Archive to Blockbuster

When you see someone mentioned in an archival record, do you ever wonder what their lives might have been like? A new project, Archive to Blockbuster, has given four academics the opportunity to pitch their own ideas for films based on their original research to film industry experts. All four have chosen to focus on BAME histories, hoping to create more opportunities for Black and Asian actors and professionals both in front of and behind the camera.

 Jack Benjamin as John Blanke in Ade Solanke’s  The Court must have a Wife , July 2018

Jack Benjamin as John Blanke in Ade Solanke’s The Court must have a Wife, July 2018

Next week, one of the four will be the first speaker in this year’s Big Ideas Seminar Programme at the National Archives. Michael Ohajuru will discuss The John Blanke Project, an art and archive project which works with historians, artists, poets, rappers, photographers, musicians and playwrights to re-imagine the first person of African descent in British history for whom we have both an image and a record – John Blanke, who was a trumpeter to the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. There are two images of him in the 1511 Tournament Roll and he is also mentioned in court records receiving wages and gifts. Michael’s proposal for a film in which he plays the leading role is set in 1533, more than twenty years after his tournament appearance.

I wish I could get along to hear him speak, but perhaps there may be stories about BAME students or those from other under-represented groups hidden in our own records?