Arts

Cult Movie: Missing Believed Wiped makes Belfast debut

A re-discovered episode of classic cop show Z Cars featuring Belfast actor James Ellis (centre) is part of the programme for tomorrow's Missing Believed Lost event

THE last people you'd want to trust with preserving television history are the people who broadcast it. Stories are legion of classic TV shows being junked by bean counting broadcasters. There are holes in the histories of some of the greatest series ever to grace the small screen and it's the people who made them that are to blame.

Classic comedies, groundbreaking dramas and just about anything that dared to have a dalliance with popular culture has invoked the wrath of the penny pinchers hand down the year with whole swathes recorded programmes getting wiped – hey, I know video tape was expensive back in the day but the sheer ruthlessness of the purging still beggars belief – or, even worse, flung without a care onto skips conveniently placed outside the production office windows.

Dr Who, Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe And Son all famously fell foul of the trigger happy tape chucker back in the day. That one time The Beatles set foot in the BBC Belfast studios in November 1963? Yup, the tape was wiped to make way for some utterly inane local news story or other.

In typical BBC fashion, they kept the paperwork of course: but for Fab fanatics the world over, the pain of that lost footage is palpable.

It wasn't just the Beeb to blame for this culture of carving up tapes either.

Much of what we hold dear now was considered disposable and unimportant across the broadcasting board back in the day, which resulted in all manner of magical cultural moments being dumped and presumably lost forever.

That's where the good people at the television heritage conservation group Kaleidoscope and the ever reliable British Film Institute come in.

For some time now, they've trawled through storage rooms and encouraged people to diligently dig deep in their attics – and the stuff they've unearthed on dusty old reels and in battered boxes has been incredible.

They've tracked down masses of material that was long presumed lost forever and their invaluable Missing Believed Wiped events in London have provided those of us who pine to see the long-lost history of British television restored with some truly remarkable moments.

Missing Believed Wiped arrives in Northern Ireland for the very first time tomorrow for a whole day of freshly unearthed gems and odd items of pop culture curiosity with a local flavour.

Running from 10am to 5pm at Queen's Film Theatre Belfast, the fun starts with an opportunity to view a recently unearthed episode of Z Cars featuring our own James Ellis – unseen since its original broadcast in 1962.

That's followed by rare screenings for the likes of Music Room, a BBC Northern Ireland traditional music series presented by Maureen Hegarty, and extracts from an early UTV arts show called Preview unseen since their initial outing.

Spliced between a panel discussion on the importance of salvaging these broadcasts from the scrapheap are magical little moments such as a specially made animated trailer for Monty Python's Flying Circus and period adverts and news inserts from down the decades.

There are homegrown delights like Romper Room to savour and even a chance to see a long considered lost clip of Bruce Forsyth introducing The Batchelors on Sunday Night At The London Palladium from 1964.

These are hidden gems from our shared past and moments of genuine Northern Ireland cultural history breathing again on a local screen.

That's something to celebrate if you ask me.

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