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Updated: Apr 10, 2020

The British Film Institute has a wealth of ATV programmes available to watch for free on their website and also on certain Smart TVs.

In association with the Media Archive for Central England, who ATVLAND worked with on FROM ATVLAND IN COLOUR and FROM HEADLINES TO "TIGHT-LINES" - THE STORY OF ATV TODAY, the links to programmes available via BFI are below:-

THE SIX TOWNS (ATV 1960) Introduced by a windswept Eric Ball: "50 years ago this was smothered in smoke" (actually in March 1960 it still looks pretty smoky) this commemorative film produced by ATV celebrates the six towns that make up Stoke on Trent. Each jostled for prominence in 1910, Burslem going as far as building a new town hall, but lost out to Stoke in the civic race. Hanley has the shops and a new civic centre on the way and Longton the potteries but each retains its historic importance.

Actor Hilary Minster turns reporter to discover the way of life for the Rastafari community of Handsworth. From the in-depth discussions at a Rasta 'Reasoning' to the views of the sometimes down played women of the religion we find a community like many others in search of roots, self discovery and a spiritual homeland. A little bit of Birmingham that will always be 'of Africa'.

The Birmingham based Here and Now television programme steps away from the Midlands with this in depth look at Liverpool's Chinatown. David Yip returns to his home town and is our guide for a tour that starts where the story of the community began: the Liverpool docks. From his melancholy visit to an abandoned boarding house to the birth of a new community centre for the city's young people Yip finds pride, tradition and vitality in a bustling enclave.

At a time when football fans were developing an unsavoury reputation for violent behaviour, Sue Jay attempts to give a more balanced view of football supporters by focussing on Stoke City's followers. The Victoria Ground, the club's historic stadium, has seen many highs and lows since 1878 and in 1975 they were chasing the First Division title. Sue goes 'native' and gets kitted out in red and white to watch the Potters entertain Birmingham City.

Sue Jay takes a gentle look at some Midlanders who have a keen interest in animals. While a bird eating spider, that was considered to be an unusual pet back in 1975, is now quite common, Sylvia Wise's dyed pink toy poodle and Molly Badham's chimps (allegedly they get a sharp slap if they step out of line) belong to an age that is long gone.

A brand new railway, cutting journey times and introducing new electric trains, is launched after years of engineering and construction work, from track laying to new signal systems. No, it's not the HS2 project but its predecessor: the electrification of the London Midland service in 1967. This film, made by ATV, marks the completion of the project while also looks at the rebuilding of New Street Station in Birmingham, the demise of steam and the closure of old routes.

A short montage showing the final years of steam power on the railways appears without sound in this film. This mute section is as it appears in the only existing film copy of this title. Prior to electrification the main line from Birmingham to London was the Great Western route from Snow Hill to Paddington. New Street Station in Birmingham is the busiest British station outside London. A new rebuilding scheme on the station was completed in September 2015.

26,000 tons of steel and 160,000 yards of concrete take shape as final preparations are made to the construction of Spaghetti Junction at Gravelly Hill in Birmingham. A mammoth road project linking the M6 with the city that will go on to define Birmingham for a whole generation. The police at Perry Barr are standing by with all the latest in closed circuit cameras and even a computer to help keep the traffic flowing in anticipation of the chaos predicted by many forecasters.

When the swinging 60s hit Stoke its teenagers began to dance the twist and, on the surface at least, the city was thriving in the modern era. But this ATV documentary shows how the six towns that came together fifty years earlier to form Stoke on Trent, are still proud of their separate identities. With this historical backdrop Stoke is trying to modernise and move forward with Hanley as its new civic centre.

In 1960 Birmingham was described as the most prosperous town in Europe. John Madin was given the task of coming up with a master plan for the modernisation of one of its most diverse suburbs, Edgbaston. From a starting point of run down Victorian terraces set for demolition and sought after Georgian town houses, Madin's scheme included glass and steel tower blocks aimed at the dynamic executive. This ATV film attempts to get under the skin of an area on the rise.

