There’s something fascinating about this nine-minute silent black-and-white reel shot inside an East End pub, where the men are watching a stripper perform in a talent contest. Rather than gaze at the woman as she undresses, the cameraman focuses on the intently watching men and picks out several extraordinary faces as well as brilliantly capturing the rising tension. It’s a minor marvel, and was originally shot for use in a film by Joan Littlewood about London leisure.
The footage came from a film Littlewood was making to support her Fun Palace concept. This was intended to be a huge movable construction that would contain education and entertainment. In 1963 she shot 60 reels of 16mm rushes around London to show what people currently did for leisure and to demonstrate something else was needed. The film was lost and Fun Palace never got built, but the surviving reels present a fantastic window on social life from the era, with many expertly filmed by cameraman Walter Lassally, who also shot “We Are The Lambeth Boys” and “A Taste Of Honey”.