Boom Britain: We Can Work It Out

A selection of innovative and rarely screened industrial films.

One of the major new policies of the post-war consensus encouraged the co-operation of employers and their workforces to create a mutually beneficial working environment and avoid the strikes and disputes of the 20s and 30s. The government created the British Productivity Council (BPC) to smooth industrial relations and sponsored a number of dramatised documentaries to promote interclass unity. With this potentially rather dry remit, talented directors created some highly imaginative and artistic works.

We Can Work It Out features some of the best BPC films. Views on Trial (c1954) puts a man accused of inciting attitudes against change and progress before the judge, while Bill Treacher (Eastenders’ Arthur Fowler) stars in Clash at Forsyth’s (1973), demonstrating the problems that occur when big decisions are made without consulting employees. The fear of machinery leading to unemployment is a common concern, as seen in the vibrant animation Productivity Primer (1964). Alongside BPC films, the Mediatheque is also adding a number of National Coal Board Films focusing on manager-employee relations, such as Peter Pickering’s Nobody’s Face (1966), a wonderful semi-improvised farce showing trouble at the coalface. Meanwhile, feature films (I’m All Right Jack, The Man in the White Suit) and TV drama (Leeds United!, The Rag Trade) show how bosses and employees have attempted to ‘work it out’ over the years.

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