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2. Message Home (with Marion Hewitt)2015

Calling Blighty is a series of short films made in 1944-45 of individual servicemen and women in the Far East sending personal messages home to their family and friends. These poignant filmed messages were shown in local cinemas, to the mixed laughter and tears of the specially invited audiences. A Message Home is a project to try to find as many families and veterans as possible, to bring them together to show the films again, and to tell their stories.

Of nearly 400 issues made, only 48 are known to survive. Of these, 23 feature service personnel from the Greater Manchester and wider North West areas, and were found complete with the sheets of contact details showing the names and addresses of the family and friends who were invited to the screenings. You can find here a searchable database of over 600 names, with clips.

Alongside the attempt to trace people, a new artists’ film by Steve Hawley is being made, summing up these unique and compelling films. They are partly stilted, occasionally emotional, but mostly stiff upper lip testimonies, filmed direct to camera often in one take - sometimes funny, and always very moving. In a way, they predict video communications such as Skype, but also offer a window on the understated courage of servicemen who had endured the long separation from their home – in both time and space – often since the start of the war.

This new film, and some of the original Calling Blighty issues, will be screened in the autumn at HOME – Manchester’s new cross arts venue. We are also planning other screenings around Greater Manchester later in the year. The project appreciates the support of Manchester School of Art, HOME, Imperial War Museums, Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society and Archives+