film for an international audience, including of other women film-makers. Acceptance at the LFF will attract invitations to other festivals, nationally and internationally. In addition, we will target major documentary festivals (including Hot Docs, Sheffield, Copenhagen, Yamagata) and the key women's film festival (Films de Femmes, Creteil which has selected many of Thynne's previous films). Our partner, Peninsula Arts, will host a film preview and dedicated event around this topic aimed at women in the sector in the South West region, to which we will invite speakers from BECTU, Directors UK and Women in Film and Television.
4. Developing knowledge of gender issues in film practices in the education sector:
In the first instance, we will work with our partner, The Forum, Norwich to engage their extensive education networks in a day school on Craigie. From this and through a teachers' conference at Sussex we will develop materials with teachers for use in the secondary curriculum around early women film-makers. Sussex has successfully run such events before, drawing on classroom expertise to embody staff research in teaching resources which can be shared within the region and nationally e.g. through the BFI funded programme, 'Into Film' which supports teachers in the use of film in the curriculum and beyond.

Publications

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Title The Jill Craigie Collection Guide 
Description The Jill Craigie Collection guide is a 112-page guide to the Jill Craigie papers deposited at The Women's Library, LSE. It was produced by Adele Tulli, the former research fellow on the project from a survey of the collection, which consists of 72 boxes of material. The LSE catalogue, which was completed in 2018, only contains basic descriptions of the contents at paper file level. The guide identifies the contents of each box, down to item level, in most cases. Our guide provides detailed description, context and explanation of the contents of the collection for other researchers in film, suffrage and women's history. Parts of the guide have been used to annotate the LSE catalogue of the Craigie collection. Part One provides a brief biography for Craigie, incorporating some of our current findings from research of her little known work at the BBC; and an overview of the collection organization and highlights: suffrage collection and correspondence; film career; politics and Involvement in Labour party and private life. Part Two describes the collection under the following headings, as per the table of contents: 7JCC Series 1: Research material of Jill Craigie 33 7JCC/1: BOX 1 - Research material on suffrage movement 7JCC/1: BOX 2 - Collected material on suffrage movement 7JCC/1: BOX 3 - Suffragettes' accounts and anti-suffragette papers 7JCC/1: BOX 4 - East London Federation of Suffragettes and Women's Freedom League 7JCC/1: BOX 5 - Collected material about suffrage and women's rights movements 7JCC/1: BOX 6 - Notebooks of Jill Craigie 7JCC/1: BOX 7 - Research material in Women Rights 7JCC/1: BOX 8 - National Council of Women of Great Britain and other women related campaigns 7JCC/1: BOX 9 - Civil war in the Balkans 7JCC/1: BOX 10 - Research material on suffrage movement 7JCC/1: BOX 11 - Papers of Elizabeth Robin (aka E.C. Raimond) and Jessie Kenney 7JCC/1: BOX 12 - Research material on Suffrage Movement - 7JCC Series 2: Correspondence of Jill Craigie 42 7JCC/2: BOX 1 - Correspondence of Jill Craigie 7JCC/2: BOX 2 - Correspondence of Jill Craigie 7JCC/2: BOX 3 - Correspondence of Jill Craigie - 7JCC Series 3: Authorial Papers by Jill Craigie 79 7JCC/3: BOX 1 - Drafts for 'Daughters of Dissent' 7JCC/3: BOX 2 - Drafts for 'Daughters of Dissent' 7JCC/3: BOX 3 - Drafts for 'Daughters of Dissent' 7JCC/3: BOX 4 - Drafts for 'Daughters of Dissent' 7JCC/3: BOX 5 - Scripts and diary entries 7JCC/3: BOX 6 - Articles by Jill Craigie 7JCC/3: BOX 7 - Papers on film making 7JCC/3: BOX 8 - Unidentified manuscript - 7JCC Series 4: Personal Papers and Photographs 93 7JCC/4: BOX 1 - Personal papers and photographs of Jill Craigie and Michael Foot 7JCC/4: BOX 2 - Personal papers and photographs of Jill Craigie and Michael Foot 7JCC/4: BOX 3 - Photographs of Jill Craigie and Michael Foot - 7JCC Series 5: Papers of suffragettes 99 7JCC/5: BOX 1 - Correspondence and papers of Grace Roe 7JCC/5: BOX 2 - Correspondence and papers of Grace Roe 7JCC/5: BOX 3 - Correspondence and papers of Grace Roe 7JCC/5: BOX 4 - Correspondence and papers of Christabel Pankhurst 7JCC/5: BOX 5 - Suffragette Fellowship and other correspondence 7JCC/5: BOX 6 - Papers and correspondence of Pankhursts and Grace Roe 7JCC/5: BOX 7 - Photographs collected by Grace Roe 7JCC/5: BOX 8 - Papers and photographs of Anna Munro and Charlotte Despard 7JCC/5: BOX 9 - Papers and photographs of Pankhursts, Alice Paul and Barbara Castle - 7JCC Series 6: News cuttings albums 107 7JCC/6: BOX 1 - News cuttings album on suffrage movement 7JCC/6: BOX 2 - News cuttings album on suffrage movement 7JCC/6: BOX 3 - News cuttings album on suffrage movement 7JCC/6: BOX 4 - News cuttings album on suffrage movement 7JCC/6: BOX 5 - News cuttings albums compiled by Jill Craigie, various themes 7JCC/6: BOX 6 - News cuttings albums - various themes - 7JCC Series O: The Jill Craigie Objects Collection 108 7JCC/O: BOX 1 - Women's Social & Political Union postcard album 7JCC/O: BOX 2 - Suffrage Photographs 7JCC/O: BOX 3 - Suffrage-related material 7JCC/O: BOX 4 - General political material 7JCC/O: BOX 5 - Will Dyson cartoons 7JCC/O: BOX 6 - Modern cartoons and material relating to Michael Foot 7JCC/O: BOX 7 - Family photographs 7JCC/O: BOX 8 - Miscellaneous visual material 7JCC/O: BOX 9 - Press cuttings 7JCC/O: BOX 10 - Mounted posters, photographs and press cuttings 7JCC/O: BOX 11 - Suffrage artefacts 7JCC Series P: The Jill Craigie Library 110 Currently in paper form at the Women's Library, the guide is due to be added to the LSE library catalogue shortly as an electronic resource. https://archives.lse.ac.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=7JCC%2f00 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The guide is enhancing the use of the LSE Special Collections and is contributing to awareness of the Craigie collection and its importance as a research resource. 
URL https://archives.lse.ac.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=7JCC%2f00
 
