Spotlight on Key Workers

A salute to the vital workers who keep our essential services running in bad times - and all the time.

This emergency has put the spotlight on the 'key workers', risking their health and their lives for the benefit of others. As the films in this collection demonstrate, it's not just in times of crisis that such workers are heroes.

It's a founding principle of Britain's documentary tradition to place the worker front and centre. From the Victorian filmmakers' fascination with firefighters, to the 1930s generation's championing of postal workers and the postwar film units' documenting of transport workers and the doctors and nurses of the fledgling NHS, via teachers, food and agricultural workers and more - we depended on them then, just as we do today.

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These Are the HandsThese Are the Hands

Charity appeal20202 mins

Beautiful NHS fundraiser, setting Michael Rosen’s poem to powerful archive images.

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Task of the TeacherTask of the Teacher

School programme and Educational film197343 mins Location: Northcourt

London’s school kids get to grips with teaching methods, technology and cows in this film from the 1970s explaining educational theories at different London schools.

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District NurseDistrict Nurse

Government sponsored film195227 mins Location: Wadhurst

Never a dull moment for a rural district nurse in the early days of the NHS.

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Pakistani Bus DriverPakistani Bus Driver

News19742 mins Location: Birmingham

Bus timetables are sacrosanct to some but to others there are more important things in life - and faith is one of them.

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Documentary19283 minsSilent Location: Sheffield

Refuse collection you cannot refuse with some state-of-the-art bin business in 1920s Sheffield

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Mobile ShopMobile Shop

News19754 mins Location: Ullesthorpe

It's an Aladdin's Cave of household goods: Donald Sansome's travelling store is a lifeline for the people of rural Leicestershire

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The Daily Round: The Story of Milk Production and DistributionThe Daily Round: The Story of Milk Production and Distribution

Promotional195422 mins Location: East Sussex

Indulge your nostalgia for the old-fashioned milk bottle with this Express Dairy promotional film from the 1950s.

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Tracing the Spread of InfectionTracing the Spread of Infection

Documentary194923 mins

Doctors undertake forensic-style detective work to identify the origins of outbreaks, in the fascinating film from the early days of the NHS.

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Salute to FarmersSalute to Farmers

Documentary194114 mins

With feeding the nation a wartime priority, agricultural workers are heralded as soldiers of the plough.

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Night MailNight Mail

Documentary193624 mins Location: Euston Sta

The flagship of the GPO Film Unit's output and a cornerstone of British documentary, featuring music by Benjamin Britten and the verse of W.H. Auden.

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Foel Grocery Van, Cwm Twrch Shearing and Tipperary CreameryFoel Grocery Van, Cwm Twrch Shearing and Tipperary Creamery

School programme and Educational film195721 minsSilent Location: Foel

The Foel grocer delivers bread in a van; wool is gathered in Cwm Twrch; farmers in Co. Kerry take churns on carts to a creamery for distribution.

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Double ThreadDouble Thread

Documentary194333 mins Location: Guildford

The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds (1940s-style) at a nursery in Guildford.

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Modern Day NightingalesModern Day Nightingales

School programme and Educational film19785 mins

Gripping glimpses of modern nursing - on the frontline at Guy’s Hospital.

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Daily RoundDaily Round

Promotional193718 minsSilent

A postman's job is never done! The people of Musbury, Devon, are among the players in this fantasy vision of a postal future

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His Fighting ChanceHis Fighting Chance

Government sponsored film194910 mins

Eleanor Roosevelt and Michael Redgrave narrate this optimistic post-war film on the rehabilitation of disabled people with polio.

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Metropolitan Police Ambulance TeamMetropolitan Police Ambulance Team

191718 minsSilent

Metropolitan Police officers demonstrate their paramedic skills in this early training film

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Cast Us Not OutCast Us Not Out

Documentary196922 mins

Documentary insight into the work of the Jewish Welfare Board, helping some of the most vulnerable people in the community

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L.C.C. Nursery SchoolL.C.C. Nursery School

Documentary19387 minsSilent Location: Stepney

Work hard, play hard, rest hard - this London County Council nursery in the East End strikes the right balance.

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Village ShopVillage Shop

Magazine and Review show19826 mins Location: Hamstall Ridware

The fight to save the village shop at Hamstall Ridware heightens as shoppers fall for the allure of the new fangled supermarket.

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Understanding AggressionUnderstanding Aggression

Documentary196023 mins

Eye-opening drama-doc, originally used in psychiatric nursing training.

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Public Information Filler195816 mins Location: London

Baths, bumps, fights and football all feature in this promotional film looking at social care for children under the London County Council.

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Science in a Rural Primary SchoolScience in a Rural Primary School

School programme and Educational film196120 mins Location: Riding Mill

A sweet educational film from the era of ink wells, pen nibs and butterfly nets.

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Health at the CentreHealth at the Centre

Documentary19748 mins Location: Walton-on-Thames

The latest developments in healthcare on show at Walton-on-Thames community health centre

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Green LineGreen Line

Amateur film19806 mins Location: Crawley

Crawley is the venue for a great gathering of buses and coaches to celebrate a half-century of Green Line services in this memorable film from Beryl Armstrong

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Dial A PrayerDial A Prayer

News19641 minsSilent Location: Belfast

Join the dial-a craze and receive spiritual comfort from the comfort of your own home.

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One of the StaffOne of the Staff

Documentary19779 mins Location: Congleton

Delivering bread is all in a day's work for this modern day work-horse.

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Working TogetherWorking Together

Promotional195916 mins

Everything the fifties customer could possibly want can be supplied by the Co-op - as this nostalgic promotional film will show

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Drama19015 minsSilent

A dramatic rescue from a burning building by heroic firemen is one of our most important films

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Spring Comes to EnglandSpring Comes to England

Government sponsored film193416 mins Location: Isles of Scilly

Farming techniques and modern methods bring new crops to market.

