• capturing oral history for communities and families

    I'm a freelance filmmaker passionate about recording people's memories and making these into films that can be shared and treasured.

  • Remembering Kirkby Lonsdale

    It started as a passion project with the first interview shot in 2013,
    now complete as a two part feature length documentary.

    broken image

    About the 'RKL' film project

    Community history from Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

    Kirkby Lonsdale's my home town. Growing up there I was

    fascinated by the stories of older generations... days of horsepower and steamtrains, poverty and hardship but also the great affluence of Underley: Kirkby's 'Downton Abbey'. As a filmmaker I had to find the time to listen and record.


    'Remembering Kirkby Lonsdale' captures stories of this small market town in the 1930s & '40s, as remembered by eight of the town's oldest residents. Public screenings have entertained hundreds and helped raise thousands for local charities. Together these two films paint a vivid, humbling and entertaining picture of what life was like before postwar modernisation.

    Remembering Kirkby Lonsdale - pt.1

    Part One – 67 minutes

    The fuedal Underley estate, royal celebrations, touring circus, clog factory, cattle auctions, LMS Railway, Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby’s lost mansion, gasworks, workhouse, Jonty the blacksmith...

    Remembering Kirkby Lonsdale - pt.2

    Part Two – 62 minutes

    School days, Sundays, wash day, play & the police, picturehouse, brass band, sports teams, scouts & guides, fishing & floods...

  • Remembering Highstreet Maryport

    "These new films are fabulous. They’ve been created with memories, maps, moving pictures and photography which just draw you in. Those who know Maryport will love making the comparisons with the streets of today, while those who love a bit of history will be fascinated by times gone by.... a brilliant glimpse into the past."

    part one

    Senhouse Street (north)

    Stories of shops and characters on Senhouse Street around the 1940s, including memories of the quayside Herring Lasses, hot vimto in Ogni's cafe, and the joy of nights at the Carlton 'laugh and scratch' cinema. Funded by Historic England and Allerdale Borough Council.

    part two

    Senhouse Street (south) & Curzon Street

    Stories of Senhouse Street in the '40s and '50s including the night the Luftwaffe bombed Maryport, Rafferty the communist and his cafe, Mrs Nixon's hat shop, and the granduer of the Curzon Street Co-Op. Funded by Historic England and Allerdale Borough Council.

    part three

    Crosby Street

    Stories of the shops and people of Crosby Street including a '40s smuggled parachute silk wedding dress, the grim realities of a 1930s slaughterhouse, and the clog maker who raced pidgeons. Funded by Historic England and Allerdale Borough Council.

  • ...and the Maryport Cinefilms

    In the 1930s a chemist from Maryport had a fascination with shooting 16mm cinefilm.

    90 years later a dusty box of his reels were brought down from an attic nr Leeds and entrusted to me...

    The DW McVitie Cinefilms

    The only known films of Maryport town in the 1930s

    I'd been knocking on doors, researching for the Maryport oral history project. When the Greggains family told me they had some old films in a cousin's attic, I couldn't imagine what a treasure was about to be revealed. Collecting them some weeks later I took the reels to a specialist technician for frame-by-frame scanning in HD to capture every detail. The results were stunning, and thanks to additional funding they're now available for all to see online. Meanwhile the original celluloid reels are preserved in the climate controlled vaults of the north West Film Archive.

    Funded by Historic England and Allerdale Borough Council.

  • Other projects

    Excerpts from some of my other community heritage film projects...

    Jonty Wilson's War

    Community heritage short film (2014)

    Audrey's dad's experience of the Great War.

    From the 2015 HLF funded 'Then and Now' project directed by Jayne Davies.

    Three Harrisons at War

    Community heritage short film (2014)

    George shares the story of three generations.

    From the 2015 HLF funded 'Then and Now' project directed by Jayne Davies.

    Memories of VE Day

    Community heritage short film (2020)

    Several people share their memories of 1945 and the end of WW2. Part of a proposed sequel project to 'Remembering Kirkby Lonsdale'

  • About

    filmmaker John Hamlett and Memoirfilms

    My background

    Filming memoirs is my speciality and a passion. I graduated in documentary arts in 1996, where my degree projects focused on personal histories – the sort of stories people tell, rather than the sort historians write. Since then I've spent over 25 years creating digital media and video (www.lunar.co.uk). I've worked on film commissions all over the UK including heritage work for The National Trust and The Yorkshire Festival of Story as well as projects funded by Historic England, The Lottery Heritage Fund and Yorkshire Dales National Park. I've also made short films like The POW that have screened at film festivals from Keswick & Konstanz to Bucharest & Barrie, winning awards in the UK, Russia and Canada.


    I live with my wife and son near Kirkby Lonsdale, between the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.

    The inspiration

    When a close aunt died I realised I'd missed my chance to hear so many stories about her life... if only I had taken the time. So I started taking the time, capturing the unexpected life stories of people I wanted to know better. Even filming my mum and dad surprised me, with so many fascinating things about them, entire episodes of their lives, that I hadn't really heard about.


    I started filming locals in their 80s and 90s: George had been a merchant sailor fighting off U-boats in WW2, Audrey a district nurse, Joan an ATS sargeant who'd driven trucks through the blitz... and all shared childhood memories of my home town in the 1930s. It really impressed upon me how valuable these sort of stories are to communities, as well as their families. 'Remembering Kirkby Lonsdale' – the first Memoirfilms project – was born.

    Commission your film

    Please get in touch if you have a special person you want to capture for your family or your community. Filming needn't involve lots of preparation or upheaval - it can be kept as simple and unobtrusive as an afternoon's chat over a cup of tea!


    I handle everything: filming, editing, research, archive content etc... and for community groups I can help with publishing and screenings, or just provide advice or training if you want to do the production yourselves. Funding for communities is readily available through heritage grants and local community trusts.


    Filming these stories doesn't need to take long, yet it does mean their magic is saved for others, forever.


    Let me help you capture these stories before it's too late.

  • Contact

    I'd love to hear from you with enquiries or just feedback on the films!

    Please use the form below or email john@memoirfilms.co.uk