BFI acquires 20,000 films made by the Central Office of Information

Classic public information films, including those featuring Charley the Cat and Tufty the Squirrel, heading to the BFI's archive

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The British Film Institute’s National Archive will receive a windfall of material from the Central Office of Information (COI) when the Office is formally closed at the end of March.

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20,000 different films will pass into the BFI’s hands after the closure, making the COI archive the largest single collection ever to be acquired by the Institute.

Amanda Nevill, the BFI’s Chief Executive, said: “The COI films are wonderful and important examples of British film-making. Often quirky and eccentric, these films over the last 66 years tell rich and diverse stories about British life. The fact that they were used so effectively by Government departments really demonstrates the power that film has in capturing the nation’s attention and influencing Britain and we are very proud that the BFI National Archive is the films’ new guardian.”

Among the titles making their way to the BFI are Royal Destiny (1953), a look at the Queen’s early life; Sierra Leone Greets the Queen (1962) and Britain Welcomes the Emperor and Empress of Japan (1971), which showcases the controversial state visit of Emperor Hirohito and his wife.

Films made for children, including those featuring Charley the Cat, the Green Cross Code Man and Tufty the Squirrel, will also become sole property of the BFI when the collection is absorbed into its archive.

The COI collection will be made available on multiple platforms, with a selection of the films being available to view at the BFI’s Mediatheques at QUAD Derby, Wrexham Library, Newcastle Discovery Museum, Cambridge Central Library, BFI National Library and BFI Southbank, London. Other titles can be found on the BFI’s YouTube channel.

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The BFI has already issued six compilation DVDs of COI material, and a new collection called Volume Seven: The Queen on Tour will be released in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.