The North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.
This film is part of Free
Doing Our Bit
Digging a way out of the 1930s Depression in the Cleveland Hills.
Charity appeal 1935 11 mins
From the collection of:
This is a fascinating and disturbing public appeal film on 1930s Depression era soup kitchens, communal work and youth camps in Middlesbrough and the Cleveland Hills, with regimes of unpaid labour and physical exercise (boxing, quoits and calisthenics). The ironstone miners work settlement on Heartbreak Hill near Boosbeck was set up by local Ormesby gentry, James and Ruth Pennyman, with assistance from folk revivalist and right-wing activist Rolf Gardiner.
Despite the mismatched film speed and sound, and the local blackface comedian, still a popular routine in the 1930s, this film has great contemporary resonance. In East Cleveland unemployment had hit a staggering 91 percent. The Cleveland Unemployed Miners Association scheme pictured was a politically ambiguous experiment, initiated by the militaristic Major James Pennyman and managed by Rolf Gardiner, who introduced international student groups to the camps. Their agenda was countered by the socialist, artistic ambitions of Ruth Pennyman. Left-wing composer Michael Tippett and Bauhaus-trained German artist and designer, Wilf Franks, were notable volunteers.
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