FEATURE: Using film to focus on story of our past

“History is important because people are fascinated with the past and it gives them a good indication of the future,” according to Mike Jones.

He loves history so much, he has managed to combine it with his other passion in life – film-making.

“Film is a completely different experience,” says the man behind Undiscovered Upminster and, most recently, Undiscovered Hornchurch.

“Every picture tells its own story, but to see a moving image and to hear people talking about a place is a whole different aspect.”

The 55-year-old former firefighter, who now has a new career doing voice-overs for TV adverts, got into film-making 25 years ago and has never looked back.

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He says: “I came to film by accident.

“I was working for a company doing voice-overs.

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“It involved travelling across Europe and the guy I was with taught me everything there was to know about putting films together and editing.”

Most importantly, the experience gave Mike the chance to do something that he always wanted to do – make a film about his home town’s past.

“I have always wanted to do something about the history of Upminster, but I thought that I am not a writer and there are lots of good books about the area, so I decided to make a film and I was lucky that I got a historian to come on board as well.”

Undiscovered Upminster came out two years ago. Now Mike’s continuing pursuit of his passion has led to the release of a new film, entitled Undiscovered Hornchurch.

The 70-minute DVD takes viewers on a journey from St Andrew’s Church on the hill, down to the town centre, up North Street and along to the old Hornchurch country houses of Langtons and Fairkytes.

It also takes in the Queen’s Theatre and Grey Towers, which Mike believes has been one of the most important buildings in the history of Hornchurch.

“For me, Grey Towers was one of the most interesting things that I found out during the making of the film,” Mike says.

“I didn’t realise it, and I don’t think many people do know about the important role that it played in the area.”

During the First World War, the mansion was used as the battalion headquarters of the 23rd Royal Fusiliers, which was the first army unit to be made up of sportsmen.

In January 1916, Grey Towers was selected to be the first command depot of the New Zealand military contingent in England.

But Mike is keen to let people know that the film is not just a comparison of the past and present.

He explains: “It’s really a walk around the town.

“It’s not a case of ‘Look at this then’, but it’s more ‘Did you know that?’”

And for Mike, the greatest reward is getting feedback from viewers.

He said: “I received a letter from a man this morning, who told me that he had just finished watching the film with his granddaughter and then decided to go for a walk to see the places in the film.

“For me, that’s the greatest satisfaction and nothing makes it more worthwhile than seeing an old man and a young child exploring the history of their area together.”

Undiscovered Hornchurch is available from Hamiltons of Hornchurch, Swan Books and online at www.undiscoveredhornchurch.com

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