Description Enhancing the work of a regional gallery 
Organisation Stanley Spencer Gallery
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Lizzie Thynne established a partnership with the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham , Berks during the award application period from January 2017 . We agreed to share our research on Craigie with them since she worked with Stanley Spencer who lived in Cookham on her film Out of Chaos, (1944). This was the first film to show artists at work, focusing on selected war artists including Spencer, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, and Paul Nash. Thynne and Tasker liased with the gallery to present our research-in-progress at the gallery and this has taken the form, so far, of a public talk by Tasker at the gallery on 10 December 2019 ( see Engagement Activities), which was included as part of a public adult education course on British Artists of World War Two, run by gallery archivist, Ann Danks and attended by approximately 50 people.
Collaborator Contribution Chrissie Rosenthal at the gallery liased with Thynne for some time while our bid was in preparation and arranged for a suitable occasion for us to engage with gallery visitors to present our research in discussion with archivist, Ann Danks. The gallery provided the venue, projection. publicity and volunteer time to organize and run our talk and promote it to visitors and students on the War Artists course.
Impact See above
Start Year 2019
 
Description Presentation and discussion of Craigie's work and its relevance to local history and culture 
Organisation University of Plymouth
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Devising, planning and co-ordinating public engagement event at the Arts institute Plymouth (22- 23 November 2019) involving a screening and discussion of the project film rough cut (Making the Grade, working title, final title: independent Miss Craigie); workshop with contemporary women directors on their careers; screening and discussion of Craigie's film 'The Way We Live' at the Arts Cinema, Plymouth. Managing budget, selecting and inviting speakers. See Engagement activities for details
Collaborator Contribution Supplying Front of house and technical staff, provision of two venues, staff time in liasing over event and its contents, publicity and out reach to local community and media, arranging catering and volunteer support.
Impact See under engagement activities: 'Making the Grade: Women directing documentary past and present', Arts Institute, University of Plymouth - 22-23 November 2019
Start Year 2018
 
