Shipbuilding is all but extinct in Britain. But it was the bedrock of imperial power and central to defining the working class.
This season does more than simply provide a glimpse of past working lives. Paul Rotha’s modernist Shipyard (1935) filmed at Barrow in Furness stands out.
It is a class polemic. One remarkable scene shows workers looking out the launched ship and then returning to the dole.
Launch (1974) captures differing perspectives of a ship launch on Tyneside from workers to the rich.
Sean Connery’s odd documentary The Bowler and the Bunnet (1967) argues for new forms of partnership between bosses and workers at Govan shipyards in Glasgow to save the industry.
It is entirely unconvincing.
As an antidote to that there is the UCS1 (1971) which shows the struggle of shipyard workers in Glasgow to keep their shipyard open.
Most of the films in the season appear on the excellent DVD collection produced to accompany it.
Tales From The Shipyard
BFI Southbank, London, then touring Newcastle, Belfast, Glasgow