Dunchurch has a link to one of those historical events known to everyone - the Gunpowder Plot. It was at the Lion Inn in the village that the conspirators waited for news of the attempt by Guy Fawkes on Parliament in 1605. In later years it was a major stopping off point on the A45 road between Holyhead and London and the Dun Cow Inn, which is featured, is one such former coaching inn. The statue is for a less well known personality: local land owner Lord John Scott who died in 1860.

This short piece of silent film produced in the early days of commercial television features the presenter Noele Gordon sitting in the village stocks. Several years later her appearances in the motel based soap opera Crossroads extended her fame well beyond the Midlands. It is probable that this film was first shown in her daily Midlands originated magazine programme Lunchbox.

The traditional centre of England is at Meriden and here we see the wayside cross that marks this symbolic site a few years after it was restored during the Festival of Britain. Also featured is the nearby town of Royal Leamington Spa with its spring water and, on a lovely early summer day, we also tour the historic Jephson Gardens. A hint of the industrial Midlands is glimpsed with a view of car bodies on their way from Birmingham for assembly in Oxford.

Meriden was part of Warwickshire until 1974 when it became part of the West Midlands. In 2002 the Ordnance Survey made a more exact check on the true centre of England and came up with a new location of Fenny Drayton located eleven miles north of Meriden in Leicestershire.

This piece of film was part of a series designed to introduce the Midlands to people taking up the new local commercial television service. Lichfield had added significance for the new Midlands ITV franchise holders because Hints, just outside the Staffordshire town, was the chosen site for the ITA transmitter that originally broadcast these pictures across the region.

The television transmitter at Hints was used by the Midlands ITV companies for their 405 line broadcasts until the system was discontinued in the 1980s. The transmitter was later used for local Channel 5 broadcasts.

From the busy scenes in the bustling spa town of Great Malvern where we see views of the Abbey Gateway and Winter Gardens to the more tranquil beauty spot of the Malvern Hills. This is an area steeped in history and mythology where Edward Elgar found inspiration and calm away from the hustle and bustle of the Midlands and Alfred Watkins claimed he found ley lines running across the ancient hills.

This short film broadcast by ATV in the Midlands begins in Broadway, a Worcestershire village, overlooked by its distinctive tower, which has been a cultural hotspot since the nineteenth century when it hosted an artistic community led by the American writer Henry James. Later we visit Chipping Campden, which had a less welcome American cultural connection in the 1940s when a bid by a visiting tourist came close to seeing the purchase and export of the medieval Market Hall.

This early ITV film shows Nottingham continue to bustle after the lights go out. Without a late-night reveller in sight, the city's night workers carry out their duties. Some of those jobs are little changed today from the fire-fighter to the police officer, but others such as the role of the night mail-train and the linotype operators on the now defunct Nottingham Despatch newspaper belong to an age as distant as that summer night in 1957.

This silent travelogue intended to familiarise ITV audiences with their new Midlands region takes us to north Nottinghamshire - a part of the country that ATV in reality rarely visited. Contemporary audiences knew all about local hero Robin Hood from the hugely successful ITV series starring Richard Greene. The Robin Hood Pantry at Edwinstowe nods towards the enduring popularity of the outlaw, even though their afternoon teas lack a certain rebellious zeal.

Other landmarks featured include Lord Byron's home at Newstead Abbey and Thoresby Hall at Budby. The film was shot by Birmingham Commercial Films who had the contract for producing filmed items for Associated Television's Midlands' region during the period.

A tour of Burton upon Trent and its less well known Staffordshire neighbour, Uttoxeter made for broadcast on the then relatively new Midlands television service. In 1957 brewery trains still regularly criss-crossed the roads of Burton as local producers such as Bass made the town a thriving centre for the beer industry. The sleepy streets of Uttoxeter seem far removed from this clamour as life slowly ticks by.

There are only two towns in Rutland and, not surprisingly, both feature in this short silent travelogue of the county. Uppingham, with its historic public school (from which Stephen Fry was once expelled), is at the start and Oakham, with its ancient Buttercross and wooden stocks, towards the end. Elsewhere we see the ancient turf maze at Wing and visit churches and bucolic villages that await discovery by the traveller who, in 1957, could enjoy wonderfully empty roads.

