Blue (Plaque) Movies

Ever felt that creative urge when in the village? (No, a ‘selfie’ does not count). You weren’t the first. You may be surprised to learn that many up-and-coming film makers cut their teeth at the General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit which set up shop in Bennett Park in 1933 (now the Blackheath Art Club at no.47).

But why does this interest the Radicals? Could it be the forward-thinking, progressive, avant-garde approach that challenged the established ways? One film was banned for being a bit ‘Freudian’ (Love on the Wing http://youtu.be/S1qD3gfk4QI) and another managed to mix surrealism with the need to use the correct post code (N or NW http://youtu.be/-x4fzZ7KTiI). Others used weird, wonderful and new colour techniques (Colour Box http://youtu.be/6PgNr0IZRDE). The unit also championed the brave new world and showed that change could be good through insightful and reassuring films about the new-fangled telephone dial (http://youtu.be/GFbRvAuJkXg).

Beyond the films themselves the head of the unit, John Grierson, is responsible for inventing the term ‘documentary’ and pioneering the format in the 1930’s. Films now regarded as greats such as ‘The Night Mail’ that used a score by Benjamin Britten and verse by WH Auden (http://youtu.be/FkLoDg7e_ns) were made by the unit too. Add all this together and you have a bit of local and film history recognised with a blue plaque in 2000. Oh, and experimental film maker Len Lye cut his teeth at the GPO and went on to make a film called ‘Free Radicals’ in 1958…

GPO Blue Plaque

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