Britain on film: thousands of pieces of archive footage go online for first time

Anyone who thought the Edwardians stuffy and polite will be relieved to hear researchers found at least four examples of young boys giving the camera V-signs. There are very serious subjects with unexpected humour. The 1970s mother who lives in one of Britain’s worse slums, in Birmingham’s Balsall Heath, being interviewed holding her baby cheerfully playing with a screwdriver in one hand and plug in the other. Many of the films are bewildering to 21st century eyes; for example, a 1967 film called Paper Fashion declaring you can get almost anything in paper – paper shoes, dresses, bikinis, bedsheets, jewellery, plates, cups, underwear – and what a great thing that is. When you’ve used it, just throw it away! The film concludes reassuringly with paper dresses: “As long as the untreated inflammable ones don’t end up in smoke they should end up with the 218,000 tonnes of household tissue alone which was added to our waste heaps last year.”

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