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 school.

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 classroom.

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 and lecturing.

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 firm friends.

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 the vote.

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 laughter.

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.