In 1959 Britain’s biggest cinema company, the Rank Organisation, decided to replace its newsreels with a series of short, quirky, topical documentaries that examined all aspects of life in Britain. During the 1960s – a decade that witnessed profound shifts across Britain’s political, economic and cultural landscapes – many felt anxiety about the dizzying pace of change.
Look at Life reflected the increasing social and moral unease in films that tackled subjects ranging from contraception to immigration; from increasing stress at work to the preservation of the Sabbath; and from the environmental implications of waste management to the threat of nuclear weapons. Through these films, we can glimpse many of the seismic societal transformations of the Sixties developments that polarised the nation and changed life in Britain forever.
This episode focuses on the films that examine the implications of Britain’s identity as an island nation, a geographical reality that has influenced not just our coastal landscape but our national psyche too. Featuring footage from well-known offshore isles like Wight and Man to the more isolated, culturally-distinctive and splendidly-idiosyncratic places like Harris and Cromer, which was inhabited year-round by just a single family of four.