It was fascinating chatting afterwards to broadcasting legend and screenwriter-author and Labour Peer, Lord Bragg, in a Q &A after the screening of the Reisz documentary, We are the Lambeth Boys, which was made some 63 years ago. Bragg’s insights, contextualisation, and anecdotes weaved an incredible picture of those heady rock ‘n’ roll days filled with hellish jobs. All succinctly captured in 1958 on the cusp of Harold Wilson’s ‘”White Heat of Technology” and Harold MacMillan’s “You’ve Never Had It So Good” period shortly after this juncture. Ironic, given that the Days of Hope from then are now once again superseded by The Death of Hope for all bar the superrich.
Shot at a time when a sense of community, and the chance to rise, was possible for the many, not the few, Melvyn Bragg talked about how he came from working class parents in Cumbria, and was able to go to Grammar School, get a scholarship, and a grant to go to Oxford University.
The documentary came out of a ‘Free Cinema’ era with a political manifesto created by Karel Reisz and fellow director Tony Richardson (husband of Vanessa Redgrave) and Lindsay Anderson’s Royal Court Theatre connections with the likes of playwrights David Storey, and John Osborne. Filmed by Walter Lassally, on the new lightweight portable Arriflex 2B 35mm cameras – fully blimped (soundproofed) for filming in close proximity – the film had a sense of intimate naturalism not seen in British cinema, up until that point. The documentary remains a benchmark in the history of British Cinema. It foretold the drama documentary-styled TV naturalism of Kenneth Loach and Tony Garnett, during The Wednesday Play and the Play for Today era of the BBC in the Golden Age of UK TV broadcasting.