Never such innocence again
January 7, 2005 3:17 AM   Subscribe

The Mitchell and Kenyon collection consists of 800 rolls of nitrate film documenting scenes of everyday life in England between 1900 and 1913. This extraordinary archive, now painstakingly restored by the British Film Institute, includes footage of trams, soup kitchens, factory gates, football matches, seaside holidays and much else besides. Here are some sample images and a short clip of workers at a Lancashire colliery, all astonishingly evocative and reminiscent (to me) of Philip Larkin's poem MCMXIV: 'The crowns of hats, the sun / On moustachioed archaic faces / Grinning as if it were all / An August Bank Holiday lark .. Never such innocence, / Never before or since .. Never such innocence again.'
posted by verstegan (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
And was Jerusalem builded here?
posted by pracowity at 3:55 AM on January 7, 2005

Great link! I only wish there were more moving samples...
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:46 AM on January 7, 2005

Imagine how people 50 years from now will look at film from the 1950s. No one from that era will be left alive (mostly) and it will seem as strange to them as 1900 is to us. Or not.
posted by stbalbach at 8:15 AM on January 7, 2005

Fantastic post. Thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 10:08 AM on January 7, 2005

Fine post. But in one video clip, I see a black guy being pushed out of the way by a white guy. So what did Larkin mean, "Never such innocence again"?
posted by Holly at 3:49 PM on January 7, 2005

Well, according to the caption: 'One unusual feature, the black miner, reminds us that there was a small black presence in Britain at the turn of the century and throws a suggestive light on the history of race relations and minority communities.' Here he is again in this image, which makes it look as though the pushing and jostling was fairly good-humoured.

Larkin, I guess, was thinking of the First World War, and the innocence of people in pre-war photographs not knowing what was about to happen to them. I was thinking more of the innocence of people confronted with a movie-camera for the first time in their lives.
posted by verstegan at 1:34 AM on January 8, 2005

Just good-humoured jostling, then - good to see, and I'd like to see more about this "small black presence" in turn of the century Britain. I take your point about those innocent expressions in front of the camera compared to the savvy of 3 year-olds in the same position nowadays. I'm still not sure about Larkin's nostalgia, though, however memorably expressed.
posted by Holly at 2:40 PM on January 8, 2005

« Older Anti-Facism   |   Yes, officer, violate my privacy. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments