We spent over a year delving into stories behind two films which Philip Donnellan made at the BBC in Birmingham in the late 50s and early 60s. Donnellan was a skilled and infinitely curious documentary-maker who chronicled communities and lives rarely seen on British television then or now. His subjects included miners, travellers, road-builders, runaway teenagers, the blind – all captured on 16mm film talking with honesty and humour. Intrigued by what might have become of some of the people in these films, we decided to return to the places filmed in Joe the Chainsmith (Cradley Heath, 1958) and The Colony (Birmingham, 1964), show the films again and see what memories they might stir up.
“…The BBC is not just a small entrepreneur producing short-term consumables; its product has been made with the public’s money and should be made available to them. Much of it – even the trivia – has a political, cultural and historical significance which is part of their birthright. It should not be locked away out of reach.”
– Philip Donnellan, in his unpublished memoirs (1994)
A printable copy of the Landmarks booklet can be downloaded here:
Landmarks.pdf (4.1 MB)