The Wildscreen charity has grown out of the success of the Wildscreen Festival, which began in 1982. By the end of the 1970s, natural history film-making had existed as a genre, for well over 25 years, speeded along by the development and popularity of television. It came to the notice of two key organisations that, whereas drama, light entertainment, documentary and the like could win awards, there was nothing to honour the increasingly spectacular wildlife productions, which is how and why the Wildscreen Festival was born.
The infant committee made up of Robin Scott, Michael Johnson and Chris Parsons of the BBC and Lord Buxton of Survival Anglia approached Sir Peter Scott (founder of WWF UK and WWT) to become the first president of the Wildscreen Trust. Soon the World Wildlife Fund (later to become the World Wide Fund for Nature - WWF UK) was approached to become a partner and so the first Wildscreen Festival took place in 1982.
After the success of the 1982 festival, others followed equally successfully in 84 and 86. This prompted the setting up of a charitable trust, and the Wildscreen charity officially came into being in December 1987.
Following the early Festivals, and seeing the numbers of films being submitted from around the world, in the late 1980s Chris Parsons saw the need for a centralised library of wildlife films and photographs, accessible to everyone and preserved for future generations – in the same way that books are stored in the British Library and Library of Congress. But how could this vast array of material be stored, and how could it be accessed by people around the world?
With the advent of digital technology in the mid-1990s, Chris’ idea for a centralised image library, now named ARKive, could become a reality, as there was now a means of preserving this material for future generations and, more importantly, disseminating it to everyone via the internet. In 1997 Capital Development Funds of £2m were secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund and New Opportunities Fund in 2000. In the meantime Hewlett Packard pledged to support the project by contributing in kind to its technological infrastructure, valued at $2m. In 2003, Sir David Attenborough launched ARKive to worldwide critical acclaim.