New films put local history back in the picture

A Norwich company is bringing history to life by producing DVDs which give a fascinating glimpse in to the way we were. Derek James reports.

There was a time when we only had flickering and faded images of the way we were – perhaps on a rusty old reel of film discovered, covered in cobwebs, in granddad's loft.

Only a handful of people had cine cameras and knew how to make films and only from time to time did Norwich and East Anglia feature on Pathe News in the cinemas – Royal events and the like.

But most people had family memories in a photo album and even if they found some old film, the chances are they wouldn't have a projector to play it on.

And there were those about who would 'edit' your film, slap some organ music on top and then throw the original away.

Times have changed – thank goodness.

Technology is a fast-moving game. Cumbersome tapes and video recorders are now well past their sell by dates and have been replaced by compact and easy to use DVD's.

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But someone has to produce the films for the rest of us to enjoy and that's where forward thinking Norwich company Timereel comes in – it really has hit the spot with a string of fascinating local and highly professional films which people of all ages love to look at.

Titles they have produced include:

Norwich in the Fifties.

Norwich in the Sixties.

Norwich Before the War

Norfolk Past

Plus a string of others looking at the places and people of East Anglia.

All the films are created in a documentary style, lasting about an hour, using original footage from the East Anglian Film Archive.

The company was formed by Andrew Gray and his business partner Ashley Bond.

Andrew is the creative force behind all the films which Timereel produces.

He comes up with the ideas and writes the scripts, using original archive footage to illustrate the stories and capture the true essence of the period being covered.

Ashley is the technical/production specialist who brings Andrew's ideas to life on the screen.

Timereel handles the whole film-making and distribution process – generating the idea for a film, researching and script writing, production, working with cinema groups such as Picturehouse (Cinema City), then selling to the shops or direct to customers online.

While he was still at school Andrew, now aged 29, decided he wanted to be a film-maker. He had an idea for a costume drama and Ashley was one of the friends he roped in to make the film.

He pursued his interest in the past at Cambridge University where he studied history, but he knew that the film and TV industry was where he wanted to work.

For several years he was a producer on a company making programmes for Channel 4 and Discovery such as The Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson.

Andrew realised every year so many films are made but never get released because of a lack of money – so why not treat film-making in a more business-like way.

The two of them started Independent Studios and made a film about a rediscovered railway line in Suffolk.

They produced the film on DVD and started to sell it.

The next production need archive footage on the American Airforce in East Anglia – this led to working with the highly regarded East Anglian Film Archive and being able to use some of the vast footage it holds.

And they have also struck a deal with ITN Source to access nationwide archive material and the company is now working on a range of DVDs covering London and the South East.

All these great films have one thing in common – they show us how times and places have changed, or not, over the last century.

All Timereel Studios films are available on DVD. Visit