Socialist Worker

Britain on Film - fascinating and fun footage to watch online

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2464

Britain on Film footage includes gorilla struggle in Birmingham in 1972

Britain on Film footage includes gorilla struggle in Birmingham in 1972

Old home movies and newsreels have been in the news recently. But there is more to see than just rich Nazis.

Britain on Film is a project aiming to digitise 10,000 films from the BFI’s archive of more than a million titles by 2017.

You can search by decade or region and view 2,500 clips online. They can be arranged by decade, area or subject.

Moslems in Britain ( were propaganda films produced by the Foreign Office in 1961. They were intended to get people from the Middle East to move to Cardiff and Manchester.

Ulster ( is a flawed but fascinating Workers Revolutionary Party documentary on Northern Ireland.

The activities of the Sussex Communist Party ( in 1939 were filmed by party organiser Ernie Trory. The film shows protests and arrests outside a dole office, and quite a lot else as part of a “People’s Newsreel”.

During the miners’ strike of 1972 there is a wonderfully relaxed confrontation at a picket line at Usworth Colliery in County Durham (

From the same year footage of Birmingham building workers occupying a King Kong (—and cops trying to get them down—is fun.

The range of films is far broader than strikes though.

Old local documentaries on the world of work were intended to promote local businesses. Yet they often give a glimpse of life at work through the decades.

Some like Covent Garden porters ( are just fun. Others are a first draft of oral history.

Some longer films cost a few quid to view but there are hours of free browsing too.

Britain on Film
British Film Institute

Fast Food Workers on the radio

It’s unusual for US fast food workers campaigning for $15 an hour to get to tell their story on national radio.

Here workers explain how poverty pay affects them and their children—and how they are fighting back.

The programme also interviews fast food workers in Britain and shows how US workers have made links with them.

The Food Programme, Radio 4. Available on BBC iPlayer at

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Article information

Tue 28 Jul 2015, 17:29 BST
Issue No. 2464
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