BYGONES: WHAT BECAME OF THE OUR TOWN GANG? By Andy Smart
An early morning mist shrouds the landmarks of Nottingham. The Castle, the Council House and Wollaton Hall stand majestically in the soft dawn glow. Down on Castle Wharf the British Waterways building is a hive of activity…not from the barflies and keep-fit fanatics, but workers loading and unloading barges.
Because this is a vision from decades ago, part of a fascinating film made in the late 1970s by an ATV documentary team and titled Our Town.
And what was particularly interesting about the 25-minute film was the commentary by local children.
The camera pans across a huge concrete tower block. The voiceover is by a schoolgirl who describes it as ‘a face with a million eyes…an eerie place to be after nightfall’.
The children were from local schools, but neither schools, nor the children are named.
The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) is hoping to identify and, if possible, locate some of those who took part, with a little help from Bygones.
‘We want your readers to take on the role of detectives, and try to identify individuals from the film’ said Richard Shenton, access archivist for MACE.
The film it to be shown as part of a special screening of local archive material at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham on October 8.
Much of Our Town is filmed in and around Hyson Green and The Meadows at a time when the tightly packed rows of terraced houses were giving way to blander, soulless homes; abandoned houses with their windows boarded by corrugated iron sheets a stark reminder that the good old days would soon be gone.
There is still a photograph of Terrace Street in Hyson Green, a couple walk hand-in-hand towards the camera..who were they, we wonder?
As the camera pans, there are few cars to be seen, there is a shop on every corner – names like Reavills, Harwood’s hairdressers and Hardy’s Off Licence – and there is an unusual site…two burly policemen on foot patrol.
A boy’s voice is heard, bemoaning the rundown image of Hyson Green…’tell them you are from Hyson Green and that immediately gives a bad impression of you’.
A girl paints a familiar picture of ‘pink-lipped ladies, old Brylcreemed men and runny-nosed kids’.
The action moves to the City Ground, Garry Birtles puts Nottingham Forest one up in a famous European Cup tie again Liverpool. Then it cuts to a gang of local youths – white, black, Asian, all together. They are bored, play pranks like banging on doors, get told off for walking on the grass. Today, it all seems mundane and nothing more than mischievous.
They speak about the monotony of life on the estates. ‘In this life you’re nothing and that’s the way you stay’, moans one. A young socialist in the making, he reads a poem full of despair…
‘We’re never going to get anywhere, your chances depend on class not brains; we will end up in factories on some production line, we are all good men and women and arrive on time.’ A
Another dreams of breaking free. ‘Parents don’t talk to their children as much as they should. When a bedroom scene comes on the television you have to pretend you are picking your nose and not watching.’
This remarkable view of Nottingham will be shown at the Broadway along with a number of other films looking back at the city’s living past.
The programme, being compiled by MACE researcher Philip Leach, will include remarkable footage of women window cleaners in the First World War working on a building in Castle Boulevard. There will also be a film from the 1960s, first shown on BBC TV, about Raleigh. ‘It has a very Saturday Night, Sunday Morning feel’ commented Mr Leach.
There will be a compilation of regional news items on the Old Market Square, including footage from before 1929 when the square was the venue for Goose Fair, scenes from when Nottingham Forest brought home the FA Cup in 1959, and the opinions of city people, filmed in 1974, on what they wanted for the Old Market Square in the future.
Another rare item will be a feature on the last public laundry in the Midlands, which was located in The Meadows and finally there will be a city council promotional film shot in the 1970s, showing off Nottingham’s shopping and tourism attractions and featuring a specially written song by the city’s chart-toppers Paper Lace.
The event, which begins at 3:30pm on Sunday October 8 under the title Midland Journey, will be introduced by Dennis Howells of BBC Radio Nottingham.