Film archive’s snapshot of life in 30s and 40s

An archive of films showing UK life from the 1930s and 1940s is now complete.

Video still issued by the British Council taken from their film, Steel (1945), one of the final remaining films in its archive Film Collection from the 1930s and 1940s to be released.

The last remaining 25 films to be digitised and loaded on to the British Council (BC) archive show wide-ranging scenes of British life, from England’s pubs and Sheffield’s steel industry to London’s preparations for war and a mystery for Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad.

The BC, the UK’s cultural relations organisation now marking its 80th year, already had 89 films – available at – on the archive which first went online in 2012.

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They were produced in the BC’s early years to try to show the best of the UK to audiences in embassies, consulates and classrooms around the world during global conflict.

Among the releases are Routine Job (1946) – a 40s-style The Sweeney as Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad works to solve the mystery of some stolen cases of tea – and The Story of English Inns (1944), a look at the history of England’s pubs and their role at the heart of English life.

War Comes To London (1940), about Britain’s preparations for the Second World War, and Steel (1945), a restored Technicolor film which looks at steel making and the workings of a foundry, are also among the highlights.

BC film director Briony Hanson said: “These films give us one last glimpse into a Britain that’s different and familiar in equal measure. Some things like air raid shelters in London’s parks and a Sheffield dominated by the steel industry are things of the past – but there are also trips to the pub, police dramas and, of course, a lot of tea.”

The BC has also launched an international competition called View From Here to encourage people to look into national identity by re-editing the existing films or producing new ones on similar themes.

Oscar-winning film-maker Kevin Macdonald, Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha and presenters Claudia Winkleman and Edith Bowman will pick the winners. Prizes include a tour of Pinewood Studios and tea with one of the judges.

Film-makers Mark Cousins, Penny Woolcock and John Akomfrah are also helping mark the archives completion. Each have been asked to produce a short film based on the collection.