Sunday, March 10, 2013

1930s: Workers Film and Photo League

The Workers Film and Photo League  (sometimes just 'The Film and Photo League') was a 1930s organisation associated with the Communist Party. I came across an article about them recently: 'England: the (Workers) Film and Photo League' by Terry Dennett, published in Photography/Politics: One' - a journal/book published by Photography Workshop in 1979.

A League document quoted in the article set out its mission as being: 'to provide and popularize film and photos of working class interest, giving a true picture of the industrial and social conditions of the workers today and of their organized struggle to improve their conditions'. Another text states: 'There are thousands of workers in this country who own cameras, but who only use them for taking an occasional snapshot. If even a number of them were to photograph the conditions around the - in the factories, workshops, railways and countryside, in their streets - we should have an invaluable record of working class life'.

The League held regular film schools with lectures and film shows. No doubt there was some dreadful Stalinist propaganda - the 1933 advert below mentions a lecture by Stephen Harrison 'just back from Moscow'. But some of the films from that time sound interesting - a 1936 advert mentions 'Tenants in Revolt! - 'A Stirring Record of the Struggle of the Stepney Tenants' made by the British Film Unit with the Stepney Tenants League and featuring music by the Unity Theatre orchestra.

 A film school was held in July 1933 in the garden of the Studio Theatre (59 Finchley Road, London NW8), followed by 'Flannel Dance in the Ballroom' attended by 'stars' including Elli Tompuri (Finnish dancer and actress), Fritz Kortner (Austrian Jewish film actor) and Mabel Constanduros (famous at the time for her radio show The Buggins Family).

A 1936 London Film School held at the Veterans' Hall in High Holborn was also followed by a dance, while a four day film school in 1938 included a Saturday night 'Grand Social and Dance - The Highspot of the rally! Bring all your friends! Any costume... carnival and fun'.

'1936:  The Film is a weapon. Use it'

1938 Film School programme - note also Session on 'The Place of Sound' including 'Disc-records to be made by members'
(Sorry for poor quality images)

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