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OU on the BBC: Nation On Film - The Ramsden Collection

Updated Tuesday, 24th October 2006

‘The Ramsden Collection’ examines a newly-discovered collection of amateur films from Yorkshire, as part of the BBC/OU's series Nation on Film.

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A man inspects a strip of film Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

For 20 years, husband and wife, Betty and Cyril Ramsden, recorded the world around them. In particular they captured middle class life in the north of England.

The couple enjoyed a comfortable existence in Leeds where Cyril worked as a dentist. They devoted much of their life to making mini documentaries using a 16mm camera. Their rich celluloid legacy challenges the clichéd view of 50s Britain as a decade of dreariness.

While the post-war period is known for its hardship, austerity and rationing, the Ramsden films reveal a northern middle class enjoying parties, holidays at home and abroad, country shows and days out.

The couple also captured images of the busy docks in Hull, celebrations to mark the Queen’s coronation, the last tram leaving Leeds and civic sporting events that attracted thousands of spectators at a local park. Most of the footage is colour and of exceptional quality.

The programme includes an interview with a Yorkshire archivist and a social historian. Both talk about the special value of such footage. As far as we know, Betty and Cyril never set out to record a ‘social history’. However, their legacy is just that, an account of middle class life in post-war northern England.

First broadcast: Friday 14 Jan 2005 on BBC FOUR

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