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Looking for Archie: Cary Grant’s Bristol

By Dr Charlotte Crofts, associate professor in Filmmaking, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)

Dr Charlotte Crofts walks us through Cary Grant’s Bristol in the lead up to her 2017 event ‘Looking for Archie’ which maps the Hollywood star’s life onto his hometown. Learn about Grant’s connection to the city and the places he returned to throughout his life.

Global film icon Cary Grant is most often imagined as an American but he was born as Archibald Leach in Bristol in 1904. Many people are unaware that he grew up here and continued an enduring relationship with the city, returning often, well into his seventies. This walking tour retraces Archie’s hometown haunts, and uncovers Bristol’s hidden cinema history, in the places where it actually happened.

'Looking for Archie' will lead participants on a guided tour of Bristol City Centre and offer insights into both the locations the young Archibald Leach used to frequent, and the places at which he was photographed by the Bristol Evening Post on his many visits home after he’d become Cary Grant. I wanted to involve social media, collecting and sharing into the tour, so participants will be encouraged to undertake a treasure hunt finding details specific to each location. Clues will be incorporated into a fold out map, so participants can collect details found on the walk, and recreate the photographs of Cary Grant in Bristol, and share them on social media using the hashtag: #CaryGrantSelfie – to collect a full house.

'Looking For Archie' perfectly fits this year’s Being Human festival theme ‘Lost and Found’ as it uncovers layers of interlinked and little known local history through a place-based journey of discovery. Each layer offers new perspectives on engagement with environment and lived experience. The event builds on my research on screen heritage and place-making drawing on the emerging discipline of New Cinema History, which focuses on the socio-cultural history of cinema, including my award-winning Curzon Memories App (Best Multimedia Award, Learning on Screen 2013) and The Lost Cinemas of Castle Park App - which uncovers Bristol hidden city centre cinemas a project which emerged out of the City Strata AHRC REACT Heritage Sandbox. Both of theses apps were tested with young people, including students at Fairfield, Cary Grant’s old school. Based on user-feedback it was discovered that cinema history really comes alive when experienced in the location where it actually happened.

My interest in Cary Grant began when I was researching city centre cinemas in Bristol and found out that he had written about his experiences at The Clare Street Picture House, The Metropole, The Empire Theatre and The Bristol Hippodrome in his autobiography. I was intrigued by how these buildings – only one of which is extant – informed his love of acting and cinema, as well as how the Bristol’s harbourside and sea-faring heritage had a part to play in his incredible journey from Horfield to Hollywood. This led me to inaugurate the Cary Grant Comes Home For the Weekend Festival in 2014, which is a key partner for the current Being Human event.

The walk will take just under two hours, covering a distance of roughly two miles, and will begin at Bristol Cathedral and end at At-Bristol's Millennium Square next to the Cary Grant statue, where the Christmas Fair and Ice Rink will be in full swing.

It will carry on come rain or shine, so please bring appropriate footwear and clothing to make the tour comfortable. We aim to make the tour as accessible as possible, and there will not be any stairs on the route. There will be a brief cross-harbour ferry trip, but this is accessible to wheelchairs (but not mobility scooters).