Description Recording and interpreting British film history 
Organisation Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Multiple 
PI Contribution The partner is actually the British Entertainment History Project, originally a BECTU project, ( but I can't enter the right name on the system) We have highlighted their collection of oral history interviews with workers in film and television by using the key extant interviews with Craigie extensively in our film biography of her .
Collaborator Contribution They have supplied the required interviews free of charge in broadcast format and provided access to interviews with other colleagues of Craigie's.
Impact Biographical film 'Independent Miss Craigie' (2020), produced and directed by Lizzie Thynne currently in post-production.
Start Year 2018
 
Description 'British women documentary filmmakers 1930-1955' symposium, London School of Economics - 5 April 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Organised by project members Sadie Wearing at LSE and Lizzie Thynne at Sussex, this one-day symposium aimed to deepen understanding of women's creative presence in British documentary film-making. The papers presented explored individual films and filmmakers, as well as the industrial, social and historical contexts in which they worked. The presentations and responses from the audience highlighted key issues pertaining to women's contributions to documentary filmmaking, raising important questions of authorship and agency, film exhibition and distribution practices, and the significance of kinship and informal support networks. Speakers and contributors included a mixture of postgraduate students, academic staff, filmmakers and museum and archive professionals (including from the BFI and the Imperial War Museum), and the symposium offered a range of perspectives and archival research contributing to a lively discussion - and critical re-evaluation - of the variety of women's roles in non-fiction filmmaking in mid-twentieth century Britain.

There were 168 people registered for the event on Eventbrite, we estimate that 100 people attended for at least part of the day.

Selected comments from feedback:
Exciting, invigorating affirming and defining the complexity of elements in my journey as a film maker and woman (occupation: Semi-retired independent film maker)
All the papers and discussions were fascinating (Occupation: Lecturer)
The richness and variation [of the event] was outstanding (Occupation: Librarian/researcher)

Reviews of the day have since been published online on the IamHist blog, the Illuminations media blog and for the Journal of Media Practice and Education (Aug 2019). Llewella Chapman's review for IamHist praised the selection of papers and 'the range of methodological approaches they offered toward the researching of women documentary filmmakers during this period' from both scholars and archivists. She particularly highlights that 'the symposium provided a very supportive environment in which to provide further platforms for future collaboration and research'.

The symposium has indeed led to further collaborative projects, including the formation of a panel on 'Letters, lives and archives: an epistolary approach to women's film history.' at BAFTSS, St Andrews in April 2020. The key outcome from the symposium will be a special issue of the Journal of British Cinema and Television focusing on 'Feminism, documentary and British film histories 1930-55' (accepted and scheduled for publication in 2021). Foregrounding the place of feminism and the contribution of women in non-fiction arenas of filmmaking in the mid-twentieth century, the special issue will feature research presented at the symposium and will be co-edited by team members Yvonne Tasker, Sadie Wearing and Hollie Price.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25741136.2019.1647698
 
Description Inaugural public lecture, Yvonne Tasker - 'Invisible women? Analysing gender and media', Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds - 16 October 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In this public inaugural lecture, Yvonne Tasker explored the meaning of gendered bodies in media cultures. She looked at the career of socialist filmmaker Jill Craigie to show how radical women have long been involved in the British film and television industries, arguing that gender is a vital frame for media history and analysis. Approximately 200 people - staff, students and members of the public - attended the lecture. Discussion focused on the need to raise the profile of Craigie and of women filmmakers more generally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.jillcraigiefilmpioneer.org/yvonne-tasker-inaugural-lecture-invisible-women-analysing-gen...
 
