New ideas - my
inventions, and a time in prison
I was invited to visit other towns to demonstrate how films
could be incorporated in the school curriculum as a definite
aid to education. I called it "teaching citizenship".
I showed my colleagues how, by using films in the classroom,
they could prepare school beavers by showing them films of the
kind of industries most of them would be entering on leaving
I felt that the still pictures and charts, on the classroom
walls and the use of drawings by the teacher on the blackboard
- had great value, but how much more effective was a moving picture
which, as if by magic, could transport the children to foreign
countries, could take them back in time, could let them look
through the most powerful microscopes, could bring the works
of all the famous writers into the classroom. This I felt was
an excellent way to teach Geography, History, Biology, English,
in fact any subject.
It was widely accepted that teachers produced the best text
books for their use, so I reasoned why should not teachers produce
the best films they needed to help the. with their work in the
Some teachers did not like the idea of moving away from 'chalk
and talk'. They were reluctant to try out new ideas and looked
for excuses for not giving support to my suggestions.
They argued that special rooms would be needed to show films,
a classroom could not be blacked out.
I invented a 'day light screen'. My training as a craftsman
had underlined the truth in the saying - "necessity was
the mother of invention". I found myself inventing all kinds
of apparatus to help me with my pioneering work in education.
I made my own film slide projector, a film loop absorber, several
titlers, an effects-box for producing professional effects on
films and many more.
My Daylight Screen
I moved my film laboratory away from my home and rented buildings
where I could spread out a bit more and in time I formed y own
film company - Brun Instructional Films - which later I changed
to Brun Educational Films.
I decided on the word 'Brun', because of my love for my own
town of Burnley which was named after its own river Brun running
through the meadow (lea). I had a few helpers along the way,
but none more so than from my wife Edith - who patiently supported
my extra activities and nursed me through periods of ill health.
My filming in the '40s and '50s added - besom making, handloom
weaving, basket making and a host of other films to my library.
Requests for copies of my films came from many parts of the country
and abroad. Film makers used my 'inventions'
My 'inventions' enabled me to continue with my pioneering
work providing a small income to pay for more film stock. The
'daylight' screen I first used in demonstrations was to meet
my own needs. I had to confess, when asked where such a screen
could be bought, that I had made my own. But, to meet demand,
I started to manufacture these screens.
Similarly with the Loop Absorber, none were available until
I found an engineering firm to make them for me, and they sold
well to 'loop film' users all over the world. Later I designed
a filmstrip projector, I named it the 'Hanna' projector and found
a Burnley firm willing to make them. It operated on a 12 volt
battery and was very safe to use; thousands were made and sold
overseas but sadly the idea was taken from me because I did not
patent my idea.
But, not discouraged I designed other pieces of apparatus
that were not available and for which there was a need. The two
most successful products were the Brun Effects Box and the Brun
Cine Titler. I did patent the Effects Box !
The Effects Box could be used as a lens hood and provided
the film maker with opportunity to create special effects making
the completed film more professional in its presentation. The
Titler too, enabled the amateur photographer to film titles for
his films with professional ease.
The Brun Effects Box
In my private workshop, Bill Brown my school janitor, helped
me in the evenings to finish off, assemble and pack the products
which went all over the world. When we both retired from work
we spent many hours dealing with orders and working on new ideas.
But, whilst I was still teaching at Abel Street School, the School
of Arts and Crafts and finally at Burnley Grammar School - most
of my spare time went in travelling round the country film making
I continued to seek out more craftsmen and craftswomen in
remote places and villages. My lecturing throughout the British
Isles brought me in contact with many people, most of them gave
me a great deal of encouragement and support and in time became
Dr Iorweth Peate, Keeper of the National Museum of Wales in
1945 and here I gained through a life long friendship with this
eminent Welsh Educationalist until his death in 1982.
My wife, Edith, whenever possible, accompanied me on all my
filming expeditions and lecture tours. On one occasion we found
ourselves in prison. I had many requests to show films to various
audiences and it was not always my craft films they wanted to
see. It was a request from Strangeways prison in Manchester that
eventually saw Edith and I behind prison bars.
We first went as visitors to have a look at the prison to
see the inmates in their cells and recreation areas and gradually
to assess the atmosphere of the prison. The Governor wanted me
to make my own selection of films. There were no television sets
in those day a and apart from the prison library and chapel,
there were few recreational activities for the prisoners.
After the preliminary visit, I discussed, with my family,
the selection of films which might be appropriate. It was my
daughter who suggested our family favourite - Charlie Chaplin.
I wondered if 'Chaplin the Convict' was the sort of film the
Governor had in mind. After all I had my series of Old English
Craft films plus several professionally produced entertainment
films that would have been suitable, but Charlie Chaplin won
I can still remember the reaction of the inmates. There in
the prison chapel, the altar had been sheeted over and a screen
erected. On the screen was Charlie dodging the prison warders,
there ere cries of delight and whistling too. I looked across
at the prison chaplain, there were tears of joy in his eyes.
The prisoners had assembled in the chapel, probably wondering
what this schoolteacher/film producer was going to inflict upon
his captured audience - only to find it was an evening of side-splitting
I was invited to visit the prison on several occasions and
in a bid to find something different, I asked a friend, Parker
Chadwick, who was a professional comedian, to bring a 'concert
party' to the prison. Parker proved to be a true troubadour,
not only did he compere the show, but he gained the affection
of his audience with his repartee. He told the inmates that I
had suggested that he should sing "Don't fence me in"
(whistling and cheers from the audience) - followed by "Bless
this House" (more whistling and cheers). Then there
followed a slick programme of entertainment.