This blog documents my ongoing research into the life and work of Will Onda who was an acrobat, entertainer, filmmaker, cinema and theatre proprietor and silent film distributor based in Preston in Lancashire.
I plan to use this research in the development of publications and programmes which bring his work to the attention of a the wider audience. This has included research on his film work during the First World War which featured as part of the Preston Remembers project in 2013-2018 and an article for Picturehouse in 2016 on Onda’s cinema empire and his partnership with the juggler James Atroy.
Will Onda was the stage name and also the preferred name of Hugh Rain who was born in Preston in 1869. In 1912 Onda set up the Preston Film & Exchange Company offering a service making, importing, renting and distributing films to northern cinemas. His greatest legacy is his collection of local topical films which he left to Preston on his death in 1949. These films are now held by the BFI National Archive in London and the North West Film Archive in Manchester.
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