British Council Films from the 1940s (Moose Cinema)

May 12, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

MOOSE CINEMA, London College of Communication, Upper Street Gallery, London, SE1 6SB

The British Council Film Collection is an archive of 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films can now be viewed and downloaded.

‘The British Council is the UK’s cultural relations organisation working to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and building trust between them. During the 1940s, British Council was a very different organisation operating in a very different political and social climate. As part of its programme then it was concerned to promote an idea of ‘Britain and Britishness’ – and did so by becoming an enthusiastic commissioner of documentary films. Over 120 films were produced as ‘cultural propaganda’ to counteract anything the Nazis might throw out and to refute the idea that ours was a country stuck in the past. These films were designed to showcase Britain to the rest of the world, at a time when Britain itself was under attack.

Seen by millions of people in over 100 countries worldwide from the 1940’s to 1960’s, they present an historic snapshot of Britain, portraying its industry, its landscapes, and its people. The Collection is fantastically varied, covering anything from how a bicycle is made, to how the British spend their Saturdays. They provide us with a unique insight – not necessarily into how Britain actually was, but more into how Britain once wanted to be perceived by the rest of the world.’

http://film.britishcouncil.org/british-council-film-collection/about-the-collection

The British Council films promoted the idea of a Britain which was both rooted in its past, yet technologically progressive. This view of Britain, combined ideas of intense national pride, the importance of labour and education, idealisation of the countryside and the built heritage. A fascinating combination of travelogue, propaganda and information, they provided a visualisation of Britain which both formed the bedrock of, notions of the British society throughout the post war years and which inspired the challenge to this particular idea of Britishness by the young photographers, filmmakers and thinkers of the 1970s.

Swinging the Lambeth Walk. 1940. British Council. Directed by Len Lye. 3.32 minutes.

‘In this film coloured designs convey in simple visual form the rhythm of “The Lambeth Walk.” Patterns move and mingle in time to the music. The sounds of the various musical instruments are interpreted in as simple and direct way as possible, and each note was studied for its individual characteristics before it was drawn and coloured. Double-bass notes are conceived as thick cords of colour vibrating vertically on the screen, while the notes of the guitar are shown as separate horizontal lines. The different sound qualities are indicated by the extent of vibration, and the pitch of the notes by their position high or low on the screen.

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1940)

The Green Girdle. 1940. Directed by Ralph Keene. Strand Film Company for the British Council. 9.34 minutes.

‘London is surrounded on all sides by open spaces – common lands, in the shape of parks, hills, and forests which can never be built upon. This belt of green around the Metropolis is at every point within reach of the city’s centre by omnibus. From its busy streets and workplaces the Londoners go out into the lovely woods, the great expanse of furze and scrub, the sloping green terraces and the sweeping hillsides in pursuit of health and recreation. Some walk, some ride, some picnic, others study at first hand the wild life of birds, beasts and plants.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1941)

Common Ground. 1943. 17. 57 minutes. Production Company Merton Park with screenplay by Mary Benedetta and edited by Cath Miller.

The National Houses set up, owing to the war, in the United Kingdom through the co-operation of the Allied European Governments and the British Council, Allied nations kept alive their own culture and traditions, and studied the British way of life. The film shows glimpses of the Czecho-slovak, Yugoslav, Belgian, Norwegian, Netherlands, Greek and Polish Houses.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1944-45)

Steel. 1945. 32 minutes. Directed by Ronald H. Riley. Cinematography by Jack Cardiff and Cyril Knowles. Narrated by John Laurie. Soundtrack performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

‘The backbone of Britain’s industrial power lies in her great Steel Industry. In the blast furnaces, forges, rolling mills, and machine shops labour vast numbers of highly skilled craftsmen who, for generations, have devoted their lives to serving a great tradition known the world over – the tradition of British Steel.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1946)

City Bound. 1941. Directed by Robin Carruthers. 10.04 minutes.

‘Between half past five and ten o’clock each morning five million people are moved from home to work by London’s transport system. Before this can be done, underground and overground transport must be cleaned and refuelled. Then from the outer ring of London, past green fields and suburban gardens, the move into London begins. Trains, motor omnibuses, and electric trams bring hundreds of thousands into the centre of the city, to work in the shops, offices, and factories of the largest city in the world.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1941)

World Garden. 1942. Directed by Robin Carruthers.11.02 minutes.

‘A picture of springtime in Kew Gardens, of daffodils, bluebells, cherry blossom, of those exotic flowers from the tropics, the Andes, the Himalayas. In these lovely surroundings, Londoners find peace and serenity, while their children play. Rare plants are classified in the Herbarium; crop growers throughout the world are aided in their battle against pests and disease by Kew research.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1942-43

Border Weave. 1941. Directed by John Lewis Curthoys for Turner Films. Cinematographer Jack Cardiff. 14. 40 minutes.