Despite a tenacious battle to retain its independence Rutland was absorbed into Leicestershire in 1974. The county did however return in 1997 following a recommendation by the Local Government Commission for England. The county's biggest landmark, the reservoir at Empingham known as Rutland Water, had not yet been built when this short filler produced for ATV by Birmingham Commercial Films was shot.

A short silent travelogue-style visit to Bridgnorth on the River Severn in Shropshire made by the Midlands news magazine programme Midland Montage. In March 1961 the tourist trade was quiet: the pleasure boats appear to have been abandoned on the Severn and the tea rooms are empty. Even so, the famous cliff railway is operational and the market place is buzzing (with traffic).

From the days when television provided a window on the world this ATV Midland outside broadcast shows us an in-depth look behind the scenes at a carpet factory. Although it's not named in the broadcast the featured firm is Carpet Trades Ltd, one of several manufacturers in the Worcestershire town that was aiming to carpet the world with its products.

A fascinating look back at the industrial history of the Midlands' textile industry. In Derbyshire Richard Arkwright was king and, using the water from the Derwent, he powered his new concept - the factory, taking workers out of the cottage workshop for the first time. Nottinghamshire clergyman, William Lee devised the labour saving knitting frame and its principals were still being employed centuries later in everything from Nottingham lace to Coventry ribbon.

You might learn more than you expect from this illuminating beginner's guide to coalmining, aimed at infant school-aged children. Chris Tarrant - then a kids' favourite as presenter of ITV's chaotic Saturday morning show Tiswas - explains how a coal mine works, from the arrival of the miners for the start of their shift, to the collection and return of tallies, and on to the delivery of the coal.

Coalminer was an episode of Stop, Look, Listen, one of ITV's longest-running schools programmes, which aired from 1971 until 2002 (with repeats continuing until 2009). Initially aimed at 7-9 year olds and presented by teacher Harvey Higgins, its focus had changed to 5-7 year olds by the time Christ Tarrant began presenting in 1975.

The union officials and workers are continuing to fight but the closure of Bilston steelworks appears to be a certainty by February 1979 when John McLeod visited for the current affairs programme Format V. The death knell was sounded two years earlier when the iconic blast furnace 'Elisabeth' was decommissioned. The workers face redundancy and the end of an era is typified by the old characters of the social club swapping tales over a pint.

Iron had been produced in Bilston since the eighteenth century. However, by 1979 the plant's days were numbered. The decommissioning of the blast furnace 'Elisabeth' in October 1977 meant that the production of steel would no longer be economic as iron had to be brought in. The final closure of the plant came later in 1979 with Elisabeth being demolished in October 1980.

Years before the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 enabled transgender people to obtain their full rights, the practical difficulties faced by those wishing to change the sex assigned to them at birth were explored in this film produced for the ATV current affairs series Format V. Touching and sometimes frank, the film looks at issues around acceptance but there are also moments of humour, such as Steve's bad luck when bumping into his mother on his first night out presenting as male.

April Ashley, who features in the film while living in Hay on Wye in Herefordshire, was at the centre of a newspaper storm in the early sixties when she married Arthur Corbett, 3rd Baron Rowallan. Their marriage was annulled in 1970 on the grounds that Ashley was born male, despite Corbett knowing this when they were wed. Another significant figure to appear in the film is Judy Cousins who was running a self-help organisation called SHAFT in 1980. She was previously known as Lewen Tugwell, was a noted sculptor and served with the British Army in India.

g ham by day, gliding across a dance floor by night, Mr J.W Rainbird and his wife have found happiness and fulfilment in both their marriage and jointly-run business - a grocery shop on Romford Road, Newham. Long days spent serving locals and stocktaking are rewarded with a glass of beer and a skirt around the ballroom dance-floor in the evening.

This was one of a pair of documentaries shown in the ATV slot 'Options'. Alongside The Life and Times of J.W. Rainbird, was Neighbours - a profile of two men who decide to make their permanent home in a wood in Surrey. The idea was to contrast two approaches to life: conventional and unconventional. No prizes for guessing which attitude the Rainbirds were chosen to exemplify.

