Monday, 19 November 2012

Super adventure, super memories: Super 8!

My brother and sister with an adorable little me in the middle (c.1964)!

I’ve just had a fantastic adventure involving my distant past, cutting edge technology, passion, expertise, a missed flight and the discovery of lost treasure. Best of all, the whole thing was pure Galway!

Last time I was back in London I found an old 1960s vanity case in one of my mum’s cupboards. Clicking open the little metal clasps revealed a collection of old cine films.

Swallowing hard, I tried to keep down deep emotion.

Nobody in the family had seen these little babies for 40 years. I snuck them into a carrier bag and brought them home with me.

Googling ‘Super 8 conversion to DVD Ireland’ brought up a link to a company called Super8Ireland. Where were they based? How far would I have to drive, only to find out I couldn’t afford to pay for the conversion?

Where else of course than Dominick Street, Galway City! Any doubts I’d felt about the enterprise vanished. This was starting to feel as if it was meant to happen, and by the time I’d spent a half hour in the company of Julien Dorgere, I was more than sure.

Even though he’s from France and I’m from England I knew he was pure Galway. Passionate about his work, brimming with love for music and film, he exudes a calm confidence and no shortage of style.

How did he end up in the West of Ireland?

“I came here working as a translator and conference interpreter, missed the plane from Galway back to France at the end of the year and decided to stay. I worked as a translator, while having my Super8 website ( on the side.”

More pure Galway than I ever imagined. There are many reasons we blow-ins end up here in Galway, most of which start “Came for a few days, got drunk…” and end “… ran out of money…” But the missing of that plane sounded more kismet that craic-driven.

Soon Julien was working full time with Super8, bombarded as he was by customers who wanted to digitise their old films. At the same time he kept his beloved 8mm format alive by supplying cine equipment, films and advice to film shooters worldwide.

Having worked on film and music collaborations with Donal Dineen, Vivienne Dick and Mike Smalle, Julien performed as Mr Weasel at the Galway Arts Festival, DEAF, Tulca Visual Arts Festival, Artisit! and the Electric Picnic. But that wasn’t enough for this French Galwegian. He also wanted to celebrate the 8mm format, so he did what many Galwegians had done before: he created a festival.

Set up in 2010, Super8 Shots Festival is non-profit independent film festival, aimed at the entire community, as well as Super8 film makers, enthusiasts, artists and musicians. Running last weekend in Galway, the 2012 festival was a resounding success.

Three weeks after my initial meeting with Julien, I returned home with 10 beautifully formatted DVDs, guaranteed to generate much happiness within my family this Christmas.
Plonking myself down in my chair, I watched the first 10 years of my life unfold.

The 1960s were special to me, because until financial crisis came along in 1970, we lived a privileged life in a beautiful home with a huge garden. Dressed to the nines, we took holidays abroad every other year, which back then was pretty high-flying.

As when you look at photos of your childhood self, I felt no connection to that adorable little child I saw running around my TV screen, yet nothing could ready myself for the tsunami of joy I experienced at seeing my late father as a young healthy man once more. With a smile the size of Cyprus stretching my lips, I sat transfixed as I relived my life of 5 decades ago.

So many long gone now appeared alive in front of me. Grandmothers, uncles and cousins lounged around that wonderful garden, as I watched the tenderness with which my big sister played with me as a baby. I nearly fell off the chair in hysterics at the sight of my father’s torturous efforts to climb down some jagged rocks.

It was absolutely fantastic, and I know I’m far too excited to wait until Christmas to spread this family magic. Those DVDs are already in England as you read this, bringing loved-ones back into living rooms where they are still missed.

If you have old Super8 films, please take them to Super8 Ireland. The experience is tremendous from start to finish.

Back in 1970, my world changed forever. Having never known anything apart from affluence, huge gardens and posh holidays, the leaving of that lovely house and those splendid grounds came as a brutal shock to 10 year-old Charlie. I’d never dreamed of the possibility of losing that lifestyle, and now, 50 years later, I have it back in my possession, to revel in at the touch of a button.

Thanks Julien - and thanks Super8!

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