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Sedgwick's Bioscope Showfront at Pendlebury Wakes (1901)

Outside a fairground cinematograph in Edwardian Lancashire.

Non-Fiction 1901 2 mins Silent


A white-hatted James Kenyon, half of the Mitchell & Kenyon filmmaking partnership, appears in this lively film showing a warm-up act - a famous comedy routine in which a barber slathers a man's face in soap - designed to entice summer holiday crowds to Sedgwick’s 'Bioscope' (film) show. The act causes much hilarity among the spectators, who are encouraged to parade down the stairs for the camera.

This is one of a fascinating handful of Mitchell & Kenyon's films which offer a glimpse of the filmmakers' showmanship and exhibition strategy. The film was screened up to 20 times a day in August 1901 at Pendlebury Wakes to entertain the poorer children of Salford. The 'wakes week' was an industrial holiday introduced in the 19th century, involving the annual closure of the workplace to allow for maintenance and leisure time for the workers. Fairground showmen responded to the opportunity presented by the holiday crowds by showing  the latest novelties - in this case moving pictures. The film was commissioned from Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon by Sedgwick's Bioscope. The Sedgwicks, a showman family who between them managed a menagerie and at least two cinematograph booths, toured the Lancashire wakes at the turn of the century. The filmmakers' close association with fairground showmen may have begun through Kenyon’s penny-in-the-slot business. The strength of these commissioning relationships with bioscope showmen was crucial to the success of Mitchell & Kenyon's film business.