I’ve researched quite a bit into the history of filming during the ‘classic’ period of Antarctica exploration, notably the expeditions of Scott, Mawson and Shackleton, and the films taken by those great cinematographers Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley. I contribute a commentary to the BFI DVD of Hurley’s documentary South (1919), on the ill-fated trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914-1916, led by Ernest Shackleton.


From my work with motion picture colour systems (Kinemacolor, Prizmacolor, Dufaycolor etc), I have grown interested in general colour theory, and the relationships between society and colour. If John Gage writes about ‘Colour and Culture’ (meaning ‘high’ culture), then my interest is in colour and popular culture.


I used to organise the annual Wisden (later Archive) Cricket Evenings at the National Film Theatre, and devised a touring show of cricket films, presented by David Frith, called That’s Cricket! which went round the UK in 1998. I’ve followed Kent County Cricket Club since the 1970s, though it’s never been quite the same since the lime tree that stood within the ground blew down (but they have planted a new one).

Family history

I am interested in all branches of my family history, particularly the history of the McKernans/McKernons of Co. Antrim. I have traced the McKernans back to the 1790s, and the furthest I can go back for any line is the Hills (on my mother’s side), resident in Worcestershire in the mid-1600s. My interesting ancestors include Thomas Pooley (a cause célèbre in the mid-19th century when he was imprisoned for blasphemy, mentioned in J. Stuart Mill’s On Liberty) and George Broad (who ran the foundry that cast the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus).


Bob Dylan, Dave Douglas, Gary Lucas, Alberic Magnard, Charles Ives, Mary Halvorson, Hans Reichel, Kevin Coyne, Bukka White, Olivier Messiaen, Slim Harpo, Robert Johnson, Slapp Happy, Sue Foley, Tom Waits, John Coltrane, Irène Schweizer, The Necks, Karel Dalton, Toots and the Maytals, The Ganelin Trio, Bill Frisell, Wayne Shorter, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, Jaga Jazzist, Lee Perry, Christian Fennesz, Thomas Tallis, Young Marble Giants, Medeski Martin and Wood, Barbecue Bob, John Prine, Elmore James, Ground Zero, Curtis Mayfield, Keith Hudson, Palestrina, Johnny Dowd, Iris DeMent, Los Straitjackets, Sir Douglas Quintet, Marisa Anderson, The Roches, Ronnie Lane, T-Bone Burnett, Etron Fou Leloublan, Samantha Fish, Myra Melford, Kate and Anna McGarrigle etc.


I’m interested in the theory and science of memory, in particular how it applies to children and memories of childhood, and (inevitably) in its relationship to the moving image. I’m intrigued, for instance, by the parallels between the workings of memory and the brain’s apprehension of moving images, and in the largely discredited notion of eidectic (or ‘photographic’) memory, a facility that some believe many (all?) children possess to some degree or other but which is lost with age. Why?

Olympic Games

There are too many projects and too little time, but one subject that particularly fascinates me is the Olympic Games of 1908. This was the first time that the Games were held in London, and although they were probably the first truly successful Games and helped establish the modern Olympiads as a fixture to the present day, they were also marred by clashes between the British and the Americans which were a reflection of the changes in the balance of world political power. The presentation of the Games at the White City was mastermined by the remarkable Hungarian showman Imre Kiralfy, a grand project in himself for someone, someday.


How do films persuade? I’ve long been interested in pursuing the history of using the moving image as a means of British government propaganda or information, from the Official newsreel Topical Budget and Charles Urban’s collaboration with the War Propaganda Bureau in the First World War, to the distribution and exhibition of films and television programmes overseas by the Central Office of Information from the 1950s onwards.


Laurence Sterne, Karel Capek, William Hazlitt, George Orwell, Andrew Marvell, David Jones, Ian Buruma, Thomas Middleton, P.G. Wodehouse, Ben Jonson, Graham Greene, V.S. Naipaul, Norbert Elias, E.L. Doctorow, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Derek Mahon, Christopher Smart, Katherine Phillips, Michel Pastoureau, Anne Finch, Miroslav Holub, Beryl Bainbridge, William Cowper, Wisława Szymborska etc.

The sociology of childhood

My studies into cinema audiences in London before the First World War have aroused my interest in the sociology of the section of society which often formed the majority of such audiences, namely children. This field covers social policy, education and child-parent relations, but more interestingly for me the society of children, child economics, oral history and memoir material, and particularly leisure. As usual, my interest is focussing on the late Victorian-Edwardian period.


Chimes at Midnight, The Big Swallow, Je Vous Salue Marie, The 400 Blows, Cutter’s Way, Our Hospitality, The Tempest, The Third Man, Partie De Campagne, Ma Nuit a Chez Maud, Five Easy Pieces, Aguirre Wrath of God, Les Quarte Cent Farces du Diable, Larks on a String, Soft Lights and Sweet Music, Shop Around the Corner, Burnham Beeches, The Ear, Closely Observed Trains, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Marius, Topsy Turvy, Who’s That Singing Over There?, Robinson Crusoe, The Battle of the Somme, Fox Hunt, Spare Time, Pas de Deux, The Fairy of the Phone, This is Spinal Tap, The Big Liebowski, In the Land of the Deaf, The Proud Valley, Trade Tattoo, The Europeans, Land and Freedom, Shadows, Pather Panchali, Raising Arizona, Solaris, A Matter of Life and Death, The Manxman, Free Radicals, Shooting Stars, Hue and Cry, About Schmidt, The Royal Tenenbaums, La Noire de… etc.

5 thoughts on “Personal

  1. Dear Luke,

    I am a Professor of Literature and Film at the University of Toronto, and a Joyce scholar. I will be hosting the Joyce Symposium in the summer of 2017, here at the University of Toronto (Victoria campus, if you know it). I wanted to do something like ‘A Night at the Volta’ and I understand you helped with something like that in Trieste. Phillip Sicker also gave me your name as someone who might know of which of the films shown at the Volta might be available. We also know Joyce visited London with his father in 1900, staying in the cockney suburb of Kennington and attending the music halls. Would any of these halls be showing short films as part of their reprtoire? I will be in London for the upcoming 2016 Joyce symposium. Are you attending? Hope to talk soon. Garry Leonard

  2. Hi Luke,
    A few years ago you posted an article about Rose of Rhodesia. I watched on the streaming version at LaTrobe, but it’s now been taken down. Do you have any suggestions for how I could locate and access it, ideally remotely? Many thanks!

    1. Hi Tsitsi,

      Screening the Past reorganised its website and all of the old links were broken. It took a bit of hunting but the video is still online, here: and the special issue of which it is a part is here:

      I’ll add a note about this to the Bioscope post on the film.


  3. Hello Luke
    I have found an original top secret file from Operation Overlord a PR document , that schedules the filming
    Circa 59 pages and original photographs
    Pathe news suggested you would be interested

  4. I’d certainly be interested, as would the Imperial War Museum if they don’t already know about any such document. Presumably this refers to the co-ordination of both the newsreels and any filming by the services.

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