London On Film

London, The Arts

I rely on reference books for a lot of my research when writing, but you can’t beat moving footage for atmosphere. There are several intriguing films on DVD about London’s past around at the moment. ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ is a collection (five hours’ worth!) of short films about pubs, from swinging London to expressionistic rural images, working men’s clubs in Sheffield to quirky wartime locals, full to the brim with the sights and sounds of the great British pub, exploring its role as a place of communal gathering, game playing and opinion debating throughout the ages.

‘Wonderful London’ offers travelogues contrasting different aspects of city life East End and West End, poor and rich, natives and immigrants, often looking beyond the stereotypes to show surprising views of the city. Rapidly produced, the films offer a tourist’s guide to both the familiar sites such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London but also reveals unknown nooks and crannies of the London of 1924.

‘London: The Modern Babylon’ covers everyone from musicians, writers and artists to dangerous thinkers, political radicals and above all ordinary people, in the story of London’s immigrants and bohemians and how together they changed London into the most diverse city on earth.

The British Film Institute has been brilliant at unearthing a wealth of films about transport, society and history from its archives, and they’re gradually putting them out in box sets. You can get them online, or from the BFI shop on the South Bank.

5 comments on “London On Film”

  1. jan says:

    morning chris – did u know that the Geoffrey Fletcher book The London nobody knows (which i might have sent u am not sure) had been made into a documentary film narrated by James Mason. i ‘ve never seen the film only found out about it recently….1967 it was done

    i didn’t know about that new cover to Kings Cross – very odd not unlike the British Museum cover (or some space creature off StaR tREK ) but down to street level excellent article in the Londonist site about the curve of the hotel just at the rear of the station reflecting the course of the river fleet. You know that little green patch that Matt mentioned rings a bit of a bell with me. My mate Bernie who died earlier this year got into the St Pancras hotel and that hotel to the rear of the X when they were still derelict and i’m sure he came up with some snippet about that little park and and what was originally on that site. Next time i go and see his Mrs i will try and look through his (very extensive) notes and see what he had to say. I don’t think it was to do with the hospital nearby but there was something.

    When you start to consider it the railway owns so much in London the site in Embankment gardens where the 7/7 condolence books were sited is owned by the London underground and is where the vents were sited to release smoke when the underground trains were steam. Loads of Earls court is railway owned u can normally tell whats owned by the rail because there are 2 lines of metal studs on the pavement and roadway and the land within them is railway owned. British Transport police have jurisdiction for offences within the studs alhough Met and CIty officers enforce there as well i think the crimes therein were down to the railway cops. The same studs appear at all tubes – or did a few years ago and are particularly relevent at Wembley Park (footballstadium touts etc) Leicester Square and other stations around the West end

    are you going to the Kings X ice cream festival? it sounds like a combi of 2 of my gr8 interests in life. hope alls well jan

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    So interesting all the bits and pieces that make up the present city. Layers and layers of often overlapping history in a single spot. No wonder Arthur, who seems to know it all, sometimes appears fuddled. I would, too, if I tried to recall all that historic data and didn’t upload to the cloud.
    “Mind your left shoe, John. Your left heel’s covering the spot where a drop of blood fell off the Ripper’s razor and your left toe’s on the place where a pinch of gunpowder fell from one of Guy’s kegs.”
    “Really now, Arthur! What can that possibly have to do with our Duck-Footed Murderer?”

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Admin, did you have anything to do with the New Tricks episode entitled “End of the Line”? It had your fingermarks all over it, to my way of thinking. Including the fact that they didn’t know that the Circle Line doesn’t form a circle any more.
    Did you go to the Ice Cream Festival?

  4. Helen Martin says:

    By the way, watching that bit of film it was interesting to note the speed at which the city operated at that time, which was a walking pace. The wagons are travelling any faster than the pedestrians and the only ones going faster are the private(?) buggies/carriages/cabs that are moving at a trot. You don’t have to worry about the rush of air blowing you away as a vehicle passes. A humane speed.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    The wagons are *not* traveling… of course.

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