Beautiful South: Lambeth and Southwark on screen

As part of the Mayor’s Story of London project we explore two vibrant boroughs on BFI Southbank’s own doorstep.

From Bermondsey to Brixton, Clapham to Camberwell, the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark embrace the city’s incredible diversity, their often turbulent fortunes shaped by war, poverty and immigration. With many of the collection’s 60+ new film and TV titles unseen for decades, Beautiful South provides the perfect opportunity for residents and visitors alike to discover more about life in the area.

Meet the workers at one of Bermondsey’s thriving family businesses in A Visit to Peek Freen & Company’s Biscuit Works (1906), then join the cameras as they return eight decades later in Old Ways, New Ways (1989). In Lambeth, pigeon fanciers and Caribbean dancers enjoy their Free Time (1972), and you can explore the teeming hub of the two boroughs, the South Bank, where the birth of a new London landmark is documented in Millenium Wheel (2000) and BFI Southbank’s iconic cinemas get their own tribute in NFT @ 50 (2002).

Fancy a foray into drama? Stewart Granger sparks a wartime love triangle in Waterloo Road (1944); You in Your Small Corner (1962), a Play of the Week not broadcast for over 40 years, stars Lloyd Reckord as a gifted student confronting the race and class divide in 1960s Brixton; and Basil Dearden’s 1950 classic Pool of London evokes a time when the mighty Thames was very much a working river.

Ten to try

Alexandra Day in Peckham (1913)

Almost a century on, Peckham High Street bursts into life during the Alexandra Rose Day collections.

Club for Fighting Men (1916)

The Lord Mayor distributes mugs of tea at the opening of the new Service Club in Waterloo Road.

Port of London’s Aquatic Sports (1925)

The intrepid Topical Budget newsreel scales the diving board to capture a Port of London Authority sports day at Rotherhithe.

Waterloo Road (1944)

Shady spiv Stewart Granger sparks a wartime love triangle.

The Centre (1947)

Extraordinary docu-drama filmed at Peckham’s Pioneer Health Centre.

The Spirit of Lambeth (1962)

Enjoyably quirky colour record of the 1961 Lambeth Festival.

Black Joy (1977)

Tough lessons on the streets of Brixton in Anthony Simmons’ ‘British Blaxploitation’ feature.

Bermondsey Boy (1991)

A South London wheeler-dealer discusses life, love and respect.

Lido (Modern Times) (1995)

A microcosm of London life from beautiful men to spirited single mums: meet the regulars at Brockwell Park Lido.

The Ends (2005)

A shooting on an Elephant and Castle estate is not quite what it seems in this powerful short.

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