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Blind FarmerBlind Farmer

News19785 mins Location: Shebdon

Farming: hard work in all weathers - and not a job you'd associate with someone with a severe visual impairment.

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Women Farm WorkersWomen Farm Workers

19181 minsSilent

These Land Girls are firm friends - and just as good at farm work as the men they replaced during WWI

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Willesden Borough Council Refuse CollectionWillesden Borough Council Refuse Collection

Amateur film19472 minsSilent Location: Willesden

Short film showing mounds of rubbish arriving in Willesden’s municipal tip, which workers attempt to filter and disperse.

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Incinerate - With CoalIncinerate - With Coal

Documentary197326 mins Location: Nottingham

The styles, streets and music of 1970s Nottingham are engagingly evoked in this industrial process film.

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Fully Fitted FreightFully Fitted Freight

Industry sponsored film195720 mins

Illustrating the efficiency of express freight trains, and how they link manufacturers with their customers at the other end of Britain.

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Metropolitan Fire Brigade Turn OutMetropolitan Fire Brigade Turn Out

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Westminster

"London's Burning, London's Burning"... A dynamic early film of horse-drawn fire engines 'turning out' at Southwark Bridge Road.

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National Fire ServiceNational Fire Service

Charity appeal194411 mins

Focusing on the wartime threat to north-west England, this charity appeal salutes the "angels with grimy faces"

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Education Week 1925Education Week 1925

Documentary192535 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Young scholars get busy for Newcastle-on-Tyne's 'Education Week' in this charming tour of Tyneside classrooms.

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Train TimeTrain Time

Documentary195230 mins

Examining a day in the life of what was then the busiest railway system in the world – British Railways.

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Durham City Bus TravelDurham City Bus Travel

Student film19714 mins Location: Durham

A rough and ready student film goes on the buses in Durham, from early morning to the fag end of the day smokers still allowed in the 1970s.

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New Lives for OldNew Lives for Old

Public Information Filler195721 mins Location: Croydon

Nonagenarian croquet players and Brighton day trips feature in this study of social services in Croydon, focussing on help given to the elderly, lonely, sick and disabled.

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Home Beat PolicemanHome Beat Policeman

Police drama19737 mins

PC Jim Yates walks his beat on the streets of Notting Hill

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Documentary197227 minsSilent Location: Stratford

Slicing ham by day, gliding across a dance floor by night - introducing Mr and Mrs Rainbird, proud owners of a grocery shop on Romford Rd, Newham.

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News in the MakingNews in the Making

Promotional196424 mins

See how stories made it onto the presses - the old fashioned way - in this fascinating and nostalgic film promoting the Portsmouth Evening News

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Religion and the PeopleReligion and the People

Documentary194014 mins

The social work carried out by churches of all faiths in Britain, including a section on East End Jewish life

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The PriestThe Priest

195322 mins Location: Romford

Unique amateur documentary: priests and parishioners in the Brentwood diocese

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North Kensington Law CentreNorth Kensington Law Centre

Documentary19735 mins Location: North Kensington

A pioneering law centre with a radical agenda: ‘bringing law to the people’ in the early 1970s.

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Keeper and KeptKeeper and Kept

197211 minsSilent Location: Wakefield

Short documentary about how prison officers are trained and the impact this has at Wakefield maximum security prison.

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Pendeen St John Ambulance Cliff RescuePendeen St John Ambulance Cliff Rescue

News19641 minsSilent Location: Pendeen

St John Ambulance volunteers assist in a cliff rescue.

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Beyond the PylonsBeyond the Pylons

Promotional194540 mins Location: Chelmsford

A film about the engineering brothers F. and A. Parkinson and the increased use of electricity.

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Country ParsonCountry Parson

Short documentary196313 mins Location: East Tuddenham

Be it in cassock or country tweed, this rural vicar's role is certainly varied as he juggles his duties as clergyman, advisor, school governor, diplomat and pianist!

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I Am a MayorI Am a Mayor

Documentary196113 mins Location: Maidenhead

Life and local government in Maidenhead, Berks.

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Telephone Cables: Machine Operation, Dagenham (1950s)Telephone Cables: Machine Operation, Dagenham (1950s)

Sponsored film19544 minsSilent Location: Dagenham

Fascinating glimpse of working life showing women operating machinery at the huge Telephone Cables factory in Dagenham in the late 1950s.

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Looking After LondonersLooking After Londoners

Public Information Filler197224 mins Location: London

From schools to sewers, this film explores the roles and responsibilities of local councils, visiting almost every London borough in the process.

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I Am a ReporterI Am a Reporter

Documentary196112 mins Location: Hertford

The inner-workings of local paper the Hertford Mercury are revealed by young, fresh-thinking reporter Peter Gibbs on his hunt for a regional scoop.

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Our PoliceOur Police

School programme and Educational film194716 minsSilent Location: Glasgow

Glasgow police on their daily beat are kept busy protecting "your person and your property".

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Along the LineAlong the Line

Documentary194715 mins

The romance – and reality – of working on the railways in a handsomely produced recruitment film made shortly before nationalization

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Country CurrentsCountry Currents

193810 minsSilent Location: Tarvin

The rural folk of Cheshire a promised a modern life of comfort via the magic of electrification.

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Village SchoolVillage School

Documentary194011 mins Location: Ashley Green

WWII evacuees adapt to village life in a patriotic documentary starring a real Buckinghamshire school teacher.

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NHS on Film
Free collection

NHS on Film

Film has the power to change lives – and even save them. No surprise, then, that moving images have played an important role in one of the world’s greatest public health services.