Description Making the Grade: Women directing documentary past and present, Arts Institute, University of Plymouth - 22-23 November 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The 'Making the Grade' weekender - a series of three events over two days - aimed to use Jill Craigie's filmmaking career as a springboard to explore the opportunities for women documentary filmmakers past and present. Held in Plymouth, where Craigie made her second documentary on town planning - The Way We Live (1946), the events were co-organised with the Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth and the Plymouth Arts Cinema, with the aim of reaching the general public, film practitioners and students at the university and based in the region.

The first event was a public screening of the first draft of the project documentary about Craigie's life and career, followed by responses from the audience and a panel with Lizzie Thynne and two of the women filmmakers Rebecca Brand and Ruth Grimberg we'd invited. Local historian Chris Robinson wrote a feature about the screening in the Plymouth Herald, and it was attended by people with interests in local history and women's filmmaking, and who had varying degrees of knowledge about Craigie and her husband Michael Foot. In the feedback, one comment was: 'you have inspired me to read more about Jill Craigie!'. Another audience member wrote that they especially liked the 'opportunity to see "draft" film screening' and respond to it, and that they were 'fascinated by the sacrifices and compromises that Craigie made as a consequence of the norms of her generation and marriage'.

Chaired by Lizzie Thynne, the second event was a workshop with women documentary filmmakers - Barbara Santi, Rebecca Brand, and Ruth Grimberg - who discussed issues such as finding funding, developing their ideas and modes of distribution - offering a range of different experiences of the industry to the students and general public in the audience. This workshop provided an opportunity for networking between professional and academic practitioners Thynne has been invited as external examiner for Barbara Santi's PhD and Rebecca Brand has expressed an interest in a practice-led PhD.

The third event was a fully booked screening of Jill Craigie's 1946 film The Way We Live in the Plymouth Arts Centre cinema - with talks from Stephen Essex, a lecturer in Geography at the University of Plymouth, on the 1943 Plan for Plymouth and project research fellow Hollie Price on the making of the film. After the screening, audience members were very keen to talk about their memories or second-hand stories about the film being made, first seeing it and its significance to contemporary Plymouth.

The key outcome from this series of events was that audience members reported that they learnt something new about Jill Craigie's career, or in the case of the filmmakers workshop - learnt about the problems and issues faced by women documentary filmmakers working today. We plan to continue our collaboration with the Arts Institute with further events, including a screening of the final version of the project documentary.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.jillcraigiefilmpioneer.org/making-the-grade/
 
Description Public lecture, Sadie Wearing on 'To Be a Woman', London School of Economics - 24 September 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact LSE Public Lecture - 'I am not particularly despondent yet': the affective life of a feminist film in post war Britain'

Based on research on the production and distribution history of the film held in the UK National Union of Women Teachers archive, the lecture offered a reading of Jill Craigie's 1949 film 'To Be a Woman', drawing out both some of the tensions of this context and the articulation of the imagined future of gender equality at this time. In considering the production and distribution context of the film the lecture offered an account of the affective dynamics or (after Williams) the 'structure of feminist feeling' within which the film was produced and disseminated. The lecture was hosted by the department of gender studies at LSE and was attended by students and academics and also members of the public.

The visibility of Jill Craigie's work as a politically motivated film-maker and significant contributor to documentary history was revealed to the audience; responses suggested a new awareness of this role. Attendees also commented that they had learnt for the first time of the discourses around equal pay with which Craigie was engaged in the 1950s
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.lse.ac.uk/gender/events/2019-20/'I-am-not-particularly-despondent-yet'-the-affective-life...
 
Description Public talk - Yvonne Tasker, 'War Artists on Film in Out of Chaos', Stanley Spencer gallery Cookham - 10 December 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Yvonne Tasker's public talk was held at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham as part of a course on war artists. The talk was well attended and feedback sheets for the event indicated that members of the audience felt that they had learnt about Craigie's career, a number of whom wrote that they had not heard of her or only as Foot's wife - so commented on their new understanding of Craigie's contribution to documentary filmmaking, and specifically to educational arts documentaries. One audience member wrote that they were fascinated by Out of Chaos and found the '"behind the scenes letters, conversations' and 'plans and details of distribution' (from archival evidence in Yvonne's talk) most interesting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.jillcraigiefilmpioneer.org/public-talk-war-artists-on-film-out-of-chaos/