This film is part of Free

Ut Proficias

A day in the life of a school - filmed by a pupil who later became one of Britain's best documentary makers.

1953 16 mins Silent


This day in the life of Abingdon School, Oxfordshire, is doubly fascinating: a glimpse into the daily rituals of a 1950s public school and the juvenilia of a great filmmaker. Pupil Michael Grigsby (1936-2013) headed the school photographic society and was the driving force behind this film and its companion piece No Tumbled House (also on BFI Player). He went on to become one of our greatest film and television documentary makers.

Grigsby appears on-screen in the shot which starts at 15:12. The director's many masterpieces as a mature filmmaker include Enginemen (1959), A Life Apart (1973) and Living on the Edge (1987). There are few obvious similarities between these poetic, socially conscious documentaries and his school home movies - except a palpable enthusiasm for diving in and exploring the film medium. Other Abingdon alumni include actor Tom Hollander, politician Francis Maude and all five members of Radiohead. In 2004, partly inspired by the rediscovery of the 1950s films and with the blessing and initial mentoring of Grigsby himself, the school set up a new Abingdon Film Unit. It has produced over 100 films, mostly documentary and animation, several of which have been shown at film festivals in the UK and abroad.