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Eastern Valley (1937)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The pre-industrial rural life is described (two farmers lean on a gate, discussing the prospect of rain). Things changed with the coming of industry, which at first provided good money (men with greyhounds, a poster for a fete and fireworks). Then, however, things turned sour (shots of terraced housing, a slag heap, a woman hanging out washing that will get dirtied by pollution, outside 'toilet' illustrating the lack of decent sanitation). There follow shots of industrial dereliction, and machines, instead of men, at work in a mine.

However, in 1935 a new idea is introduced. Helped by 'An Order of friends', a number of unemployed men begin to work co-operatively as a Subsistence Production Society. The miners, used to working underground, start working the land, at a co-operative farm. Land is purchased outside the valley but fruit and vegetables are grown, and chickens kept, on plots of land to be found between industrial buildings in the valley itself.

Unemployed miner Dai Williams is cajoled by friends and his wife into joining the society. Membership is open to any unemployed man, who will receive no wage but can claim his unemployment allowance. Members and non-members alike can buy society goods at cost price.

There is footage of the farm that the society has bought (gathering hay, harvesting corn, digging potatoes, cows and milking, pigs, sheep dipping), the quarry which supplies stone to build and repair local homes, and the reconditioned brewery which now houses a bakery, a butchery, weaving looms and a tailor's. There is also a canteen - the 'meeting place' - where members enjoy a hearty dinner, and the 'stores', where people can buy the society's produce for half the price it would be in normal shops. Money, the order believes, has assumed a different value and here, unlike the outside world, it is of less importance than the goods themselves.

Dai agrees to take part in the scheme but is not totally converted to its ideals, saying that it does little but provide interest, keeping members fit and encouraging the helping of others.

A housewife, who speaks of rearing three children on thirty shillings a week, makes a personal appeal for donations towards subsistence production. Her husband formerly worked underground and now does milk and bread deliveries to the unemployed. The film ends with an appeal for help for other valleys wishing to mount similar schemes.