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Ms Laraine Porter

Job: Senior Lecturer in Film

Faculty: Computing, Engineering and Media

School/department: Leicester Media School

Research group(s): Cinema and Television History Centre (CATH)

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 257 7995




Personal profile

British silent cinema, silent cinema and live music, British Silent Film Festival, the BECTU Oral History Project, Women’s Film History, British cinema history, Cinema and World War I, British silent film comedy.

Publications and outputs

  • Okay for Sound? The reception of the Talkies in Britain 1928-1932
    Okay for Sound? The reception of the Talkies in Britain 1928-1932 Porter, Laraine The arrival of the talkies in Britain evoked mixed responses. While popular audiences enthusiastically embraced Hollywood musicals like the Al Jolson hit The Singing Fool (1928), the literati were often scathing of ‘mechanical’ music and dialogue. Hollywood dictated the speed of change and economics and public demand soon forced the British film industry to convert to sound, but critics, intellectuals, educators, artists, literary figures and musicians were openly hostile to the new art form, opening a chasm between popular taste and intellectual response. The cacophony of dissenting voices was joined by various official reports from bodies like the Trades Union Congress and the Federation of British Industries who predicted the deleterious effect of the talkies on everything from British jobs in manufacturing to diminishing Britain’s influence across its colonies and dominions. This article will map these discourses and examine attitudes to the introduction of the talkies in Britain between 1929 and 1932 as the new technology gathered momentum across the UK and film criticism developed as a distinct discipline.
  • Women's History Review.: Structures of Feeling: Contemporary Research in Women's Film and Broadcasting History
    Women's History Review.: Structures of Feeling: Contemporary Research in Women's Film and Broadcasting History Porter, Laraine; Ball, Vicky; Kirkham, Pat This special issue is the second volume originaing from the 'Doing Women's Film and TV Histories III' International conference held at the Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, England in May 2016. It connects with concerns and questions of women's production histories related to the constructed nature of history and how we write a 'history from below' to foreground the hidden, marginalised or forgotten histories of our women ancestors. This collection captures something of the dominant 'structures of feeling' of womens' film and broadcasting history scholarship in the contemporary period ranging from consideration of women working in both above and below-the-line roles in film, television and radio, to those whose labour fell outside of mainstream cinema production, as in the instance of the amateur film in the UK between the 1930s and 1980. Together, these case studies span from 1926 to the contemporary period, providing particular flashpoints of women's history across the UK, North America, Italy and Australia.
  • '"The Film Gone Male:" women and the transition to sound in the British film industry 1929-1932'
    '"The Film Gone Male:" women and the transition to sound in the British film industry 1929-1932' Porter, Laraine Taking its cue from Dorothy Richardson’s essay, ‘The Film Gone Male’ written for the critical, Left-wing British film publication Close Up in 1932, this article looks at women working in the British film industry during the transition from silent to sound cinema between 1929 and 1932. It considers the effects of new sound technology on women’s roles in front of and behind the camera from production to reception and critique. It also questions whether sound technology further marginalised women as producers of cinema and interrogates whether synchronised sound masculinised film as Richardson asserted. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Music, gender and the feminisation of British silent cinema 1909-1929
    Music, gender and the feminisation of British silent cinema 1909-1929 Porter, Laraine
  • Gendered Patterns of Discrimination in the Creative Industries
    Gendered Patterns of Discrimination in the Creative Industries Ball, Vicky; Porter, Laraine
  • ‘Have You a Happy Voice?’ Women’s voices and the talkie revolution in Britain 1929-1932
    ‘Have You a Happy Voice?’ Women’s voices and the talkie revolution in Britain 1929-1932 Porter, Laraine
  • "The “Missing Muscle”: Attitudes to Women Working in Cinema and Music 1910 to 1930
    "The “Missing Muscle”: Attitudes to Women Working in Cinema and Music 1910 to 1930 Porter, Laraine In the 1900s as Edwardian women musicians moved from music teaching into public performance, cinemas offered a safe place: out of the spotlight and in the relative anonymity of the darkened auditorium. The rapid growth in cinemas from the 1910s also meant that women were needed to fill the demand for ensembles, pianists and vocalists; a demand that greatly increased during WWI. However, women faced successive waves of backlashes and debates about their abilities played out in the music and popular press, in trade and fan magazines and in the Musician’s Union. Evidence of women’s experience can also be gleaned from personal testimony, diaries and autobiography, but this is piecemeal and represents only a fraction of what was a considerable occupation for women. Focusing on cinema musicianship, this article examines the battles for women entering the profession between 1900 and 1930.
  • Silent Cinema Music and the Transition to Sound
    Silent Cinema Music and the Transition to Sound Porter, Laraine The development of silent film music between the 1900s and 1920s up until the coming of sound cinema, largely reflected popular tastes and musical styles of the period. But many performances were improvised and not documented and there are very few extant examples of full music scores composed specifically for silent film. The majority of film music was compiled by music directors from library music, however this presentation will use a key examples of original music scores such as that for The Battle of the Somme, and compare these to recent scores for silent films by contemporary composers, including Laura Rossi's new score for the Battle of the Somme, which sheds light on changing musical tastes and attitudes towards the visual material which the music accompanied A presentation at the University of Nottingham on 28 Feb 2017 organised by the Music Dept.
  • Leicester Cinema History
    Leicester Cinema History Jones, Matthew; Chibnall, S.; Ercole, Pier; Porter, Laraine; Hanson, Stuart; Acciari, Monia This public exhibition, housed in the DMU Heritage Centre, ran from February to May 2017. It charted the development, decline and resurgence of Leicester's cinema culture through a large map displaying the cinemas within the city and panels dedicated to the various types of cinemas that have operated in the surrounding area. Produced collaboratively by members of the Cinema and Television History (CATH) Research Centre, the exhibition also featured objects and historical artefacts drawn from the Steve Chibnall Collection that highlighted the material cultures of film exhibition and consumption.
  • The Talkies Come to Britain: British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound, 1928-1930
    The Talkies Come to Britain: British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound, 1928-1930 Porter, Laraine An investigation into the impact of the arrival of talking pictures in Britain between 1927-1933 across all aspects of the British film industry: production, distribution, exhibition and reception. The chapter considers the economic, social and political factors associated with the transition to sound cinema in relation to Britain's international position in relation to American and European cinema along with the various governmental interventions into the industry.

