13 Jan 2009
Bombs at Teatime
Saw a wonderful film a while ago called ‘Bombs at Teatime’, a collection of archive films made during World War Two as part of the public education campaign that led to the emergence of Dig for Victory, rationing and so on. Although they were very much of their time, media and film-making having moved on vastly since, there are still some fascinating insights here into how one might communicate thift and conservation. The first is a wonderfully stilted film called ‘Two Cooks and a Cabbage’ which is about the right and wrong way to cook a cabbage.
The next looks at headlice, the bane of any parent’s life, and advice for people on what to do about them.
This one is about that finest British institution, the cup of tea. It presents the unlikely profession of a ‘Tea Instructor’, a man with eyebrows that look like they were knitted for him as part of the war effort. Unfortunately he makes a cup of tea that most people today would pour down the sink.
Not all the films in ‘Bombs at Teatime’ are available online. There was a great one about a Women’s Institute in Derbyshire somewhere, where a church hall full of women were given a talk about something. They all looked like the women from Monty Python, big hats and coats with big lapels, and they all knitted continually. I am at the moment writing up various Totnes oral histories, it is fascinating stuff. You can see a whole online archive of vintage film at the British Film Institute’s website.
The final one starts with some great footage of farming with horses in the War, but then moves into some odd stuff with some terribly well-behaved children marching around in the playground and being introduced to the first black child they have ever seen, and then having a MayDay procession. The BFI describe it thus;
Unseen for years due to the fragility of the materials, ‘Springtime in an English Village’ offers an extraordinary and unexpected snapshot of rural life in wartime. After a fairly predictable opening – farmers ploughing fields, cute baby animals gambolling – it finally gets down to business. The film is about that most ancient of English traditions: the selection and crowning of the Queen of the May. But what is so surprising is that 60 years ago the village of Stanion in Northamptonshire chose to honour a young black girl – apparently the daughter of an African merchant seaman who had been evacuated there during the War. It’s hard to know quite how literally to take the proceedings. The film was made by the Colonial Film Unit for the purpose of screening throughout Britain’s African and Caribbean colonies – to demonstrate ‘typical’ life in the UK – at a time when the government was on the lookout for cheap labour.