26th January 2010
David John Berry 1943 – 2010
With the sad passing of Dave Berry on Friday 22 January, the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales has lost not only an old colleague, but also its greatest friend and most fervent supporter.
Following on from a journalistic career, and with the support of friends and the Wales Film Council, Dave was given leave to write the seminal work on Wales’s relationship with film, Wales and Cinema: the first hundred years, published by the University of Wales Press in 1994.
In 1997 he joined Sgrîn and the then Wales Film and Television Archive as Research Officer. In 2001 the Archive joined with the audiovisual collections of the National Library of Wales to form the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. His contribution to this his chosen field is immeasurable, and as his employer until his retirement in 2005, the National Library was truly privileged to have acquired such an authoritative, engaging and committed member of staff.
Andrew Green, the Librarian on hearing the sad news,
‘Dave Berry was the polymath of cinema in Wales. Having mastered his subject, he devoted his life to promoting film in Wales, and everyone and everything associated with its history. He could talk eloquently on any and every aspect of the subject, and his Wales and Cinema became an instant classic. Here at the National Library, his contribution to the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales was outstanding.’
Iestyn Hughes, Head of the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.
‘As Richard Burton recounts in the film Dylan Thomas, the subject may have ‘liked places by the sea, but Welsh places by the sea best of all’, so did Dave Berry love all film, but Welsh film most of all. He worked tirelessly on behalf of the Archive, using his vast knowledge and web of contacts throughout the world to discover lost gems and usher them into the collection. He fronted the majority of our outreach screenings for many years, insisting that we should never screen a film without contextualising it for the audience. He always wanted the highest standards achieved, often pushing himself to the limit, with a stubborn disregard for his own wellbeing. It was he as much as anyone, who badgered us into putting on the Fflics festival to celebrate the centenary of the National Library; an incredibly ambitious undertaking at the time. The festival was a huge enterprise for a relatively small archive, and we were glad that it proved to be a worthy tribute to Dave.
Iola Baines, Film Development Officer NSSAW and a close friend and colleague of Dave said,
‘Dave Berry’s unsurpassed knowledge was the Archive’s guiding star and compass. His invaluable ‘Wales and Cinema’ book became our bible, while his passion for Welsh film of all description gave our screenings and events a rare combination of scholarly depth and a kind of infectious magic. His panel chairing skills were a joy to witness - wearing his meticulous preparation lightly, he would tease out the most engaging contributions and then add value himself, making each insightful comment sound like something that had just occurred to him. He did not suffer fools gladly, and to him there were no fools like researchers who did not take the job seriously - i.e. seek out first hand evidence – rather than rely on the internet or sloppily written articles. A lack of footnotes was an early warning sign for Dave. He was a brilliant communicator, with a turn of phrase and love of language which could pull the most hapless bystander into whatever web of facts or suppositions he happened to be spinning. In terms of the film heritage he set the gold standard, showing us what to look for, how to value our discoveries and properly celebrate them.’
John Hefin, close personal friend, and Friend of the National Library also paid tribute to Dave Berry.
‘Dave was an incredible Englishman, who worked tirelessly, and often without reward, to create the masterpiece Wales and the Cinema: the first hundred years; a milestone text in the history of the media in Wales. The pioneering volume stands as a loving memorial to his generous contribution to Wales.’
The greater part of Dave Berry’s personal research archive was presented to the National Library of Wales shortly before he retired, and can be accessed at the NSSAW offices by appointment.
Dave Berry 1943 - 2010
This is a press release issued by The National Library of Wales