Click here for a full listing of Laraine Porter's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

‘How Shall We Look Again? Revisiting the Archive in British Silent Cinema and the Great War’ in Hammond, M and Williams, M. (eds) British Silent Cinema and the Great War (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

‘From Slapstick  to Satire: British Silent Film Comedy’ in Hunter I.Q and Porter L. (eds) British Comedy Cinema (London: Routledge, 2012).

Research interests/expertise

  • British cinema history
  • Silent cinema 
  • Cinema comedy
  • British cinema
  • Women and cinema
  • The Transition between silent and sound cinema in the UK
  • UK cinema exhibition; policy, finance and practice
  • Independent cinema in the UK 
  • Super 8 Film making in the 1980s

Areas of teaching

  • Film theory Film history
  • Film and documentary
  • Film genre
  • American cinema
  • Women and cinema


MA (Distinction) 

Courses taught

  • Film 1000 Introduction to Film Studies
  • Cinema and Realism
  • Women and Cinema
  • American Film and Visual Culture

Membership of external committees

Trustee of Media Archive of Central England (MACE) since 2000-2012

Trustee of Ridewise Ltd, Nottingham – an organisation set up to work with local government, NGOs, Primary Care Trusts, schools and other public and private organisations in providing cycle training as part of transport plans etc. 2004-2011.

Membership of professional associations and societies

Women’s Film and TV History Network (Steering group member from 2009)

Conference attendance

Elizabeth von Arnim, The Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight and The Runaway Princess’ – presentation/paper at the Women’s Film History Network at BFI Southbank - 7 November 2009. Funded by DMU.

‘On the Category of ‘Women’ in Film Exhibition’ – paper give at the International Women’s Film History Network - Columbia University NY, 11-14 March 2010 (funded by AHRC Women’s Film History Project).

‘A Lass and a Lack: Women and British Silent Film Comedy’ paper given at the Women and the Silent Screen Conference, University of Bologna - June 2010. Funded by DMU Research.

‘The History of the Phoenix in Leicester’ – presentation given at the ‘From Silent Screen to Digital Screen’ conference at, Phoenix Square July 2010.

‘Women Musicians in Silent Cinema’ at Cine Sisters Conference 18 July 2011 at The Women’s Library London, funded by CATH, DMU.

‘Ruritanian Runaways, Vagabond Queens and Cockney Flower Sellers: Class, Comedy and Romance in British Silent Film’ 3 March 2011 as part of ‘RomCom Actually’, DMU Cultural Exchanges Festival’.

Other forms of public presentation

‘Archive Film and Sport’ presentation for Screen East/Cultural Olympiad as part of the Cambridge Film Festival, June 2008.

‘Rats, Ruffians and Rascals; The Globalisation of Crime in British Silent Cinema’, British Silent Film Festival April 2008, Broadway, Nottingham (Festival Director and presenter).

‘Music, Sound and the British Silent Film’ British Silent Film Festival June 2009, Barbican, London (Festival Director and presenter).

‘Hindle Wakes’  introduction to film and presentations on Archive Film at the Blackpool Festival, 19 -21 February 2010, in conjunction with National Fairground Archive at Sheffield University.

 ‘The World Before You, Exploration, Science and Nature in the British Silent Film’ Festival April 2010, Phoenix Square, Leicester (Festival Director).

