Leeds University’s Special Collections and Archives ran a ‘speculative lunch‘ on 6/2/2020 to gauge interest in the Leeds Animation Workshop‘s archives of materials from over 40 years of working collectively as a women’s animation coop. A number of feminist academics, archivists, film and animation historians from around the country gathered to discuss LAW’s legacy and who would benefit if Leeds University were to acquire the collection.
Sarah Prescott and Tim Proctor, Special Collections archivists, and Terry Wragg, original LAW member gave an overview of LAW and the materials in the collection. The well preserved records that LAW have kept of their activities cover not only the art work and storyboards from productions, but also the institutional documentation – business documents, minutes, financial documents, invoice books, press clipping, details of screenings they organised and their films were screened in. These all give a clear picture of the operational context and networks they worked in, thus contributing not only to animation history, but also to the history of women’s and LGBT liberation, activist filmmaking, the film workshop movement, film screenings in Leeds and trade unionism. For Terry Wragg, the most important thing is to record the history of women working in animation.
Indeed, the workshop also serves as a role model for alternative ways of producing animation and alternative markets for activist animations that were often commissioned for campaigns and for trade unions. Their working practices and productions are an example of intersectional and inclusive politics through which they lived and practised what they preached. Let’s hope Leeds University does take on this important archive and preserve a vibrant slice of the city’s heritage.
Images from LAW’s headquarters, which is a treasure trove of a terraced house packed full of animated characters and original film equipment.