TONIGHT is a chance to re-live the leisure and labour of our rural past on screen at Pocklington Arts Centre.
Sometimes it can seem hard to imagine Britain before smartphones and today's hyper-connectivity and remember the simple pleasures that could be found in the diverse landscapes of all the home nations. However, this evening's 7.30pm screening of Britain On Film: Rural Life, A Symphony Of The Seasons will take you back to those halcyon days.
This new film assembles archive footage of diverse British countryside, such as Laurie Lee’s hymn to the beauty of the West of England and a glorious 1929 Pathécolor film of the ancient capital of Wales, Machynlleth.
Also featured are Bessbrook, perhaps the only Northern Irish village with no pub; the Norfolk village that became home to a stray seal; a country pub landlord charged with raising the alarm against the Russians and a shepherd protecting his flock in the first sound documentary shot in the Cheviot Hills.
Britain On Film is one of the largest archive film digitisation projects ever undertaken, with thousands of film titles being made available to view online via BFI Player as well as in the On Tour programme.
James Duffy, Pocklington Arts Centre's assistant manager, says: "We are extremely pleased to have secured this screening, following on from our highly successful Britain On Film: Railways events in December. There is a great deal of interest in these archive films and advance sales have been very pleasing.”
Jemma Buckley, Britain On Film On Tour's project manager, adds: "This programme is a reminder of what has changed in the UK’s rural spaces, as well as what remains the same. This is not just a nostalgic view, it also raises deep questions about how we view the countryside today and allows us to examine our contemporary relationship with it."
Tickets are on sale on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk
Tonight's films will be:
Machynlleth (In the Heart of Cambria) | Director: unknown | UK | 1929 | 2 mins
This glorious Pathécolor film of the ancient capital of Wales pops with the beauty of rural life. The vibrancy of the hand stencilled images of this charming town’s streams, shady woodlands and quaint livestock make this a genuine bucolic treat.
O’er Hill and Dale | Dir: Basil Charles Wright | UK | 1932 | 18 mins
The first sound documentary produced in the UK, this is an affectionate and at points humorous account of a Scottish shepherd's daily life in the Cheviot Hills
Great Hucklow Jubilee | Dir: L. du Garde Peach | UK | 1935 | 9 mins
These gorgeous scenes of Great Hucklow capture the Derbyshire village's preparations for the celebration of King George V's SilverJubilee, presenting a charming portrait of life and laughter in the Pennine village
The Dry Village | Dir: Unknown | UK | 1964 | 5 mins
A cautionary tale of the ‘dry village’ of Bessbrook, Co. Armagh, whose founder believed that the absence of a pub would remove the need for both the police and pawn brokers. But are the beautiful surroundings compensation enough for the lack of drink? And would the residents of neighbouring village Camlough be willing to give up their six pubs to find out?
The Village Pet | Dir: Unknown | UK | 1931 | 1 min
After Billy the seal was caught in the Wash and rehoused in the village pond, this heart-warming newsreel item shows him tentatively accepting a fish supper from his adoptive family - the good folks of Warham in Norfolk.
West of England | Dir: Humphrey Swingler | UK | 1951 | 10 min
Glorious Technicolor casts a dreamlike spell over Gloucestershire's Stroud valleys in this gorgeous short film. Author Laurie Lee contributes to the script for a narration which accompanies painterly images of evergreen scenery, people and industry.
Cold War Villages | Dir: Unknown| UK | 1981 | 3 min
In 1981, with no end to the Cold War in sight, plans are afoot in the Midlands to prepare for nuclear attack. These include a bunker for 400 people in a Rutland village with a population of 300, while in Derbyshire a local landlord takes responsibility for the somewhat simplistic advance warning system.
Any Man’s Kingdom | Dir: Tony Thompson | UK | 1956 | 5 mins (extract)
A standout from the British Transport Films collection of travelogues – this one highlighting the attractions of Northumberland, the northernmost part of England. In this extract people travel from far and wide to enjoy the delights of Bellingham Fair, which includes traditional Cumberland wrestling.
The Blacksmith | Dir: Peter Baylis | UK | 1941 | 5 mins
"Things aren't what they used to be": Mr Bosley, village blacksmith at Corfe, near Taunton, is the subject of this nostalgic study of ancient craftsmanship. As his commentary talks us through the process of shoeing a horse, the patiently composed images gracefully evoke an ageless sunlit Somerset day.
Eardisland Village | Dir: Unknown | UK | 1978 | 5 mins
The residents of Eardisland, a picture postcard Herefordshire village, are unhappy about their impending conservation status which would curtail new development. How can a village continue to thrive with an ever ageing population and no new blood?
Day in the Hayfields | Dir: Cecil M. Hepworth | UK | 1904 | 3mins
Enchantingly beautiful, Cecil Hepworth's modest interest film captures the essence of an English midsummer and the hay harvest in a time before tractors with men cutting hay using a horse-powered reaper. Less productive but certainly charming are the local babies and toddlers playing in the cut grass.
Skating on Lough Neagh | Dir: Unknown | UK | 1963 | 2 mins
As the Big Freeze plays havoc with the working life of Northern Ireland, there is plenty of time for play. The frozen lough is a call to the adventurous and the ridiculous as dogs, dancers and even drivers take to the ice.
Places featured in the film programme:
Cheviot Hills, Northumberland
Great Hucklow, Derbyshire
Bessbrook, County Armargh
Stroud Valleys, Gloucestershire
Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland