Wednesday, 3 February 2016

British Council films of Cornwall

Last week I discovered the British Council Film Collection.  British Council film collection  There are apparently 120 short films in the collection, mostly made during the Second World War and digitised in 2012-2013.  They describe aspects of everyday life in Britain and I have to say that the commentaries come over as propoganda films which is hardly surprising.  One could obviously spend a long time viewing them as they are quite fascinating as 'period pieces'.  The commentaries capture English Received Pronunciation as it was in the 1940s although the actors do not speak so I have not yet found any regional accents or dialects.

I have discovered that no fewer than three of these films feature West Cornwall.  Coastal Village is the story of everyday life in Mousehole, a fishing village two miles west of Penzance   The wikipedia entry is good so I will not give a potted history here.  Having watched the film I remembered that a whole school of Jewish children were evacuated there from the East End of London and that there is a book about this by Susan Soyinka. The book is called: From East End to Land's End.  I have now bought it and am finding it very interesting but you would not know these children had been there from the film.  The film focuses on the daily routine of the village but the book has much more detail.  As someone whose forbears made Cornish ranges in New Zealand, I had not realised that communal bakehouses were still common here as late as the mid-twentieth century.  They often appear in paintings from the Newlyn School but I now know they were huge and took large quantities of fuel so people only ran them in winter.  Mostly people took their baking to the local bakehouse.

Having watched the first film, I looked to see what else there was of this area.  I have found two:  Sailors without Uniform, which is about coastal fishing.  It has plenty of 'PZ' boats and finishes with shots of Salubrious Terrace in St Ives, and S.O.S which is about the Penlee lifeboat.  This lifeboat, which is now based in Newlyn, became famous after a terrible storm in 1981 when the whole crew were lost trying to save a steamer.

Films were also set in other parts of Cornwall so if you have Cornish connections I would recommend using the 'search' facility on the introductory page.  The films are short (mostly ten to fifteen minutes) so good for a 'coffee break'.

My only complaint about these films is that one of the 'posh' narrators pronounces Mousehole as Mouse hole the whole way through when anyone who knows anything about the place knows that the pronunciation is 'Mowzel'.