I've just watched a brilliant DVD compilation of British newsreel items about Swinging London, from 1959-1967. It's great, much better than I thought it would be, and all in glorious technicolour. I ordered it for an item about 50s Soho coffee bars, it's excellent footage and exactly what I have been looking for. There's one feature about scooter culture (Scooter Commuter) for any mods out there, and also a good fashion one (In Gear), with clips of Biba, Granny Takes a Trip and various other shops from the 60s. I'm afraid I fell asleep during the "stunning display of the crown jewels" in the Tower of London feature, but I've been up and writing since 6.00am and it was my only break in a day of hideous oncoming-deadline stress.
I'm a bit surprised that the easiest and cheapest way for me to watch old British newsreels is to get them from America. The BFI National Film and TV Archive database only has the title of the series and the years, with absolutely no mention of the content. And to view it, I would have had to pay a viewing fee per hour, assuming I could find what I wanted (and I couldn't, because I've already looked). It's the same for a lot of old music programmes from late 1950s/early 60s British television - you might be able to find them in the BFI archive and book an appointment to view them, as they're not widely available over here on DVD. But once again, it's easier and cheaper to get them from the US.
I think it's rather shocking that we can get better access to some of our own cultural heritage via other countries, rather than here in the UK, the actual place of origin. Does that mean some people here are still lingering under the influence of a rather outdated, elitist idea of popular music and television and what its cultural value is? Or maybe just not very entrepreneurial, or don't actually care anyway?
(I got the DVD from The Videobeat, which specialises in 1950s/60s films, rock 'n' roll, teen delinquents, youth culture stuff, that sort of thing. And it played ok on my not-very-sophisticated DVD player. My parents and Auntie Ig will like it too!)