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January 21, 2005



You might like to know that two Mitchell & Kenyon DVDs are being readied for imminent release - the first containing the three-part BBC series, the second (titled 'Electric Edwardians') featuring a selection of the films with a choice of music track or a commentary by historian Vanessa Toulmin. I haven't seen the latter yet (and aren't 100% certain of the contents), but it might well be an antidote to those who don't find Cruickshank appealing.

More details at http://www.bfi.org.uk/videocat/more/mitchellandkenyon/index.html


This is one of the best things on tv at present. The films are just wonderful, irrespective of the commentary. Funny to think that everyone on them is dead - many of the lads will have died 15 years later in the Great War.

Fatty Foulkes for ever!

Mick H

Yes, Fatty "who ate all the pies" Foulkes was wonderful.


As a Blackburner I have found the series fascinating. You are spot on about Cruickshank though. Moments after describing the short lives of the people working factories at the time, he starts bemoaning that we have lost something because people can't wander about and chat in the middle of a road in Nottingham town centre.

Cruickshank reminded me of Capstick comes home.

We med us own fun in them days.

Do you know, when I were a lad you could get a tram down into t'town, buy three new suits an' an ovvercoat, four pair o' good boots, go an' see George Formby at t'Palace Theatre, get blind drunk, 'ave some steak an' chips, bunch o' bananas an' three stone o' monkey nuts an' still 'ave change out of a farthing.

We'd lots o' things in them days they 'aven't got today - rickets, diptheria, Hitler and my, we did look well goin' to school wi' no backside in us trousers an' all us little 'eads painted purple because we 'ad ringworm.

They don't know they're born today!!!



Your remarks about Cruikshank's presentation are spot on. On the subject of the female graduates he might at least have remarked that M&K took the trouble to film it. After all, Birmingham was further afield than most of their sorties. And emancipation has to start somewhere, even if it is initially far from perfect.

I seem to remember that he made a number of errors in the second programme, one of which was claiming that cricket was played at Old Trafford (should be Trafford Park surely). Thank goodness we'll be able to see the films without him - it has been immensely gratifying to see the world in which my grandparents grew up.

As for the racist epithet - I thought that racism was a conscious or deliberate attempt to view others as inferior, possibly with the intention of manipulation. Cruikshank clearly thinks otherwise.

Andrew C

Well, I liked Dan Cruickshank's style of presentation, and what you read as "condescension" I read as affectionate nostalgia.

As to the specific points you mention:

1. The newspaper report of the Birmingham graduation ceremony. What Cruickshank found "patronising" was the use of the term "girl-graduate". I seem to remember that Dorothy L. Sayers, in Gaudy Night (1935), objects to the same term as being both a platitude and a put-down of woman graduates -- so Cruickshank's comment doesn't seem unreasonable.

2. The racism question. You omit to mention that the parade scenes included not only "people blacked up as golliwogs" but also a tableau entitled "Sambo's Christening" -- for which, I suspect, the term "racist' might not be so inappropriate. I think Cruickshank's remark was intended as a defence, arguing that if it was racist, it was only unconsciously so -- i.e. "they DIDN'T KNOW they were being racist".

However, I agree with you about the silent-comedy scenes of Mitchell and Kenyon gesticulating at each other -- a pointless distraction from the films themselves.

P Cook

I think its absolutely wonderful that these films have been discovered, restored, and made available to us as part of our own national heritage. Now they can be used by future generations as window into the past. I can't wait to find out more details and eventually watch the 'Electric Edwardian's' DVD.

Like many, I do agree with the irritations about Dan Cruikshank's commentary.

The time spent showing the 'colour Mitchell and Kenyon slapstick sketch' would have been better spent showing us more of these tremendously valuable and largely unseen films.

On the topic of "racism", my view is that the people in the films had no malicious intent to be deliberately offensive or "racist" towards black people. I feel that they probably had no substantial concept of 'racism', at least until the mid-thirties when Hitler rose to power, or perhaps more recently with the development of mass-migration.

I'm pretty sure that people were using black people (which were known about from the empire) as the subjects of their own comedy entertainment, which, of course does not mean that would be acceptable today.

One of my favourite films from the Collection is "Diving Lucy". I wonder if it was accompanied by piano Ragtime when shown to American audiences. A racy version of something like Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", a popular Ragtime piano piece, published in 1899 seems very fitting for this piece.


Dan Cruickshank is a superb presenter. His enthusiasm washes over you and draws you in. Unlike David Starkey, for example who is, like his name suggests - stark and uninviting. Also Simon Schama - fiddles about, uncomfortable - as though he cares not a jot. But Dan has a wonderful warmth, a passion. And in reality he's even more enthusiastic and warm and extremely committed to his causes. Maybe if you knew him and had talked to him one on one like myself you might change your mind about his intelligent approach.


Fuck me I'd do him!

Tony Westbrook

The DVD and the comments have all been a marvellous experience....DVD: I keep going back on forth with it and sadness suddenly overcame me . Futile questions about it's people. Yet they all looked happy at least, if only for that special moment, to be noticed and hopefully appreciated regardless of their 'position' in that infamous 'caste system' I have been a student of the Edwardian epoch since seeing it. Thank you, Tony Westbrook

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