Elegiac, angry and resigned - there are many shades of feeling in this captivating television documentary on the imminent closure of Trimdon Grange colliery in County Durham. It captures the poetry of the everyday - thanks to the beautiful camerawork of Norman Langley and the subtle direction of Alex Valentine.

Looking at Belfast from both sides, this documentary captures both the innocence of its young subjects and the trauma they experience. Interviews with the children and their families reveal the extent of the disruption and distress of the Troubles, but remarkable observational sequences show that playtime and parties still go on. Filmed by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Chris Menges, the programme follows seven year olds at St Mary's Primary School off the Lower Falls and Brown Street School near the Lower Shankill.

Though this documentary was originally shown in colour, only a black and white print is held in the BFI National Archive.

The purpose and possibilities of art are debated in this historically important TV item featuring Kenneth Clark, best known for Civilisation, and John Berger, who made Ways of Seeing (both of which were produced sometime after this encounter), plus Graham Sutherland and W Somerset Maugham. Berger discusses Picasso’s Guernica and unpicks the seminal anti-war painting with insight and intensity.

In post-WWII Britain, the race was on to ‘improve’ upland bogs, creating productive pasture from what was seen as waste ground or, in co-operation with the Forestry Commission, conifer plantations. Pwllpeiran, a government-sponsored experimental farm at Cwmystwyth, Aberystwyth, was at the cutting edge of these types of ‘improvements’ – in conjunction with the nearby Welsh Plant Breeding Station - and was the subject of this programme in ATV’s ‘Farming Today’ series.

Since the 1970s, when this film was made, the regard in which bogs are held has changed to some degree. Peat is a natural ‘sponge’ and peat bogs, like flood plains, are able to absorb excess rainfall. Severe flooding in Britain has proved how important it is to keep such ‘sponges’ intact. The planting of trees, too, can greatly help with water absorption and the prevention of landslides. The massive Forestry Commission conifer plantations are a crop, grown for felling, and, like any other mono-culture, tend not to support such a healthy ecosystem as, in this case, a mixed, deciduous woodland would support.

Jewish tailor-turned-actor Alfred Maron, once a resident of London’s East End, reminisces about his childhood in this affecting drama-documentary. We follow young Alfred growing up in poverty in the interwar years, and witness the excitement of a school trip to Kent. For all the hardship, there are moments of happiness, such as his excitement at seeing the sea for the first time. As an adult, Alfred rues the loss of the old Jewish communities, and the film reflects his complex emotions surrounding the East End’s changing cultural mix in the 1970s.

The evocative, unsentimental dramatised sequences from Maron’s youth (featuring children from London's Jewish Free School) have a lot in common with the early films of Terence Davies, which they pre-date. Just One Kid emphasises the need for charity, with Alfred’s trip funded by the Country Holiday Fund and his clothes provided by the Jewish Board of Guardians. The screenplay was written by Jewish dramatist Bernard Kops, who also grew up in the East End.

Rugby was not a conventional radio station but a communications hub transmitting radio telephony, including the now obsolete telex service that later gave way to fax. The 800 ft high masts had been a landmark since the 1920s and, as reporter David Rees finds out, maintaining them is tough, particulalry during the coldest winter of the twentieth century. As one rigger says, "The wind doesn't have time to go round you, it goes straight through you."

Eighty years of broadcasting history came to an end when Rugby Radio Station was closed in 2007.

Fred Mitchell, a former miner and guardsman is senior shop steward at the Sturmey Archer factory, a Raleigh subsidiary, in Nottingham. Their utilitarian but vital product - the three-speed bicycle hub - had been on sale since the 1930s and Fred is the link in the chain that ensures that good relations are kept between 'them and us' - management and the shop floor.

Sturmey Archer gear products were produced in Nottingham until 2000 when the company was split from Raleigh, with production now centred in Taiwan.

Alan Oakley of the Nottingham based Raleigh firm came up with the idea for the iconic Chopper, that revolutionary street bike for children that defined the 1970s, after a fact-finding tour of the USA. By 1980 Oakley was design director at TI Raleigh and ideally placed to guide us through the process of taking a wild idea and making it a reality.

Alan Oakley had a forty year career with Raleigh. His iconic Chopper was relaunched in a limited edition in 2004.


All Text is © BFI/Mace.


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