This film is held by the BFI (ID: 493862).


ACTUALITY. An amalgamation of two events featuring the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. The opening of the exhibition by King George V (23/4/1925) and the royal visit with King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Rumania (14/5/1925).

Main title. No series number. "Pictures Exclusive to Topical Budget" (4). A Panorma presenting some of Wembley's Wonders" (8). Iris out to LS of the buildings at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, pan left (27). "Burma" (28). Iris out of Burma pavilion - still under construction (37). "Canada. (from the lake)" (39). Iris out to Canadian pavilion (49). "India. (from the lake)" (51). Iris out to LS of the India pavilion viewed across the ornamental lake (68). The Coronation coach passing down The Mall with crowd lined streets and Household Cavalry escort; King and Queen not visible (92). "As the King declared the Exhibition open all the flags are broken at the mast" (94). LS of the massed choirs at one side of Wembly Stadium (99). GV of the stadium with marching band performing (118). View over the crowd as the King and Queen arrive in an open landau (145). "The Massed Choirs" (147). Return shot of choirs and crowds, now waving and cheering (153). Closer view of the royal procession as it progresses around the perimeter of the stadium, King George V and Queen Mary seen (183). "Garlands of Welcome at the Indian Pavilion" (185). LS down wide, long corridor of Queen Mary, Queen Marie of Rumania receiving garlands from a man and woman in Indian dress, King Georege and King Ferdinand are given similar garlands. The royal party walk to camera (214). "At Queen Victoria's Memorial" (216). Closer shot of the royal party as they pass through an indoor exhibition (235). "From India to Burma by Railodok Car" (239). View through dense crowds of royal party travelling in long, covered carriage (not horse-drawn) with driver (254). "At Burma:- Umbrella of State" (257). Pan down Burma pavilion (264). LS the royal party leaving the pavilion under the state umbrellas (274); closer view of the King leaving (281); Queen Mary and Queen Marie pass the camera under the umbrellas (290). "Their Majesties had to make their way through dense throngs " (295). Viewed from an elevated position the royal party make their way (with police escort) through the cheerig crowd (312). "Crossing Old London Bridge" (314). LS Pan of entrance to the bridge - a long ramp with an arch between two towers, the royal party is not visible (325). "Leaving H.M. Government Buildings after Lunch" (319). ELS the royal party descends steps of building, cheered by crowd in foreground (350). "At Newfoundland" (352). Royal party leave the Newfoundland pavilion and walk along planks on the grass (372). "At Fiji" (373). Royal party leave another building (397ft).




The Empire Exhibition was conceived in 1913 by Lord Strathcona (Stevenson, 1925, 610). Put on hold due to the 1914-18 war, the project finally received parliamentary backing in 1920. Wembley was chosen as the location, principally because of its good rail links (MacKenzie, 1982, 107). The first event to take place at the Wembley site was the 1923 FA cup final, held at the newly built stadium. In the succeeding years there were two Empire Exhibitions.

The formal opening of the 1924 Exhibition took place on 23 April at Wembley Stadium. Here, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII), who served as President for the Exhibition, addressed his father, King George V, and outlined the purpose of the event: ‘I hope, Sir, the result of this Exhibition will be to impress vividly upon all the peoples of your Empire the advice that you have given to them on more than one occasion, that they should be fully awake to their responsibilities as the heirs of so glorious a heritage; that they should be in no wise slothful stewards, but that they should work unitedly and energetically to develop the resources of the empire for the benefit of the British race, for the benefit of those other races which have accepted our guardianship over their destinies, and for the benefit of mankind generally’ (Knight and Sabey, 1924, 12). As part of this drive, sixteen of the participating colonies and dominions were given a representative building in which to advertise their culture and their wares: for example, the Burmese pavilion was based on a temple in Mandalay; the Ceylonese pavilion was modelled on the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy; and Hong Kong by a street of Chinese (‘British Empire Exhibitions 1924-1925’). The Prince declared that this display represented ‘the whole Empire in little’, and that the event provided an opportunity ‘to take stock of the resources, actual and potential, of the Empire as a whole’ (Knight and Sabey, 1924, 130).

This film is combined from two news reports, one centred on the attendance of King George and Queen Mary at the opening ceremony, while the other focuses on the visit of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania, who on 14 May 1924 accompanied a returning King George and Queen Mary to the exhibition. Marie was one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters; she is credited with enlisting Romania on the side of the Allies in World War I, and of enlarging her country’s territory in the Treaty of Versailles (The Times, 15 May 1924, 15).

