Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Swinging London newsreels

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 Does that mean some people here are still lingering under the influence of a rather outdated, elitist idea of popular music and television and what its cultural value is?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!)


dickiebo said...

I was a young copper on the beat from 1959, in Soho. You shoulda asked me. I loved the dodgy old coffee bars and their juke boxes.

SandDancer said...

Wow. What a great website that is. Did it cost much to get it shipped to the UK?

Claire said...

Dickiebo, you are a lucky man! It's amazing to see it on film, especially in colour - a real treat. I'm afraid I squealed with delight when I first played it, not very 'cool', eh!!

Sanddancer, yes I thought so too!! So many brilliant films!

It's the first thing I'd bought from them, quite a basic DVD cover and label, but it came really quickly. The shipping was $9 - not sure how it will all translate into English money on my card, but I don't think it works out that bad really. And they ticked 'gift' on the shipping label, so maybe that means you don't end up paying import duty when it gets here, I don't understand how it works.