‘From all over the world comes wool for Border looms. The theme of this film of the Scottish woollen industry is the weaving of Border cloth. From the preliminary grading and scouring of the wool, the blending of dyes, and the spinning of yarn, each process is described in detail.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1942-43)

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British Council Films from the 1940s (Moose Cinema)

May 12, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

MOOSE CINEMA, London College of Communication, Upper Street Gallery, London, SE1 6SB

The British Council Film Collection is an archive of 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films can now be viewed and downloaded.

‘The British Council is the UK’s cultural relations organisation working to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and building trust between them. During the 1940s, British Council was a very different organisation operating in a very different political and social climate. As part of its programme then it was concerned to promote an idea of ‘Britain and Britishness’ – and did so by becoming an enthusiastic commissioner of documentary films. Over 120 films were produced as ‘cultural propaganda’ to counteract anything the Nazis might throw out and to refute the idea that ours was a country stuck in the past. These films were designed to showcase Britain to the rest of the world, at a time when Britain itself was under attack.

Seen by millions of people in over 100 countries worldwide from the 1940’s to 1960’s, they present an historic snapshot of Britain, portraying its industry, its landscapes, and its people. The Collection is fantastically varied, covering anything from how a bicycle is made, to how the British spend their Saturdays. They provide us with a unique insight – not necessarily into how Britain actually was, but more into how Britain once wanted to be perceived by the rest of the world.’

http://film.britishcouncil.org/british-council-film-collection/about-the-collection

The British Council films promoted the idea of a Britain which was both rooted in its past, yet technologically progressive. This view of Britain, combined ideas of intense national pride, the importance of labour and education, idealisation of the countryside and the built heritage. A fascinating combination of travelogue, propaganda and information, they provided a visualisation of Britain which both formed the bedrock of, notions of the British society throughout the post war years and which inspired the challenge to this particular idea of Britishness by the young photographers, filmmakers and thinkers of the 1970s.

Swinging the Lambeth Walk. 1940. British Council. Directed by Len Lye. 3.32 minutes.

‘In this film coloured designs convey in simple visual form the rhythm of “The Lambeth Walk.” Patterns move and mingle in time to the music. The sounds of the various musical instruments are interpreted in as simple and direct way as possible, and each note was studied for its individual characteristics before it was drawn and coloured. Double-bass notes are conceived as thick cords of colour vibrating vertically on the screen, while the notes of the guitar are shown as separate horizontal lines. The different sound qualities are indicated by the extent of vibration, and the pitch of the notes by their position high or low on the screen.

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1940)

The Green Girdle. 1940. Directed by Ralph Keene. Strand Film Company for the British Council. 9.34 minutes.

‘London is surrounded on all sides by open spaces – common lands, in the shape of parks, hills, and forests which can never be built upon. This belt of green around the Metropolis is at every point within reach of the city’s centre by omnibus. From its busy streets and workplaces the Londoners go out into the lovely woods, the great expanse of furze and scrub, the sloping green terraces and the sweeping hillsides in pursuit of health and recreation. Some walk, some ride, some picnic, others study at first hand the wild life of birds, beasts and plants.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1941)

Common Ground. 1943. 17. 57 minutes. Production Company Merton Park with screenplay by Mary Benedetta and edited by Cath Miller.

The National Houses set up, owing to the war, in the United Kingdom through the co-operation of the Allied European Governments and the British Council, Allied nations kept alive their own culture and traditions, and studied the British way of life. The film shows glimpses of the Czecho-slovak, Yugoslav, Belgian, Norwegian, Netherlands, Greek and Polish Houses.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1944-45)

Steel. 1945. 32 minutes. Directed by Ronald H. Riley. Cinematography by Jack Cardiff and Cyril Knowles. Narrated by John Laurie. Soundtrack performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

‘The backbone of Britain’s industrial power lies in her great Steel Industry. In the blast furnaces, forges, rolling mills, and machine shops labour vast numbers of highly skilled craftsmen who, for generations, have devoted their lives to serving a great tradition known the world over – the tradition of British Steel.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1946)

City Bound. 1941. Directed by Robin Carruthers. 10.04 minutes.

‘Between half past five and ten o’clock each morning five million people are moved from home to work by London’s transport system. Before this can be done, underground and overground transport must be cleaned and refuelled. Then from the outer ring of London, past green fields and suburban gardens, the move into London begins. Trains, motor omnibuses, and electric trams bring hundreds of thousands into the centre of the city, to work in the shops, offices, and factories of the largest city in the world.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1941)

World Garden. 1942. Directed by Robin Carruthers.11.02 minutes.

‘A picture of springtime in Kew Gardens, of daffodils, bluebells, cherry blossom, of those exotic flowers from the tropics, the Andes, the Himalayas. In these lovely surroundings, Londoners find peace and serenity, while their children play. Rare plants are classified in the Herbarium; crop growers throughout the world are aided in their battle against pests and disease by Kew research.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1942-43

Border Weave. 1941. Directed by John Lewis Curthoys for Turner Films. Cinematographer Jack Cardiff. 14. 40 minutes.

‘From all over the world comes wool for Border looms. The theme of this film of the Scottish woollen industry is the weaving of Border cloth. From the preliminary grading and scouring of the wool, the blending of dyes, and the spinning of yarn, each process is described in detail.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1942-43)