The films were made by the Topical Film Company, which was founded by William Cecil Jeapes and Herbert Holmes in 1911. They would originally have been seen as component items in editions of ‘Topical Budget’, the company’s bi-weekly newsreel. During World War I the Topical Film Company came under the control of government, and in 1919 it was purchased by the newspaper proprietor Edward Hulton. ‘Topical Budget’ was one of the three major British newsreels in the silent era, and under Hulton’s guidance it witnessed its greatest period of popularity, reaching a weekly audience of up to five million (McKernan, ‘Topical Budget (1911-1931)’).



Royal Topical Budget films and the Empire Exhibitions were similar in outlook. Luke McKernan has noted that the Royal Family were one of the most popular subjects of Hulton-era Topical Budget films, and that footage of their tours of Empire countries offered home audiences contrived representations of ‘the extent of Britain’s apparent power’ (McKernan, ‘Topical Budget: British Identity and Empire’). He notes that these films were always made with a British perspective in mind, and that they ‘showed traditionalist Britain what it wanted to be shown of its Empire’ (McKernan, ‘Topical Budget: British Identity and Empire’). They thus chime with the Empire Exhibition itself, which offered an idealised representation of Britain’s colonies and dominions.

The presence of Royalty was prioritised at the Empire Exhibition, and it is also the focus of these Topical Budget films. In the footage of the opening ceremonies we can see the exterior of some of the pavilion buildings, but there is no clear sight of any of the people from the colonies. Moreover, just as the Exhibition arranged the countries of the Empire in order to show them in their best light, here we get the studied movements of the Royal party. Smither and Klaue note how ‘King George and Queen Mary quietly but deliberately oblige the cameras, knowing when to pause, when to move, always aware that they are on show to the millions’ (Smither and Klaue, 1996, 70). Indeed, this was a media event through and through. The opening ceremony was broadcast on the radio and was ‘heard by millions’; it was also issued for sale as a gramophone recording (Knight and Sabey, 1984, 115). It should also be noted that there was something inherently filmic about the Empire exhibition itself: its various displays operating like stage sets. John MacKenzie notes that it was ‘suggested that Wembley should become the British Hollywood’ (MacKenzie, 1984, 112).

The film of the Romanians’ visit offers a slightly different perspective from that of the opening ceremony. The royal couples are the centre of attention, but here they are filmed, predominantly in long shots, amongst the Wembley exhibits. We receive our first clear sights of colonial people: at the Indian Pavilion the High Commissioner Sir Dadiba Dalal and his wife can be seen as they garland the royal couples with flowers (The Times, 15 May 1924, 10). However, what is conveyed most strongly in this segment of the film is the popularity of the Exhibition and of the royal family –  throughout there are thronging crowds.

The Empire Exhibitions presented a particular image of the Empire, one in which the colonies and dominions profited from manufacturing goods for export to the Metropolis, and one in which British aid was seen to be helping to transform life. In these films we do not see the interior of any of pavilions, but there is some sense of how the Exhibition put the Empire on display. The colonies are represented in a rationalised and modernised form: only the finest architecture is on show; we see the visitors pass easily between the countries on foot, and we also see them using the futuristic ‘rail-o-doc’ car to span the continents. Conversely, the bizarre juxtapositions, such as a Burmese pagoda next to the concrete Canadian pavilion, serve to highlight the extent and variety of Britain’s colonial lands. There is also an illustration of where the power lies in this relationship. We witness the King traversing his ‘Empire in little’, and we also get to see the mock governmental buildings of the metropolis, which were a feature of the Exhibition. 

MacKenzie quotes an eastern European visitor, Eric Pasold, who visited the exhibition and remarked on the ‘endless variety of human types’ on display. Pasold continues: ‘yet all were members of one great empire, united under one king and flag, linked by the English language, financed by sterling, ruled by British justice and protected by the Royal Navy. How proud they must feel, I thought, and how I envied them’ (MacKenzie, 1984, 112). Such a reaction was the aim of the Exhibition, and was also desired of these Topical Budget films.

Richard Osborne (February 2010)


Works Cited

‘British Empire Exhibitions 1924-1925’,

Knight, Donald R., and Alan D. Sabey, The Lion Roars at Wembley: British Empire Exhibition 60th Anniversary 1924-1925 (London: Barnard & Westwood, 1984).

MacKenzie, John M., Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion 1880-1960 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).

McKernan, Luke, ‘Topical Budget (1911-1931)’, Screenonline,

McKernan, Luke, ‘Topical Budget: British Identity and Empire’, Screenonline,

‘Royal Visitors to Wembley’, The Times (15 May 1924), 10.

Smither, Roger B. N., and Wolfgang Klaue, Newsreels in Film Archives: A Survey Based on the FIAF Newsreel Symposium (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996).



Series Title:

Technical Data

Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
397 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
Production Company
Topical Film Company