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My Fiddle: British Pathé 1935

Instrument making in London celebrates a centenary since the National School for the Music Trades was first established. A film by British Pathé sheds light on what the extraordinary institution once was.  

The National School for the Music Trades was established in 1916 at the Polytechnic Institute of North London, and survives today after a succession of institutional changes existing at one time or another as it moved to the East End to become part of the London College of Furniture, City Polytechnic, London Guildhall University, and most recently as part of the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design of London Metropolitan University. It’s fortunes have been mixed over the years, but an astonishing number of violin makers and restorers from around the world trained there at one time or another, and as a centre for learning to make instruments, it has been an extraordinary jewel in our cultural landscape.

British Pathé’s visit to the school in 1935 provides a charmingly nostalgic vignette of the violin workshop that would have been played in cinemas across the country. A beautiful moment worth sharing. The photograph (above) is of the violin workshop in the 1950s with William Luff as the teacher. The place has a special place in my heart – I spent three happy years training there and another three teaching part time.

Andrew Brown, a violinist in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra could have probably done with a few lessons from there. It’s a wonder to think that a generation before the Voller brothers were living in Streatham producing extraordinarily sought-after violins:

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