‘Going to the Movies; Music Sound and the British Silent Film’ British Silent Film Festival April 2011 at Barbican in London (Festival Director and presenter).

BBC World Talking Movies – interview with Al Moloney – April 2011.

The 15th British Silent Film Festival – April 2012 at the Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge (Festival Director and presenter).

BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour interview Friday 3 Feb (reprised Sat 4 Feb) on the effects of the transition to sound cinema on film stars in the 1920s.

See Hear feature on BBC 2 TV - interview on the use of deaf actors in silent cinema, broadcast on 7 March 2012.

Consultancy work

I was the Director of Broadway Media Centre in Nottingham between 1998 and 2008 and have expertise in all aspects of cinema and media exhibition, programming, policy, finance and practice and in venue management. 

I am the Director of the British Silent Film Festival and have 15years experience in curating and staging film festivals. 

Current research students

  • Vivienne Chadder PhD, 1st Supervisor 
  • Sandra Frost PhD 2nd Supervisor

Externally funded research grants information

  • Tol’able David (1921) with Damian Coldwell, November 2009 Arts Council England c£4,500 for new music commission for silent film and performances in December 2009 at the Barbican and April 2010 at Phoenix Square.
  • British Silent Film Festival December 2009 EM Media/National Lottery £15,595.
  • British Silent Film Festival – January 2012 – Creative England - £7,500.

Internally funded research project information

  • RIF funds for The British Silent Film Festival 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Festival is organised in collaboration with the British Film Institute.


Professional esteem indicators

Kember, Joe. Marketing Modernity: Victorian Popular Shows and Early Cinema. University of Exeter Press, 2009 reviewed for Journal of British Cinema and Television History – EUP published Dec 2010.


Case studies

1. British Silent Film Festival editorial and reviews in national, regional media. 

TLS 26 June 2009
BBC East Midlands Today coverage of British Silent Film Festival broadcast 10 April 2010

The Independent on Sunday 11 April 2010

Leicester Link April 2010Leicester Mercury 17 April 2010

BBC Radio Leicester live interview 9 April 2010

BBC Radio 4 Film Programme April 2010

Guardian Guide 30 May – 5 June 2009, 10-16 April 2010

The Tribune Magazine 28 may – 3 June 2010

Guardian (Matthew Sweet) 8 April 2011

Guardian Guide 2-8 April 2011

T.H.E. Diary 7-13 April 2011

The Sunday Times: Critics’ Choice 20 March 2011

The Daily Telegraph April 2011

Time Out: Critics’ Choice x 2 4 April 2011

The Independent: Critics’ Choice April 2011

BBC Radio 4:  The Culture Show– interview with Bryony Dixon/BFI April 2011

BBC Radio 4: The Film Programme – interview with Neil Brand) April 2011

BBC World TV (8 minute feature presented by Al Moloney Broadcast worldwide 12 April 2011

BBC Radio Cambridge interview with Laraine Porter 18 April 11am, 2012

BBC Radio Cambridge interview with Neil Brand 18 April 8.00pm, 2012

BBC TV ‘Look East’ Live from the Festival on 19 April 2012 –

BBC Radio 4 ‘The Culture Show’ interview with Bryony Dixon on Thurs 19 April, 2012

The Times Newspaper ‘What’s On’ 19 April, 2012

The Guardian online Festival review posted on 22 April, 2012

Take One Magazine Cambridge Arts Cinema publication, April 2012

British Silent Film Festival attendance figures

2008, Broadway Nottingham c. 700 attendees

2009, Barbican and BFI Southbank, London 3000 attendees 

2010, Phoenix Square, Leicester 1940 attendees

2011 Barbican 3200 attendees

2012 Cambridge 2209 

Public responses for the 2010 Festival  – examples quoted below

‘Thank you for a wonderful Festival again. The whole thing was a joy, the location was wonderful, the fellowship amazing and the networking magic…’ David Williams MBE, Durham

‘...An absolutely 5 star completely surpassed all my expectations as a member of the public attending for the first time..It was also excellent that members of the public, like myself could mix over lunch and the evening meal. In addition....very best wishes for the future of the Festival’. John Moloney, Leicester

‘Just a quick message to say what a great time my family and I had at the festival over the weekend. Between us all (me, husband, 18 month old daughter, mother and step father) we managed to see 5 of the screenings and thoroughly enjoyed them all. The accompaniment was fantastic for Tol'able David and Beggars of Life especially and really added to the experience. Great to see so many people for silent screenings too. Well done and thank you to everyone involved. Will it be back at the phoenix next year?’ Regards Charlotte Barton, Leicester

‘Thanks ..…I did see the very good piece on East Midlands today.  Well done to every body involved in the very successful festival.  I loved “The Sheik”!!  Best regards Ted Cassidy