Monday, 23 April 2012

A Grand Fancy Bazaar

Academic Group at Fundraising Bazaar 1895 SAAPT P00l. 111
On Thursday 22nd August 1895, a "Grand Fancy Bazaar" was held in the grounds of United College by the Marquis ofBute. This event was intended to raise money to clear the debts of the University ofSt Andrews Students' Union. It included a variety of different forms of entertainment, amongst which was a shooting gallery and Gypsies. But, most interestingly, the programme included, as The St Andrews Citizen newspaper advertised, "Edison's three latest marvels - the Phonograph, Kinetoscope and Kinetophone". Research suggests that this was the first time Thomas Edison's Kinetophone had made its debut in the United Kingdom. The Kinetophone was a box which housed a series of moving pictures, which, when viewed by individuals through a peephole, showed what we understand today as 'film'. 

At the time, The Citizen said of this exhibition "all who took the opportunity of testing on this first exhibition in the United Kingdom, are loud in its praises". The Kinetoscope, which would often play at fairs and travelling exhibitions, housed a moving series of photographs inside a box viewed privately by individuals through a peephole. A number of the early films for this device still survive today, including a film of the celebrated European strongman 'Sandow', many of dancing women (like 'Carmencita') and another film ntitled 'Boxing Cats'. These short films, under a minute in length, borrow heavily from vaudeville. They highlight movement, display bodies in motion and from the outset presented the opportunity for men and, in particular, women to 'safely' view forbidden subjects. The Kinetophone connected the Kinetoscope to a Phonograph audio player. However, the Kinetophone would prove to be a very short-lived and unprofitable technology. There were sporadic appearances afterwards, for example in Dundee and Edinburgh in December 1895. At Edinburgh, the films shown on the Kinetophone included Edison's Highland Dance and 'a "Trilby" Burlesque dance to the accompaniment of music' . It is likely that these films would have been available to those attending the University Bazaar in August 1895.

Cinemas at this time tended to be little more than side shows to other attractions. Travelling shows, like the Lammas Market in St Andrews, often had tents that had been adapted to show short films. Enterprising fairground showmen saw the early potential of cinema and began to incorporate cinematographic shows with their other acts. Early films were not the motion pictures we know today, instead they showed simple shots of everyday life, usually with little narrative, which tended to be of local interest and were very much aimed at the working classes.
The Grand Fancy Bazaar would mark the start of the town's interest in the moving image; an interest that over the next 117 years has seen film played in strange and wonderful places from a converted church to purpose built cinemas.

For more information about cinemas in St Andrews, please visit www.cinemastandrews.org.uk


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