Harlow/Playhouse Co-operative Film Society Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is comprised primarily of minutes, accounts, newsletters, programmes, film notes, and general correspondence and documents from and related to the film society.

Administrative / Biographical History

The society was formed in September 1950 as the Bishop's Stortford & District Film Society. The society was formed to give people the chance to see films not usually seen in the district, for example amateur, independent and international films. The first screenings took place in the hall at The Herts & Essex High School, with the first one being on 30 September 1950. Screenings then moved to the Phoenix Cinema in 1952, and to Long's Restaurant in 1954.

In 1956 the society moved its headquarters and screenings to Harlow, this was because the society was running into financial difficulties, membership was falling, and the population of Harlow was more than double that of Bishop's Stortford. At the beginning of the seventh season in September 1956 screenings were moved to Moot Hall in Harlow, and then to Stone Cross Hall later in the season.

Rising costs and falling membership meant the society had to seek financial help in 1963, it gained this from the London Co-operative Society which agreed to pay for accommodation, film hire, and an expert projectionist with a projector on the provision that the society maintained a membership of between 60 and 70. The society was subsequently renamed the Harlow Co-operative Film Society. Film screenings had now moved to Harlow Technical College. In 1964 it was announced that the society was again experiencing a decline in membership and financial difficulties and that it may have to be wound up, this happened in 1965.

In 1969 there was a call for the society to be reformed, with it being reported in the Harlow Citizen in August 1969 that over 60 people had responded to an advertising campaign by Mr Ron Bill, the society's last secretary, with the title 'Do you want a film society in Harlow?'. In December 1969 it was announced that the society was to be reformed on 9 January 1970, and was still to be financially backed by the London Co-operative Society. The first screening took place on the 30 January 1970 in the Council Chamber of Harlow Town Hall.

The society became part of the Playhouse Theatre Club in Harlow in 1972 and was subsequently renamed the Playhouse Co-operative Film Society, the first screening took place in the theatre on the 20 February. The society celebrated its 25th birthday in 1975, but it was again announced that the society was in danger of being wound up due to lack of membership and financial difficulties. The society continued, but lack of membership continued to be a problem and in December 1992 the committee and members of the society agreed to suspend it. The society was finally wound up in 1993.

The above history summarised from information within the collection.


The collection has been arranged into minute books; accounts and balance sheets; general correspondence and papers; address books; film bookings, contracts and transport documents; newsletters, film notes and miscellaneous; programmes, scrapbooks and miscellaneous.

Access Information

National Co-operative Archive Co-operative College Holyoake House Hanover Street Manchester M60 0AS

All open materials, can be viewed by previous arrangement, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm. Contact the Archivist at:


Acquisition Information

The records were deposited with the National Co-operative Archive 2006, by Ron Bill, former Chair of Harlow Co-operative Film Society.

Other Finding Aids

A deposit box listing is available.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled August 2009 by Martin Helliwell, volunteer at National Co-operative Archive.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied for research purposes, subject to the completion of a declaration form. Please consult the Archivist regarding copyright issues.


None expected.